A half-dozen of our Eagle Rock School students, along with three staff mentors, have just returned from a national youth poetry festival at the University of Houston in Houston, Tex., and while we didn’t walk away with any major trophies or prizes, the reward came in helping each of our students find and display their own voice.
Called the 2018 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, the annual event brings more than 500 young poets — along with their educator mentors — all joining up with some the nation’s leading spoken-word artists and cultural workers to take a deep dive into arts education, artistic expression, and civic engagement.
Brave New Voices is a national youth poetry festival sponsored by Youth Speaks, an organization that has long championed what is becoming a global movement of young people finding safe places to discover, develop, publicly present, and apply their voices as creators of social change.
Participating students do this through the intersection of arts education and youth development practices, civic engagement, and quality artistic presentation.
Dan Hoffman, Eagle Rock’s Societies & Cultures Instructional Specialist — and a Ponderosa House Parent— did most of the heavy lifting at the local level, coordinating the complex logistics required for our slam team to attend and compete in Texas.
Working with Meg Tokunaga-Scanlon, our Music Instructional Specialist and Spruce House Parent; and Tommy McAree, our 2017/2018 Public Allies Teaching Fellow in Literature & Literacy, our team did its homework well in advance of the mid-July slam.
Eagle Rock students Ellis, Marcus, Bea, Myles, Aries and Morgan spent the first eight weeks of the trimester gathering for several hours each Tuesday and Saturday to engage in everything from poetry writing and music studio recordings to sharpening their culinary skills.
In addition to writing original poetry, participating in revision and performance workshops, and practicing individual and group poems to slam at the slam, students discovered this Brave New Voices enrichment program helped them gain experience, knowledge and skills in topics that they were already excited and passionate about.
The students were also able to attend writing workshops led by local and national educators, participate in open mics, and attend the national quarter finals and finals as audience members.
Finally, the time came for the students to come up with this year’s team name. Since one of participating students took an interest in French this year, the suggestion of “C’est si bon” was tossed into the ring, and since that roughly translates to “It’s all good,” the team went with it.
Learn about the Brave New Voices Festival on its website, and if you’re an educator who is interested in developing a spoken-word poetry team of your own, please feel free to reach out to us for some key learnings using the Contact form on our website.