For Youth Speaks Seattle and the Arts Corps Teen Artist Program, spring can be our busiest season. I am so in awe of the amazing group of young leaders that are at the helm. This year’s Spokes Leadership cohort is brilliant, ambitious, creative, hilarious and joyful group of youth. These fourteen young leaders have been building community, sharpening skills and supporting the organizing of the Teen Artist Program since October.
The year kicked off with the Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute (ALLI), where we sparked important social justice discussions, delved into some hands-on organizing skills and built the foundation for a fierce community of artists. Since the beginning, this year’s Spokes cohort has been so dedicated and imaginative in coming to the hard work of organizing Open Mics, Poetry Slams and Writing Circles. Together, we have wrote, danced, acted, hosted, learned and laughed until we cried. These tight bonds are essential for the kind of amazing artistry and organizing we hope to create together as we wrap up the year with the epic Grand Slam stage this April.
Within this amazing collective, each of the Spokes is a poet, artists and activist in their own right. At last week’s Spokes meeting, we took some time to reflect to exactly that: their own amazing gifts, identities and accomplishments. We did this by asking the Spokes to write their own artist biographies. These short snippets couldn’t possibly capture their brilliance but as young artists and organizers, it’s extremely important that they begin to cultivate skills around articulating their strengths and the nature of their work. Every Spokes member is so dynamic and multi-faceted. These artist bios show their diversity in passions, skills and dreams. I’ve included most of their bios below, to let the next generation speak for themselves.
Connor Will Brown is a Seattle-born playwright, photographer, poet, filmmaker, traveller, blogger, visual artist, musician and achievement-embellisher. A student of the Center School, he has developed a craft known for its deadpan, earnest and ambitious quality, and has previously published several of these works. As a member of Youth Speaks Seattle, art collectives, SYVPI, Arts Corps and others, Connor has spread boundless egocentrism and/or creativity across the Greater Seattle area. His new novel, Death on a Frontier, is in consistent limbo. His blog is available at woodensailsforpaperships.tumblr.com.
Ivan Cruz was born in Nogales, Mexico in February 16, 1998. He has been associated with many different types of art, some include film production, music production and painting. Ivan’s current favorite artist is Clean Bandit and his favorite director is Quintin Tarentino. Youth Speaks has been a very unique and interesting experience for him.
Hey y’all, my name is Tai Donte Jordan and my hobbies include eating, sleeping and loving those who love me and even those who don’t! I have been with Youth Speaks for the past school year and have had an amazing experience! I look forward to maintaining my connection to poetry and all other forms of art when I am in college and hopefully being apart of the college slam team at Cornell or to create one. Youth Speaks was one of the many things I did this year, along with football and Teen Council. I’ve been busy in social justice activism since I’ve been able to acknowledge the injustices in this world and this year I’ve been able to achieve progress through poetry. Youth of today are the truth of tomorrow and with places like Youth Speaks Seattle, that message will be able to reach far into hears and beyond the soul into the very chemical make up that makes youth powerful and say because you exist, you are amazing!
Jenny Loo (aka Catalina) is a dreamer who spits out the guts of the never ending dream called her life. She likes to believe she likes long walks on the beach but her alias Catalina won’t let her. Born and raised in the unknown between Seattle and Renton, making her an open minded, hardworking yet lazy coordinated volunteer in the greater Renton area with Seattle Incubator and the Renton History Museum for Fashion and History. As well as a semi-poet slash artists slash wannabe K-POP Star, who is immersed with her school’s poetry club as well as being a part of the Youth Speaks Seattle community that plans events for the youth.
Carlynn Newhouse is a writer, poet, actress, performer and regular human being. She writes about love, loss, relationships, bullying, race and the life experiences that made her who she is today. She loves being a Youth Speaks Seattle Spokes, helping other s find themselves and causing laughter. A survivor of bullying and discrimination, she fights for equality and acceptance in all aspects of life.
Christina Nguyen is an Aries/ Pisces Cusp, an aspiring poet, and artist with passions and dreams to accomplish. Grown up and raised around fierce activists and advocates from the Seattle community since the age of fifteen, Christina is empowered to search and find her own voice with the resilient tools and new ideas she learns every day from her family in Youth Speaks Seattle. She hopes to channel her energy to others to help find and use their own power in the voices they were born with through the magic of assisting poetry classes, carrying debatable yet enlightening conversation, and truly believing in others. She organizes with programs such as YouthCan through the Wing Luke Museum and mentor with Youth Speaks Seattle. On her spare time, you can usually find Christina sipping on peppermint tea whilst simultaneously sketching with a sharpie in hand.
Isaiah Nihipali is an artist of singing, dancing, poetry and photography. he is from the Islands of Hawaii traveling all over the country with 22 states under his belt and counting, at only the age of 18. Future plans are to spread love and positive change through the world with art, music and poetry.
Samone Thomas (Samoney- Rapper name) is a poet, hopeless romantic, fashionista, lover, stand up comedian and cupcake master. Samone loves to watch romantic comedies in her free time and putting herself in any leading ladies place. This boss-ass beauty will bring you to your knees in the best ways. With the awkward tension she has coming in, she will leave you with a smile. So fall in love cause she is single and ready to mingle. So put her on your speed dial. But know the baes will be coming . Give it up for the Seattle star, Samoney.
Eric Thongdee is an Asian American poet from Seattle. He is also a member of the Youth Speaks Seattle family. Eric enjoys meditation, poetry slams and open mics. You can catch him hosting or performing at the next open mic for Youth Speaks!
Jillian Vu is a final draft in the process. She writes about the lost reasons and found causes. Physically based in Seattle but her mind is based in a more just world. Jillian is proud to claim herself as a Spokes leader. Bringing those causes to wherever she goes, Jillian is bringing her final draftness into the world.
Ana Walker is a queer multiracial woman of color. She is a highschool student at the northwest school. She writes poetry and short stories. She also enjoys black and white photography and learning and exploring different genres of art. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make change through art and discussion.