At the at the 20th Annual Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco earlier this month, there were three-minute poetry performances by 600 young poets from around the world that were all at once heart-breaking, angry, angst-ful, joyful, and hopeful. There was loud music, dancing, high fives and other expressions of love and support across the room before the bouts began. There were chants of “You fly,” “Art not ego,” “Don’t be nice, be nasty,” and “Go poet,” along with finger snaps, “mmmmm’s” of approval and lots more loud music before, during and after the bouts.
Move around the room, change the pace, make eye contact, don’t make eye contact. Feel the emotion — anger, sadness, joy. Where is it coming from? What part of you? Allow it to move you.
Movement exercises at a recent poetry retreat showed the poets’ dedication and their willingness to be uncomfortable — in a good way — and put themselves into every word.
Now they are ready to travel to San Francisco
Through a two-year Youth Speaks Future Corp Fellowship at First Peoples Fund, Laree Pourier (Oglala Lakota) leads the Dances with Words program and is helping broaden young people’s experiences and their understanding of themselves — identity, oppression, and resistance. When these young Natives go to the Youth Speaks sponsored poetry slam, Brave New Voices (BNV), they hear young people from all over the world talking about the same issues.
A Dances with Words™ poet ended the “I Too Am American” session with his poem “You Call Me Indian.” At the Brave New Voices (BNV) competition in Washington, D.C., fingers snapped in approval during his performance, where Marcus Ruff (17, Oglala Lakota) alone represented North American Indigenous people.
A safe place. Step into a world where youth are able to openly express their fears, their passions, their hearts. Come and dance with words.
The Brave New Voices program is an initiative under the national Youth Speaks organization. The cohort is one of 13 from around the United States selected to participate in the program designed to give young people a voice in today's society.
When Araceli Spotted Thunder Blindman (Oglala Lakota) first joined a poetry program designed to give Native youth a platform for their voice, she never imagined it would take her to a national stage.
To ward off nerves before a poetry reading, 15-year-old Cetan “Sonny” Ducheneaux simply closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
Students on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota are developing a stronger voice thanks to a program that connects them with oral tradition and literary tools.