Wow. What was a dream is becoming a reality.  I’m part of a youth spoken word team heading to Brave New Voices, the largest youth poetry competition in the world. Where? To San Francisco. 

Who are we?

We are Liam, Dakota, Jonahs, Matt, Nita and Shannon. We are him and her and her and him and her. We are everything and everyone manifested into six teenagers. 

If anything, it feels as if we are underestimated. We’re just  six kids from Asheville, NC. We shouldn’t have that much to say, right? Wrong. We have fought and worked hard for the opportunity to go to Brave New Voices. The name in itself perfectly describes who we are. We’re brave because we are among the few teens who dare to address the issues of our society. We’re new because we are the first team ever invited from Western North Carolina. Though our voices are unique and far from the same sound, we all achieve the task of representing our generation.

As I’ve mentioned before, Brave New Voices is the largest youth poetry competition in the world. Youth Speaks created Brave New Voices in 1998 with four cities from across the United States. In 2011, 84 cities applied to the worlds largest youth poetry event. As featured on HBO, Brave New Voices is both a festival and an international network of organizations committed to youth voices. There will be poetry competitions, workshops and networking with amazing young poets from around the world. 
We have a lot of work ahead of us preparing new poems and performances and we’re all committed to rehearsing twice a week this summer. Fortunately, we have two great coaches: Heidi Freeman, Creative Writing Teacher at Asheville High and Steve Shell, slammaster of Poetry Slam Asheville and a teacher at Eliada Homes in Leicester. 

We’ll also be doing a lot of fundraising—because our journey will cost us our team around $5,000. Already, TOPS Shoes in Asheville has agreed to sponsor the team but we need more generous sponsors and people who will either come to our planned fundraising events or contribute to our Fundrazr campaign which will be launching in a couple of days. 

June 5 at the Magnetic Field, 6:00pm, Old School Vs. New School—adults poets from Poetry Slam Asheville will slam with the winners of Asheville WordSlam and the LEAF Youth Poetry Slam including me!
June 13 Downtown News and Books will include youth poets in their anniversary celebration and donate some proceeds to our cause. 
June 23 I’ll host a fundraiser at the Black Bear Café in Hendersonville—look for more details—coming soon!
June 29 An evening with fabulous Glenis Redmond, Jonathon Santos, and our team—place and time TBA. 
We’ll be featuring brave new voices all this month—some spoken word poetry—an interview with a local teen artist, interviews with a local teen movie star and more—because we find our voice not just in poetry but in all sorts of artistic expression.

Stayed tuned on facebook for all the latest news. 
Yours in poetry, 
Shanita Jackson, Spoken Word Editor


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