Home New England & Tri-State Music Worth her While: Jillian Hanesworth Improves Literacy in Buffalo

Worth her While: Jillian Hanesworth Improves Literacy in Buffalo


It takes hours of tireless work to become an overnight success. Word to the wise: it takes 10 years for anyone to truly begin to see results. Nobody exemplifies this more than Buffalo’s first poet laureate, Jillian Hanesworth. Recently, she won an Emmy for her poetic efforts in conjunction with the Buffalo Bills.

Jillian Hanesworth.
Augustus Clarke and Jillian Hanesworth pose with their 2024 Sports Emmy received at Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City [Marc Bryan-Brown Photography]

Before she began working with the Bills, Hanesworth poured in countless hours to conquer the struggle and pursue her truth. Born and raised in Buffalo – Hanesworth grew up within an artistic community where all walks of life embodied their roles to preserve art for generations to come. 

The way that Hanesworth approaches art provides a refreshingly humble perspective. In the grand scheme of things, she views herself as a voice not the voice. Her voice is important, insofar, as it amplifies the voices of those around her, as well. 

“You don’t have to be a known artist to be an artist.”

-Jillian Hanesworth

Perhaps, this humility and sacrifice toward her craft is the reason why more people are starting to hear about this phenomenal woman. Her firm dedication to uplifting those in need of knowledge without feeling any sense of entitlement strikes the perfect balance for this creative artist. 

Purpose Plus Passion

Hanesworth’s multilayered approach to art, activism and advocacy make her an incredible social change agent. She reimagines justice with poetry and timely demonstrations – she does not wear a crown or sit on a high horse – she sees these actions as the service she owes to her community. 

Hanesworth proves that the art of traditional storytelling is so important. Hanesworth shares her story so well as an artist. Buffalo’s first poet laureate and a familiar face for those suffering from Buffalo tragedies – Hanesworth set out to make a difference in her community.

Jillian Hanesworth.

As the founder of Literary Freedom she hosted pop-up bookstores in conjunction with her Buffalo Books program. Initially, she set out on a mission in Buffalo to increase the literacy rate for young scholars within her community.

She put a plan in place and aimed to raise $10K to reinvigorate 10 libraries. Shortly after she launched a GoFundMe, KeyBank in Buffalo met her fundraising goal to revamp selected libraries in Buffalo by putting local artwork on the walls and local authors on the shelves.

Grind Don’t Stop

As she put her nose to the grindstone and continued to do the Lord’s work – people began to notice her efforts. Shortly after the racially motivated shooting at Tops in Buffalo, the Bills asked Hanesworth if she could create something to help the people heal. 

As life goes on, Hanesworth continues to find herself in situations to infuse lasting change. Those who set out to achieve something greater than themselves will ultimately find reward. From the jump, this woman set her sights on community literacy improvement and from there she has worked with several notable organizations who have given her a vehicle to move her message. 

“Her poetry accomplishes what no politician can.”

RD Pohl

Hanesworth stepped into the artistic space with the right mentality and made moves according to her mission. Once people start to gravitate toward your art, it is not just about you anymore. Once your art and story arc take on a life of its own, you must ensure that you continue to double down on the reasons why you started.

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Source: NYSmusic.com