Kayla and Kosi performing in our first bout in San Fran, with NYC’s Urban Word Team watching in front. Photo by Jonathan B. Tucker, Coach.
Now in its 14th year, the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV) brings together young artists, outspoken activists, educators, poets, and emerging leaders to participate in a celebration and demonstration of free speech, artistic empowerment, and youth voice. Washington, DC has sent a team of young poets (ages 13 – 19) to this poetry slam competition/festival every year for the past decade (and even hosted it here in the city in 2008), and this year, with the help of community co-sponsors like BloomBars, we were able to send a team of six teenagers to experience this unique world of poetry, activism, and community in the San Francisco Bay Area July 20-24.
Over 50 teams of teen poets from all around the world came together to network and share their poetry over the course of the four-day festival last week. In addition to co-hosting The Garden open mic at BloomBars, I am privileged to be one of the coaches of the DC Youth Slam Team, so I was there in the dorms at UC Berkeley with our young DC poets and guiding them through the BART train system to our bouts in Oakland and San Fran. Although we did not win the competition, the points are not the point, the poetry is the point. In this regard, our team did a fantastic job! Not only did they get to meet and make friends with young poets like themselves from different states and countries, but as you can see below, they also got to meet with legendary activist and co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Bobby Seale!
To us, performance art, be it poetry or music or theatre, is not just about entertainment. We are community change agents and young leaders of the future using our skills to move the crowd. Whether that movement is for peace and justice, dialogue and understanding, or sustainable living and empowerment, our words and our poems serve as vehicles for something greater than rhymes and metaphors. Quite literally, we are trying to change lives with poetry.
Our 2011 DC Youth Slam Team (Alexis, Kayla, Kosi, Lauryn, Rachel, and Selina) performed at BloomBars prior to leaving for San Francisco, and will continue to practice and perform here and around the DC area, including at the Save Our Schools March on the Capitol Saturday, July 30, 2011. We are very proud of our young poets and will continue to offer programming focused on developing their passion, poetry, voice, and performance for positive growth.
www.splitthisrock.org/dcyouthslam for more info