MightyFest, a four-day festival, will celebrate the empowerment of kids and teens through writing. The inaugural festival, hosted by nonprofit Mighty Writers, is set to feature a variety of events for both kids and adults including a literacy carnival, a soul-music dance party, and a keynote speech by award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Mighty Writers offers free after-school programs, workshops, and college essay-writing and prep classes for kids and teens in Philadelphia. The group aims to empower students ages 6 to 17 by teaching them how to write and think clearly. Since its was founded in 2009, the organization has grown to include locations in six Philly neighborhoods and a seventh site in Camden.
MightyFest is designed to be an extension of Mighty Writers' programs as well as a celebration of the group's mission and supporters. Fund-raising from the festival's ticketed events will support Mighty Writers' latest initiative to provide programming at recreation centers across the city.
The festival kicks off Thursday, Sept. 27, with after-school, comic book-writing workshops for kids at each of the city's 60 neighborhood libraries.
On Friday, Sept. 28, Mighty Writers will host an adults-only, soul-music dance party at the Franklin Institute. Executive director Tim Whitaker said the event's focus on soul music is in part a tribute to the history of the Christian Street building where Mighty Writers opened its first location (now known as Mighty Writers, which was at one time owned by famed Philadelphia musician and producer Kenny Gamble). "Plus, it's great for dancing," Whitaker said. (Tickets are priced at $75 and include two drinks. Attendees ages 21 to 29 can purchase discounted tickets for $34.)
While the Mighty Writers party isn't kid-friendly, little ones cans start their celebration on Saturday, Sept. 29, with a free literacy carnival in Aviator Park across from the Franklin Institute. It will feature over 30 kid-friendly stations, ranging in skill level from cursive-writing to puppet-making and "When I grow up" dress-up. Every activity is educational and writing based — think a resume-writing workshop that gets kids to recognize their skills and present them clearly, or a station that lets kids create their own protest signs. Creativity is key: for comics aficionados, there's a chance to make yourself into a superhero and create a three-panel comic; for budding novelists, there's a station where children are asked to write a short story about a found object.
"I really hope that we reach new kids and families who haven't encountered us in Philadelphia yet with free activities that show how Mighty Writers brings fun to everything we do," education director Rachel Loeper said.
Later on Saturday, Mighty Writers will host Hannah-Jones' keynote speech at the Philadelphia Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square. Hannah-Jones is an investigative reporter for the New York Times Magazine. "She writes about issues that we care about at Mighty Writers, such as inequality in schools throughout the country and school segregation," Whitaker said. Tickets to the event, which begins at 7:30, are priced at $100.
A gospel breakfast at Girard College will wrap up the festival on Sunday morning. Each $75 ticket purchased for the event will cover the cost for a Mighty Writers student to attend the breakfast. Whitaker said students will be interspersed with attendees at the event so "everyone can get to know each other." The breakfast will feature a tribute to the American gospel music group the Dixie Hummingbirds, performed by the Girard College Choir.
Whitaker says Mighty Writers plans to make MightyFest an annual event.
"We just want to raise awareness of the power of writing and how important it is for kids to learn how to write," he said. "We're reaching out to kids and sitting down and talking to them about what they want to say. Through that, we see that their self-esteem really grows, and they begin to feel really good about themselves. Writing's really powerful."