Life » Culture



Age: 31
Occupation: Poet, yoga instructor, mentor
Current residence + hometown: Rochester, NY

Slam poet and yogi Anderson Allen was working as a tutor at the Boys & Girls Club on Genesee Street in 2015 when a mass shooting took the lives of teens Raekwon Manigault, Johnny Johnson, and Jonah Barley. Allen recalls that summer as gut-wrenching.

“For a very long time it felt unreal,” he said. “I will never forget those screams.”

It solidified Allen’s sense that a healthier community meant consistently showing up for the youth.

“I look at what is happening today, and it pains me because I know how fragile life is,” he said. “I want to know what’s on the minds and in the hearts of our young people.”

Allen has worked at The Avenue BlackBox Theatre, a cultural and community anchor in the Joseph Ave. neighborhood, since it was founded in 2018. As a teaching artist, he mentors through poetry and spoken word programs, and often leads his mentees in performing their poetry around the city.

Reenah Golden, founder and artistic director of The Avenue, cited Allen’s respect for Black women and femme leadership as an example of modeling healthy behavior to the kids.

“He's supporting and serving in ways that our youth really need to see,” she said. “He just brought a whole other level of thoughtfulness, and an energy and excitement.”

The kids not only benefit from Allen’s mentorship, but also the openness about his own growth and development — which, for him, is a lifelong journey.

“I know many of us are hanging on by a thread and I’m not sure what’s is going to take to reach our youth,” said Allen. “I do know we can’t afford to let fear nor anger lead us. We can’t afford to give up on them because there are already so many forces in this world stacked against them.”

Allen’s poetic verse is frank and surgical in its dissection of problems, but a vein of hope is his constant through line.

“I’m a big dreamer, I live in that land,” he said. “But I take a scientific approach, I like to take things apart, put them back together.”

Born on the west side, Allen and his twin brother are the youngest of 10 children. He knew poverty and love in equal measures, and learned both resourcefulness and art from his family.

Last year, Allen founded Scribe & Move, a collaboration between The Avenue and Yoga 4 A Good Hood. The program creates a space for everyone, youth included, to breathe, find peace, and channel their energy through movement and onto the page.

“One thing I’ve noticed that is so profound for me,” Allen said, “is how open people are to coming to a journal to just write after they've done yoga, people are just a lot more open, a lot more receptive to share of themselves.”

Allen’s own writing practice fits amidst the many things he does on any given day, which includes mentoring, building theater sets, guest lecturing, and speaking at conferences about meditation and writing as approaches to healing from trauma. He also acts and performs original spoken word pieces, and leads a weekly yoga class for people with mobility challenges at Charles Settlement House.

Allen is currently writing a one-man show and book surrounding his own healing and the isolated state of Black masculinity.

“I want to feel freer,” he said. “Ultimately, I really want to have a deeper relationship with Black men that's not rooted in relationships that we have with women or possessions, but a real, tangible, deeply emotional, tender connection with one another. And I think that's possible. And it's something I yearn for.”