Markuis Cartwright, 23, is a Detroit native working to inspire young people through poetry and youth leadership. (Photo by Valaurian Waller)

For Markuis Cartwright, guiding and uplifting young people in his community are priorities. 

The 23-year-old native west side Detroiter is a student associate for L!fe Leaders, a metro Detroit youth leadership and career development organization. 

Cartwright, a 2022 graduate of Michigan State University, will soon move to Southfield and plans to be a substitute teacher at Detroit Public Schools Community District in the fall. Meanwhile, he’ll be studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), with hopes of becoming a lawyer. 

When not helping others, Cartwright expresses his thoughts and experiences through poetry. He writes on topics like gun violence, protecting loved ones, religion and hot Detroit summers. 

Cartwright shared a sample of his works and talked with BridgeDetroit about his start in poetry, where he finds inspiration and the importance of working with young people. 

Check out a collection of Cartwright’s poems and a Q&A with Reporter Micah Walker:

Q: How did you get into poetry?

A: It was one of my earliest outlets for as long as I can remember. I started getting into it when I was in high school, middle school, just writing little things here and there. And then when I came to college, I started doing open mic nights and joined the (MSU Black) Poet Society so I can be around people and kinda perfect it in a way where I can communicate a lot more effectively and be able to create a picture with words. It can be very powerful. 

Q: What was the inspiration behind your poem, “A Letter to the Dreamer?” The piece explores themes like the fear of mass shootings in schools. 

A: When I was in that space and I was writing it, I was thinking about how regardless of where you are, your body is at risk of being a casualty of gun violence. When I was young, I didn’t think I had to worry that much about my safety. But as I got older, I started watching the news and seeing these stories and hearing what happened at Michigan State. 

I had graduated, but I was still close enough to get the alerts and hear about an active shooter on campus. And then listening to our community talking about how they didn’t feel safe. When I was there, it felt safe enough where your life wasn’t in complete danger. Maybe it (the threat of danger) was always there. Now, it’s sitting right in front of us. 

Q: What was the inspiration behind your other poem, “My Last Reason Why?” 

A: So, this is a story. It’s not about what I went through. I haven’t gotten jumped or anything like that, but I’ve known folks who got jumped that were my age. They would come back to school and act like nothing’s happened or they wanna protect themselves so they start carrying guns. When students were talking at the forum, they were talking about how all the other kids were bringing in guns to school. I’m like, ‘They must not feel safe.’ They’re doing these things to feel protected because they have things that they want to protect. The statement that a parent doesn’t want to lose their child…of course, but it’s also vice versa; a child doesn’t want to lose their parent.

That’s my last reason so I can protect them. And that’s what I feel like a lot of people’s reasons are. It boils down to, ‘I wanna feel safe.’

Markuis Cartwright graduated last year from Michigan State University and aspires to be a lawyer. For now, he plans to substitute teach for the city’s public school district. (Photo by Valaurian Waller)

Q: What do you want people to take away from your poetry? 

A: I really just want people to read it and relate to it. Or, if not, give feedback because I still want to grow as an author. But at the end of the day, this is for the people. This is for them to enjoy, for them to use in whatever way that they see fit. I’m just the artist and I was able to capture a moment. But it’s up to the public to give it meaning, give it life. 

Q: Why is it so important to work with young people like you do for L!fe Leaders?

A: If you don’t, then who will? Every new generation of leaders are going to need people that have been there before and let them know what to expect. Opportunities shouldn’t be a privilege. If we really want the world to be better, then we actually have to work with everybody. It should be an intergenerational thing.

So, what I do with L!fe Leaders is create those pathways to these channels of information to share and uplift people. These young people nowadays, all they want to do is change the world.

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