Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TruArtSpeaks, Youth Poetry, and the Future


(A haunting, powerful poem from Tamera Larkins during prelims)

A lot of my time and energy these days is going toward TruArtSpeaks, the organization here in Minnesota that organizes the annual youth poetry slams, as well as a bunch of other programs based around critical literacy, youth leadership, and social justice through spoken-word and hip hop. We've got some big news, but I wanted to add to that big news with a more personal note.

I really believe in this work.

I was a late bloomer in many ways, and credit spoken-word and poetry slam culture with helping me develop as a critical thinker, an educator, an activist, as well as a public speaker/performance artist. None of that came naturally to me. But as I grew up in this culture, surrounded by other artists and activists-- mentors, peers, and the next generation-- a lot of stuff kind of clicked into place for me. I get to see those "click" moments all the time now, doing this work in schools and other spaces. I get to witness the power of this practice and culture to literally change people's lives, to frame ideas in more powerful and immediate ways, and to push back against all of the intertwined oppressions that face so many of us, not just youth.

I could ramble on about all that (and probably will at some point), but for now, I just want to encourage everyone to SEE what is happening, to listen to these brilliant young people, and to stay engaged. A few thoughts on doing that:

YOUTH: Be Heard prelims are over, but will start again next January. If you want to slam, mark your calendars. In the meantime, there are a few other ways to get down:
  • The Re-Verb all-ages open mic happens every Thursday at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul at 6pm. Come and share your work, or just watch. It's a beautiful space with a very supportive community.
  • The Flip the Script conference is coming up on 2/22; it's free and will put you in touch with tons of other people interested in all this.
  • Apply to the TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board and help plan the future of the organization.
  • Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
ADULTS: A few ways to get involved:
  • DONATE. I actually give money monthly to this organization, because I have first-hand knowledge of how that money gets spent, and how worthwhile it is. Donate here.
  • VOLUNTEER. Email info@truartspeaks.org for volunteer opportunities at our events.
  • NETWORK. If you are a teacher, youth worker, parent, conference organizer, nonprofit worker, or anyone who comes into contact with youth, please spread the word. Bring us into your spaces. Get in touch about potential programs or organizational collaborations: info@truartspeaks.org
  • SHOW UP. For real. The five prelims so far have been absolutely unbelievable, and semifinals and finals are this March. Show up, be loud, support these youth, and have an experience.
And to everyone: COME TO SEMIFINALS AND FINALS.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions. Hope to see you at the events.

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