The 2017 Be Heard Send Off

Every year, the final six poets from the Be Heard series engage in an intense process of writing, collaborating, and rehearsing, from April until July. The Send Off is an opportunity for their supporters, peers, and fans to witness the product of their work live, before the team heads off to Brave New Voices to represent MN. The show also features special guest poets, dancers, refreshments, and more!

This year’s sendoff will take place at the historic Capri Theater in Minneapolis, on Saturday, June 24. 7pm. $10 Adults, $7 Students. Reserve your tickets now!

RECAP: The 2017 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series FINALS

Thank you. For the fifth year in a row, the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series Finals bout was an unforgettable testament to the talent, wisdom, and power of Minnesota youth.

Performing in front of a SOLD OUT McGuire theater (in the Walker Art Center), the final 12 poets from the series left it all on the stage, sharing their stories, their opinions, their values, and their art. It was an evening of deeply personal work, fearlessly political work, adventurous and surprising work, and honest work.

The final six: Lana, Armand, Harun, Amir, Asher, and Katherine!

When the dust settled, the top six (in no particular order) were Armand, Asher, Katherine, Lana, Amir, and Harun. Now, these six poets will form the 2017 Be Heard cohort, both engaging in performances and civic engagement opportunities throughout the state, and representing Minnesota at the 2017 Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam and Festival in San Francisco this July.

Thank you to the Walker, especially Walker Teen Arts Program (WACTAC). Thank you to the media present– from our partners Ubuntu Media and Uche Iroegbu, to Twin Cities Public Television and KRSM radio.

Thank you to our judges: Carolyn Holbrook, Neil Hilborn, Dua Saleh, Andrea Jenkins, and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, all incredible, inspiring artists. Thank you to our DJ: DJ Just Nine. Thank you to our host as well: the incomparable Danez Smith.

Thank you to our feature, Tony the Scribe, as well as both of our sacrificial poets– both Isha Camara and Simone Williams qualified to compete, but had to drop out of the competition due to schedule conflicts arising from their getting accepted into the First Wave program at UW-Madison. They’ll be joining current TruArtSpeaks youth advisory board member (and former Be Heard team member) Duncan Slagle at UW this Fall, and the whole TruArtSpeaks family is both honored to have worked with them and excited to witness what comes next.

Thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, youth advisory board members, and everyone who simply pitched in to help make the event (and the whole series) happen. Thanks to all of the parents, guardians, teachers, and community supporters who continue to power youth voice through their donations, their support, their mentorship, and their applause.

Finally, thank you to the poets. When we say “the point is not the points, the point is the poetry,” we mean it, and we know you do too. Thank you for your bravery, your perspective, and your heart. Let’s keep building.

Check out this slideshow for just a taste of how it all went down. All photos by Uche Iroegbu:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


It is Time to Be Heard – Register Now for the 5th Annual MN Youth Poetry Slam Series!

3b946b1d-70c1-43ba-8f7c-759bf3d9b83aRegistration for the 5th Annual Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series is Now Open!

For the past five years, TruArtSpeaks’ Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series has provided a platform for hundreds of youth poets to tell their stories and speak their truths to big, energetic audiences. As the country—and the state—head into uncertain times, it is more important than ever to hear these stories and listen to these perspectives.

Through a series of eight poetry slams, Be Heard seeks to identify six youth poets who will both represent Minnesota at the annual international Brave New Voices youth poetry slam and festival in San Francisco in summer 2017, and serve as the #BeHeard17 cohort for the duration of the year, receiving mentorship in writing, performing, and arts leadership.

While the competition element of the series represents an incredible opportunity for the top six poets, the series itself is set up as a space for everyone—from youth slam veterans, to first-timers, to the audience itself—to build community through art, present counter-narratives, and call into being the world in which we want to live.

The full schedule is below; interested poets (who must be between 13 and 19 years old, and have a Minnesota address) can register at All bouts begin at 7pm and are open to the public.

  • Preliminary bouts:
    • January 14 at the Black Dog Café in Saint Paul
    • January 21 at the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth
    • January 28 at the SteppingStone Theater in Saint Paul
    • February 4 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis
    • February 11 at the New Century Theater (Hennepin County Theater Trust) in Minneapolis
  • Semifinal bouts:
    • March 4 at Macalester College’s Kagin Commons Hill Ballroom in Saint Paul
    • March 11 at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis
  • Finals:
    • March 25 at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater in Minneapolis

To register for the slam, click here. For additional inquiries, please contact

Poets, prepare your pen and person for 912x912-write-to-be-heard-v2-tas-01#BeHeard17 with this series of FREE writing & performance centered workshops at the Minneapolis Central Library. This is your chance to work on concrete description, imagery, writing for social change, writing for performance, form, device and more with some of the Twin Cities’ most recognized slam poets!

