"Cyphers are similar to rap battles. According to a poet from NYC, it's not about defeating or discouraging the opponent. It's about sharing your story." Shanita Jackson

      Brave New Voices 2012!I have this insane habit of pointing out wonderful and coincidental things. I've wanted to be a part of Brave New Voices for years now, and what I noticed is that the first year I was blessed to go was BNV's 15th anniversary!
     Brave New Voices started in 1996, which is my birth year. As it seems, I was born to do this!   
     In all seriousness, Brave New Voices was not only a life changing experience, but a healing experience. Being completely surrounded by poetry, soul, and love so thick it's almost tangible is a feeling I can't even justify. I wish the world could fully understand the powers of poetry. It's incredible. We stayed at the beautiful Berkeley Campus in California. Everything we did was so liberating. We could stay out and gaze at the stars if we felt the need to. Inspiration was waiting around every single corner! The cyphers were stunning! The teams gave Asheville WordSlam so much love. The goodness the poetry was breathtaking. Almost every poem I heard knocked the breath out of me. It felt as if they had reached into my life and snatched a poem right out of my heart. Every time I talk about BNV I get an overwhelming sense of frustration because no matter how long I rant, no matter what I say, I cannot describe the amazing experience and the amazing people I was so fortunate to meet. I feel the need to thank BNV for the impact it made on my life.

From the Brave New Voices Video blog...


Shanita performing at the 2011 Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) Youth Poetry Slam. Photo by Katelyn Zimmerman.

My worst possible fear is to perform an amazing poem in front of a huge crowd, and no one understands what I'm talking about. Eventually, everyone has to face their fear. 

This finally happened to me when I performed a few poems for my church's New Year's party. I performed two beautiful poems called "The Grandchild who Cheated a Poolside Grave" and "Brown Eyed Perspective." When I finished, there was a polite applause, but as a poet who has inspired many, you can fully understand when the audience didn't grasp your meaning. I kept a smile on my face, but inside I was seriously bummed out. 

After the service and once the New Year was brought in, a man stopped me and told me he understood everything I had to say. He even told me what my poetry meant to him. I had inspired someone! 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you not to be discouraged. Never let a minor setback slow down your passion as a poet. Some audiences may not understand the vocabulary of your poem, some may not understand anything about it at all. Performing a poem is all completely worth it if you successfully inspired at least one soul. That's what it's all about. 

This is why I write.