After three grueling months of competition, nearly two months of practice and team building, we are ready to introduce you to the six poets that will be representing MN in the international Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Atlanta, Georgia this summer!
Armand McCoy was born in Saint Paul Minnesota March 5th 1998. He attended L’Etoile Du Nord French Immersion School from Kindergarten to 6th grade and thus learned to speak French. However had very negative experiences with terrible teachers and staff that created in his mind a huge problem with authority, and blind obedience. In his early childhood, he became interested in dinosaurs and one day wished to become a paleontologist; and was also fascinated with Greek, Egyptian and Indian Mythology. Because of these two major interests, and very open-minded parents who taught him how to analyze things from multiple perspectives and examine the true nature of multi-faceted and complex, even taboo subjects and ideologies, he became seriously curious about religion, (mainly Christianity) and researched this topic as a hobby. He had been writing small poems and shorts stories since age 7 and was influenced by all he perceived and gathered over the years. His first poetic influence was Edgar Allen Poe when at age 7 he received a collection of his works on his birthday. He was drawn to the eerie and melancholy topics displayed in an intellectual manner with serious vocabulary, which were more alluring than what he read in school. Later he discovered the poets of the New Negro Movement and his father noticed those interests and introduced him to Amiri Baraka and The Last Poets who have been and will always be heavy influences on his writing.
Donte Collins is a Chicago Born Performance poet, Author. Donte’s work researches, re/defines and reflects blackness, cultural memory, and his human condition. He is currently a double major in English and Theatre with a concentration in performance at Augsburg College. Donte’s brotherhood with spoken word and theatre has toured him to many high schools, community centers, and Universities, brought successful publications, international spoken word festivals, the gift of self reflection, and has given him permission to create and recreate himself. While Donte’s work is recognized and admired around the globe via social media, he recognizes that he is always a student of literature and under the tutelage of his predecessors. Today, you can find Donte working to give his first full collection of poems a spine.
Duncan Slagle is an actor, poet, and artistically driven activist living in the suburbs of Minneapolis. He was born in Alaska and moved to Minnesota in the mid-2000’s, where he found his niche in the Twin Cities performing arts scene rather quickly. He currently attends Main Street School of Performing Arts and when he graduates he hopes to continue in the same vein of creativity he currently calls home. An actor first and a poet after that, he began performing in community and children’s theater, eventually working his way up to a more professional setting. No matter the work, company, or incentive, he has tried to uphold two artistic values; that the work he presents comes from somewhere honest and that it is created with purpose. He strongly believes that the importance of art comes from it’s potential for transformation and that no matter what the final product looks like, the value can be found in the intention behind it. He finds spoken word to be the perfect medium that satisfies his need for both purposeful and honest artistic creation. He would also like to remind you to silence all electronic devices before the start of the performance, please and thank you.
Julie Pekala as a child wanted to be a famous actress, she thinks it’s due to watching too many sitcoms or her talkative personality. However, she states she discovered she “had little to no acting talent”, and switched outlets of art. Growing up, a close friend’s father was a local writer, musician and songwriter. From sixth grade she was determined to learn as many instruments as possible, in which she is currently at four. She began songwriting a year later and fell in love with constructing original pieces. She’s performed in numerous local shows around Minneapolis and was VivaMusica’s first Lucille music apprentice.
At the beginning of her freshman year of high school she started poetry, which she admits embarrassingly began by reading off original lyrics in a monotonic tone. The moment she actually began molding her “inner poet” was when she joined Southwest High School’s Spoken Word Club, which was created and lead by some amazing former BNV team members. It was there, she claims, where she experienced some of her most life changing and community building experiences in her existence. Last year she participated in the Truartspeaks slam series, but didn’t compete past the first round in Preliminaries because she states she, “only wrote confusing abstract love poems.” She’s thrilled to be on the team and plans to crush it at Atlanta.
Sam Tij Andrean currently studies literary arts at Perpich Center of the Arts. They are a prolific writer, and are currently amidst publishing their first novella. Above all, they are a student who continuously seeks to learn about the world and how they incite the change they wish to see.