No registration or sign up required. Just save the date, show up and be ready to BUST!

912x912-flip-the-script-digital-flyer-v2-tasSave the Date/Register Now: Flip the Script! is an annual writing and performance conference where poets between the ages of 13 and 19 engage with professional artists and arts organizers through workshops, panel discussions, community-building, and more. Presented by TruArtSpeaks, and co-sponsored by the Loft Literary Center, the conference’s third installment will be held on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

#FTS3 will feature leading voices in the national spoken word movement, including Danez Smith, Zhalarina Sanders, Donte Collins, Ed Bok Lee, Andrea Jenkins, Ollie Schminkey, R. Vincent Moniz Jr., Jake Virden, and Khary Jackson, as well as dozens of youth poets sharing their stories and sharpening each other’s skills. Register here!

Interested in supporting MN youth poets img_8962during #BeHeard17 by serving as a volunteer during one of the events? Email with your availability and join us as we power youth voice in Minnesota!

Judges, Time Keepers, Greeters and more are needed to make this series vibrant each year and we welcome you all to the cypher! Thank you in advance for helping us power the slam series – can’t wait to hear from each of you!

#ReVerbOpenMic is back up and running this week with a writing workshop to kick things off at Golden Thyme Cafe in Saint Paul! Be sure to stop by and share your creative genius with us before the end of 2016!

Our work would not be possible without the support of generous and committed arts, social justice and youth advocates like yourself. Thank you for all you do to support this movement. To continue support our work, #BeHeard17, #FTS3, or more, click here.

Be sure to stay connected with us via social media – @truartspeaks – on all platforms; See you all soon!

Brave New Voices Recap + Duncan and Eshay on Finals Stage!

IMG_2915Home. First things first: the team and the TruArtSpeaks staff would like to thank all of our supporters here in MN for making this trip possible. Everyone who came to a show, donated some money, bought a shirt, or just made some noise– thank you. The 2016 Brave New Voices festival and poetry slam was an unforgettable experience, and while the Twin Cities team didn’t make it to Finals this year (though we did make semifinals!), the team performed beautifully and brought their most meaningful work to a national/international stage. Most importantly, MN poets got to forge relationships with other young change-makers from across the globe, building and strengthening networks that transcend poetry slams.

Between hearing from internationally-renowned poet Amir Sulaiman, participating in multiple workshops and town hall meetings, taking in the sights of DC, and performing in (plus rehearsing for) the slam itself, the team had a very busy week. Check out a few captured moments in this slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another highlight of the week was the response that Duncan and Eshay’s duo piece (about Andrew Jackson and Harriet Tubman sharing space on the $20 bill) got, including after a special performance on FINALS stage. We’ll share video as soon as we can!

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.01.25 AM Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.01.32 AM Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.01.59 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.05.07 AM

One of the most important aspects of a festival like BNV is being able to build with people from all over the world. Check out the team intro/chant reel, including the Twin Cities (second in the video):

We will post any video of the team as it is made available, but for now– check out Danez Smith’s poem at opening ceremonies. Danez was also interviewed in this Huffington Post piece (along with Daveed Diggs of “Hamilton”) on “Why Poetry is the Best Medium for Kids Who Want to Change the World.” That piece also includes a number of videos from BNV, including this one:

It is good to be home. And as we’ve said all year, Brave New Voices is just one place where this work happens. It also happens here in MN, in many spaces, with many people. The ReVerb open mic is still every Thursday, 6-8pm, at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul. Other events and opportunities are on the horizon. Stay tuned for more!

Send Off Recap + Brave New Voices Is Almost Here!

photo by Uche Iroegbu

photo by Uche Iroegbu

Thank you for powering youth voice and making the 2016 Be Heard Send Off Show such a success. Check out the slideshow for a recap of just some of the magic. All photos by Uche Iroegbu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next up is Brave New Voices. The team has been writing, practicing, and building with each other since the end of March, and they’re ready to rep Minnesota at the festival. Check out this promo from YouthSpeaks:

You can still support the team’s trip through our GiveMN page. Any and all donations are greatly appreciated. Follow the team’s progress on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram too.

Finally, remember that Be Heard is just ONE of many ways we can build together. The #ReVerb all-ages open mic is still going strong, every Thursday, 6pm at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul. See you there!

