Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014 at 2:41 pm Written by Arts Corps
We’re launching our second Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute (ALLI) and are looking for teen artists and activists, of all mediums, 14-19 years old, to take on a 9-month commitment of leadership. Spokes will help us drive our teen programming, develop professional skills and organize our teen events: Open Mics, YSS Slam Series, Writing Circles and MORE!
Please pass this on to any young folks who might be interested.
Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 11:29 am Written by Arts Corps
From Denver to Seattle, to whatever city Brave New Voices finds its annual home, I’ve always loved being one voice in a chorus of youth shouting, “Youth right now are the truth right now!” This short chant, cheered at nearly every Youth Speaks Seattle open mic and slam, still rings electric in my throat when I yell it. To honor the expansiveness and power of youth art and movement might mean allowing “the next generation to speak for itself”. As someone who gets to witness visionary art and organizing from the YSS Spokes on a regular basis, this possibility feels… possible (fancy that). Even more, it feels creative, productive and revolutionary.
Yet, for many [adult-run] community organizations and spaces, adults struggle to envision how youth can take part in conversations about programs and services, even if they are the intended audience. Often, this is a result of ‘adultism’ (and how it interacts with racism, classism, ableism, sexism, homophobia and more), a term meaning the “prejudice and accompanying systematic discrimination against young people”. In an adult-defined world, youth don’t get much say in the systems they are forced to navigate, sometimes without support. Activist and youth worker Paul Kivel offers a more in-depth article about how adultism can play out: https://www.paulkivel.com/resources/articles/23-article/83-adultism
I’ve heard fellow youth organizers joke about how adults always say “Free Pizza!” as a way to entice youth to show up to programs that adults planned for them. While free pizza is definitely a legit reason to attend an event (this is not a request to stop offering free food – lets keep feeding youth), but why is that a main strategy for adults to engage youth? What would free pizza look like if we added youth collaboration and leadership to the menu?
I’m excited to live in a city where visionary youth-driven/led organizing has thrived. It’s been a tremendous learning experience to watch youth and adults negotiate how genuine youth leadership can take shape, beyond tokenization or lip service. From Seattle Young People’s Project and Queer Youth Space to YSS itself, there are some radical role models in town to push forward the conversation of youth-centric movements & orgs. (And of course, badass youth-driven orgs extend beyond Seattle, check out Fierce and Youth Speaks National, just to name a few…)
Coming up in the Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Poetry Slam, being a youth poet part of a larger youth movement was strengthened by amazing adult allies. Though I wasn’t using terms like ‘adultism’ and ‘ally’, I knew that my fierce mentors helped transform my agency and poetry by dedicating endless time and energy investing in youth poets. Slams were all ages and warmly intergenerational, with many bonds formed between youth and adults artists. Surely, many audience members thought, “Oh, those youth poets are so adorably angry!”, assuming our passion wasn’t to be taken seriously, seen as simply something we’d outgrow. But among the adult poets, we were given the chance to spit, share awe and even beat the grown ups. At the end of the day, the amount of magic that I felt my mentors possessed kept me coming back to them with trust and inspiration. They were the experts, the teachers, the wise elders that pushed me to find my own voice on the mic. Now, I see that they did not “have all the answers” but rather they asked me the right questions.
Now, as I begin to age out of my youth identity, I start to find myself on that other side of mentorship. What does it mean for me to grow into the role of a mentor? An adult ally to young folks? How can our communities be intergenerational and maintain a keen analysis of adultism and its intersecting oppressions? What does “youth-led” mean in practice? And where do adults and mentors fit in, with all of our varied experiences and identities? As a young person, I saw first hand exactly how transformative mentorship could be to young artists and activists. Accountable and intentional mentorship creates space for youth to work through thought processes, refine skills and gain support from adults. How do we bridge the gaps between youth leadership and adult support in sustainable, critical and genuine ways?
If you’ve got answers, half-answers, brainstorms, pushback, questions or resources, please drop me a line to continue the conversation, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at 10:19 am Written by Arts Corps
This story was written by Henry Luke, Arts Corps alumni and Youth Speaks Seattle coordinator. Youth Speaks Seattle became a program of Arts Corps in 2011. This article was originally published in Arts Corps’ latest magazine and annual report which can be found here.
In 2008, I walked into my first poetry slam. I had never been to any event featuring spoken word. When I heard the word poetry, I thought of dead white men like Shakespeare and Robert Frost. I never expected to enjoy poetry, let alone perform it.
When I arrived, people were laughing, dancing, and freestyling. I wanted to know them! Itwas an atmosphere of spontaneous energy and emotion that I had never experienced before. At the time, very little felt sacred in my life, but when the poets began performing I felt a kind of reverence for the power of their words. The audience clapped and snapped their fingers, gasped and shouted, even cried. I was moved by the power of a poem to pull me into a story, make me feel so many emotions in a few minutes. I had never seen anyone declare themselves like that, to get onstage with nothing but their story and say “This is who I am! This is what I believe in!” I saw nothing ironic or self-conscious in their celebration of life and love. Each word was a piece of their truth.
My introduction to Youth Speaks Seattle coincided with a massive change in my worldview: I realized I was a part of many massive and unjust systems that disconnect and silence people I know and love. At the same time, I came to see myself as a fragment of something even larger, an interconnected universe filled with meaning and mystery. Poetry became the piece that tied everything together: when writing, I never had to compartmentalize the personal and the political. Performance gave a sensation of release, speaking my stories into existence made them that much more real.
At Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam (the national Youth Speaks gathering), I met poets from Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, New York, and Guam. I sat twenty feet from Bobby Seale as he spoke about the founding of the Black Panthers and compared it to the work Youth Speaks does today. I have realized spoken word is not just an art form. It is a movement. There are young people across the world speaking their truth and creating spaces where that is safe to do. We are storytellers of our generation.
Today when I hear the word poetry, I think of my friends, I think of myself. And my journey continues in my new position at Arts Corps as the Youth Speaks Seattle Coordinator.
I am honored to hold space for other young people across Seattle to express themselves and step into their power, whatever form that takes.
Youth Speaks Seattle’s 2012 Slam Series Info:
Feb 10, 7pm @ Harambee: 316 South 3rd St, Renton
Mar 2, 7pm @ Theater Off Jackson: 409 7th Ave South, Seattle
Stay Tuned for Details on the Wild Card Slam and Grand Slam Finals here!