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Portrait of an Artist: Weatherspoon

October 28, 2022

“Growing up, I wanted to be a gangster,” poet and musical artist Weatherspoon ’25 said, reflecting on their childhood in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio.

“I wanted to sell drugs and shoot people. [I was a] product of the environment … Life happened to me really early. I saw the worst side of the world really soon, and I needed a way to stay sane,” Weatherspoon said.

In 2020, Weatherspoon published their first collection of poetry, “To, Too Many Children,” which discusses the untold experiences of youths in underfunded neighborhoods.

“There are a lot of pipelines for Black kids to get out the hood. The army is one. Athleticism [is another]. Rapping—music—is definitely one. Literature was really it for me,” they said. “I liked what art did to people, and I felt like I connected to it on a deeper level. I felt like it could change my reality, and it did.”

Weatherspoon credits their poetry and music for lifting them out of their circumstances and as what allowed them to have a fighting chance. The journey to self-publishing was not easy, however. Being raised in the foster system, they were shuffled between different houses frequently. During the Covid-19 pandemic they moved out of the home of an abusive foster parent.

“I was homeless for a while. I thought I would have to drop out of school. I didn’t know if I was going to college or not,” they said. “I had been a writer and I wanted to do something meaningful. Everything was up in smoke and [writing] felt like the only tangible thing.”

During this time, “To, Too Many Children” became a bestseller. Since then, Weatherspoon has published two more poetry collections, one of which was released over spring break last year. They have also collaborated with the orchestra CityMusic Cleveland in 2022, which set their poetry to music based on their work.

Weatherspoon also creates music with their brother, Angus Williams, in the musical collective L.L.K!, which they describe as their most enjoyable artistic experience. Weatherspoon described the satisfaction they got from working on the collective’s debut album “Little Little Kids,” which the duo submitted for their senior capstone project in high school.

“We got to spend three weeks on things that we really love, and I got to spend time with my friends every day and be creative and be who I really was. There’s a lot of rap in there, there’s R&B, soul, and electronic music. I think it said a lot about who we were at the time and that’s the most beautiful thing you can do, create … prove you exist,” Weatherspoon said.

Weatherspoon’s artistic talent and powerful stage presence is attested to by friend and fellow Geoffrey Canada Scholar Kelly Stevenson ’25.

“Weatherspoon’s poetry and music are an art form in themselves … When placed on the stage, Weatherspoon delivers an experience to their audience,” Stevenson said in an email to the Orient. “Weatherspoon’s performances invite you to think and envelop you in the story that is being crafted.”

As a student at Bowdoin, Weatherspoon often feels they are asked to erase their identity as a Black person in order to engage with the curriculum.

“[Bowdoin asks me to be] objective outside of the context of my life and my history,” they said.

Though Weatherspoon is fond of their classmates and professors on campus, they find that the institution, as well as the curriculum, is characterized by whiteness and is objectionable. Bowdoin, for them, is part of a systemic problem that can be seen in the world at large.

“I talk about whiteness and I talk about Blackness and I talk about what these mean in relationship to each other. [Bowdoin] is a small piece of the world, so I’d rather talk about the world than this institution. Bowdoin is wrong in the way the world is wrong, so we have to get at the root,” they said.

After successfully organizing a poetry event last Spring, Weatherspoon plans to arrange a similar event later this year. In the meantime however, they will be writing poetry that is written “to be read,” following the cues of their heroes Ocean Vuong and Jason Reynolds.

“[With Vuong and Reynolds’ poetry], there’s not this wall built up on money that determines what you can and can’t read. If you got a hold of their books, I’m not saying you would understand it, but you could figure it out,” they said. “That’s really cool because you can do more with less.… I’m just in love with that concept because it exists outside of whiteness—it revolutionizes what publishing means.”


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