The 2016 Be Heard Send Off Show + More Big Spring Updates!

2016 sendoff teaser banner2Just announced: the annual BE HEARD SEND OFF SHOW will be Friday, June 17, 2016 at the U of MN Rarig Center’s Thrust Theatre (7pm, $5, all ages). This will be the final opportunity to see the Be Heard team in action (along with some incredible surprise guests) before they head to Washington DC to represent Minnesota at the annual international youth poetry slam and festival Brave New Voices! Aside from Finals, the Send Off is our biggest show of the year; we can’t wait to show our community what the team has been up to. Reserve your tickets here!

It should also be noted that this year’s festival director is none other than Tish Jones, founder and Executive Director of TruArtSpeaks! We’re beyond excited to be plugged into this national movement of artists, educators, activists, and movement-builders in such a powerful way through Tish’s work.

Coach Khary Jackson and members of the Be Heard team.

Coach Khary Jackson facilitating practice.

With BNV right around the corner, spring has been all about practice. That means writing new work, collaborating on group poems, refining performance techniques, and growing as artists. Along with coach Khary Jackson, Be Heard program associate Fatima Camara, and guest artists like Kyra Calvert and Guante, the team has been putting in work to sharpen their craft and continue to use the stage as a space of power and potential.

Two ways that you can power youth voice and support the team (beyond coming to the Send Off) are donating online here and buying a Be Heard t-shirt or hoodie here! Every donation expands the cypher!

rootedOther Upcoming Events:

  • May 21: Youth Leadership Day at the Midtown Farmers Market (2225 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis). The Be Heard team will be performing at 10:15am, 11am and 12pm. Check the link for more info.
  • June 9, 10, and 11 at Intermedia Arts: ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening. Winner of the 2014 Sage Award for Outstanding Dance Performance, ROOTED is a celebration of the foundations of Hip Hop. The first and only choreographers’ evening focused exclusively on Hip Hop dance and its roots (African, Latin, Tap, Step, Breaking, Popping, Locking, Toprock, Waacking, House, Old School and New School), ROOTED is celebrating its fifth year. The Be Heard team will be performing at all three shows, and TruArtSpeaks ED Tish Jones will be at the June 9 and June 10 shows. Reserve tickets here!
  • Every Thursday at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul: The ReVerb Open Mic is still the best place to show up, plug in, and get involved! 921 Selby Ave. in St. Paul. 6pm. Free. All ages! (And don’t forget about the writing workshop every first Thursday of the month at 4pm).

TruArtSpeaks Receives First Universalist Foundation GrantUU-Blog-Logo

A huge thank you to the First Universalist Foundation, who selected TruArtSpeaks as one of the recipients of their Spring 2016 granting cycle. That $5,000 will support the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series, helping that program reach as many young people as it can, and continue to make a positive impact on our community.

We will be releasing videos from Finals very soon; in the meantime, be sure to check out the TruArtSpeaks YouTube page for any you may have missed. One of the easiest and most important ways to power youth voice is to LISTEN to them!youtube page

Stay tuned for more! As always, we are on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram!

#BeHeard16 Finals Recap and THANKS!

Be Heard Top 6 with Logo

On Saturday, March 26, the 2016 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series came to an unforgettable close. In front of hundreds of audience members inside the packed McGuire Theater at the Walker Art Center, twelve young poets shared their stories and left it all on the stage. At the end of the night, Amir, Sydney, Harun, Eshay, Duncan, and Yasmin were the top six and (if they choose to) will go on to represent Minnesota at this year’s Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam and Festival in Washington DC. Congratulations to them, and endless thanks to all of the poets who gave so much all series-long!

The evening showcased too many beautiful moments to recap in full here; check out the slideshow below (photos by Uche Iroegbu) for a taste of how powerful the energy was in that space:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’ll post videos soon, but in the meantime: THANK YOU! to all of the staff, volunteers, interns, judges, features, media, audience, donors, sponsors, partners and everyone. Thank you to the Walker Art Center (as well as the Loft Literary Center, the MacPhail Center for Music, Roosevelt High, Southwest High, Intermedia Arts, Walker West Music Academy, and Patrick’s Cabaret). Thank you to everyone who shared a link, brought people to a slam, or helped support this work in any way. Most of all, thank you to the poets: for your courage, your talent, and your willingness to share so much of yourselves with us. We can’t wait to keep building with ALL of you.

While #BeHeard16 has ended, our work hasn’t. Watch out for an announcement about the big sendoff show in June, plus other events featuring the team between now and then; also, we’ll see you at the Re-Verb open mic, still every Thursday at 6pm at Golden Thyme Cafe!

