BUFFALO, N.Y. — The initial goal of her role was to be an inspiring voice for the Buffalo community. But Jillian Hanesworth’s words of wisdom, empowerment and love were shared beyond city lines.

She’s traveled internationally in her role as Buffalo’s first poet laureate. Her story, at least as Buffalo’s poet laureate, started in March of 2021.

“I just remember how excited I was. So many people were watching the Common Council meeting,” Hanesworth recalled.

Her journey to get there started in 2017.

“I remember knocking on common council members' doors and cold emailing saying like, ‘Hey, there is this thing called a poet laureate and other cities are starting to establish them,' " Hanesworth smiled. " 'I think we should, too.’ ”

Fast forward to now and what Hanesworth has accomplished. 

“It’s crazy. I. Yeah ... I try to reflect to take some time to think about,” Hanesworth smiled and said.

Her resume includes working with the NHL, NFL, the Bills, Sabres and Bandits. 

“I got nominated for an Emmy,” Hanesworth recalled.

She started Buffalo Books, to connect kids with literature, and her little libraries for the East Side project only continue to grow

“I got to give the graduation commencement keynote for Performing Arts, which is the high school I went to,” Hanesworth smiled. 

So does the list of her community awards. But despite the accolades and airtime, she’s humbled.

“Yeah, more than I anticipated," Hanesworth said about how much she learned. "More than I imagined, more than I hoped for. It's been also probably the most challenging thing I've ever done, but it's the most rewarding I feel every single day.”

That is because of the community support she’s felt along the way, she said.

“I was in the middle of the street with a bullhorn, and that was only because somebody in the community handed it to me," she said. "So, I just want to thank the community and just say I'm grateful because if it weren't for Buffalo, I wouldn't be able to I wouldn't even know that I had this in me.”

Hanesworth closes this chapter and prepares for a new one with some words.

“I hope that they've learned that we all have a voice," Hanesworth said. "Like when you think about me, I grew up in the Clinton-Bailey area. I'm dyslexic. I struggled my way through college. I got evicted from my apartment on my graduation day. Like all those struggles that you could imagine I've experienced. And if I can be a voice that literally everybody can.”

She'll operate under the LLC she created, called Literary Freedom.

Hanesworth said she hopes the next poet laureate is given the space and grace to make the position their own.