Frank X Walker, the first African American to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, is an involved Danville Independent Schools graduate. He became Kentucky Poet Laureate in 2013. He gives back to his hometown of Danville and the school district in many ways, including through the annual Frank X Walker Literary Festival put on by the DISD, which now includes a poetry contest for students.
Walker, who graduated from Danville High School in 1979, currently lives in Lexington. He’s a professor at the University of Kentucky’s English and African American and Africana Studies and is active as a multidisciplinary artist and writer.
According to his website, frankxwalker.com, he has published 11 collections of poetry. He’s published other books as well, some of which have been adapted for the stage, and he has earned many awards for his work. He also coined the term “Affrilachia” and co-founded the Affrilachian Poets.
Earlier in February, a book launch celebration for Walker’s new picture book, “A is for Affrilachia,” took place in Danville. The book came out this month. The DISD asked Walker questions about his Danville Schools journey, before and after graduation.
Tell us about your Danville Schools journey. What school(s) did you attend, and what’s a highlight that stands out to you?
I attended Toliver Elementary, Bate Middle and Danville High School. I was pretty active during my high school. I played on the football team and ran track and was also elected class president in my sophomore and senior years. I won awards in both English and art. I served on the student council, and was a member of the key club, Black student union, and the Latin club. I think my hectic schedule taught me good time-management skills and how to set priorities in order to accomplish short-term and long-term goals.
What aspects of your Danville Schools education helped mold you into the person you are today?
I was fortunate to have great teachers and coaches throughout my time in school. The discipline and work ethic was a perfect complement to the value system I learned at home.
As a product of Danville Schools, what advice would you give to a parent who was choosing an education path for their child?
I think the Danville Schools’ commitment to excellence and the arts is a perfect combination and gives students interested in college a solid foundation and preparation for life after high school.
When you think back on your Danville Schools experience, are there specific instances or relationships that stand out to you as having had a significant impact on your success since graduating? As a product of Danville Schools, what drives you to give back to your local school and/or district?
The thing that has driven me to give back has been the desire to repay the investment my teachers, coaches and mentors made in me. Mayor James “J.H.” Atkins was my middle school teacher. When he was principal of Toliver, he invited me to present to his students, which began a relationship and opportunity to return almost every year for the last 40 years. He also was instrumental in organizing the literary festival and the road signs after my installation as poet laureate. It was also worth returning knowing that I had so many relatives still in the system.
This piece is part of an ongoing series telling the stories of our Danville Alumni! We share a new alumni story once a month, and we want YOUR story. If you or someone you know is a Danville graduate and an excellent representative of the Danville community and the idea of #SuccessForALL, whether they live in Danville or not, please fill out the form linked below. You can also show your Danville Alumni pride on social media with the hashtag #DanvilleAlumniStories
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