#BeHeard16 Semifinals and Finals Are Here! Plus A Recap of Flip the Script!

photo by Uche Iroegbu

photo by Uche Iroegbu

We’ve talked to judges, volunteers, community supporters and poets, and everyone agrees: January and February 2016 have been two of the most incredible months for youth poetry that Minnesota has ever seen. At five packed #BeHeard16 prelims, the weekly #ReVerb open mic, and the Flip the Script! conference, we’ve been honored to witness the passion, dedication, and talent of so many young poets. We are just getting started!

SEMIFINALS ON MARCH 5 AND MARCH 12: The top six poets at each prelim are moving on to semifinals! Come witness some of the best performance poetry–youth or otherwise– in Minnesota, on two big stages:
be heard semis

GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE #BEHEARD16 FINALS BOUT NOW: Finals is consistently one of the biggest and most unforgettable events of the year, and 2016 promises to be something very special. This year, the big show is Saturday, March 26 at the Walker Art Center at 7pm. Get your tickets here!

MN YOUTH FLIP THE SCRIPT AT ONE-DAY CONFERENCE: The annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing and Performance Conference took place on February 21 at the Loft Literary Center. It was an entire day of intensive collaborative work– youth poets and mentors, first-timers and established vets– all building together. A few moments, courtesy of photographer Uche Iroegbu:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, don’t forget about the Re-Verb Open Mic every Thursday! As we’ve been saying at every slam, performing in Be Heard and/or going to Brave New Voices aren’t the only ways to get involved. Come build community, share some work, maybe give some feedback to another artist, and have fun. Re-Verb is every Thursday, 6-8pm, at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul. It’s also free, and all ages are welcome!
Re-Verb Q1 2016

Remember to check us out on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Tumblr!

For more information, please contact; to support the work, click here!

Be Heard MN, Upcoming Workshops, Youth Advisory Board + More!


It’s that time again: registration for the annual Be Heard MN youth poetry slam series is now open! If you are a poet between the ages of 13-19 with a Minnesota address sign up now for your chance to represent the state in the international Brave New Voices youth poetry slam festival in Washington D.C. in July 2016.

tas_f15_beheardseries_backside_pwallacePreliminary slams begin on January 15th and last until mid-February. Poets are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible as registration fills fast! Remember: you can compete in as many preliminary bouts as you desire until you advance into the semi-final round.

All preliminary bouts are free and open to the public. For more information or questions please contact the program associate at Fatima Camara.

In support of Be Heard MN, TruArtSpeaks is offering free tas15_f15_beheardflier_pwallacecommunity workshops for youth interested in workshopping their poems for the slam series. Write to Be Heard will take place over winter break at the Central Library downtown Minneapolis in the Mark E. Johnson conference room December 28th-30th from 2-4p each day. There is no registration required. For questions, please contact Fatima Camara, the program associate.

Chava Gabrielle (Research Associate), Donte Collins (Outreach Associate) , Isha Camara (Program Associate), Fatima Camara (Program Associate), Keno Evol (YAB Board Chair).

Chava Gabrielle (Research Associate), Donte Collins (Outreach Associate) , Isha Camara (Program Associate), Fatima Camara (Program Associate), Keno Evol (YAB Board Chair).

Meet the young people who are driving TruArtSpeaks’ youth programming! The Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is comprised of some of the most dedicated youth leaders in our community. Not only are these brilliant young minds passionate about poetry, Hip Hop and social change, they have a commitment to and vision for the growth of TruArtSpeaks and the Twin Cities arts scene that is apparent in their personal and professional work.

We are thrilled to be working with each of them and excited about the innovative and invigorating possibilities that they will bring to our organization. To learn more about the newest members of our team, click here!

Update: On Community, Collaboration and the Work: Following Up with Button Poetry

Last month, leaders from Button Poetry and TruArtSpeaks convened for a two day seminar on cross cultural collaboration, racial equity, social justice and a critical analysis of the situation that occurred in the Twin Cities arts and activist community as a result of Button Poetry launching a new initiative. The meeting came at the request of the Twin Cities community after the October 2014 public meeting at Juxtaposition Arts in North Minneapolis and was facilitated by community organizer and racial justice advocate Gabriella Anais Deal-Marquez.

The conversation was productive, informative and courageous for both parties. Each organization walked away from the seminars expressing gratitude, understanding and an impetus to move with greater intention in the work.

We would like to thank the Twin Cities community for their support and investment in this process and the greater poetry community for their input, inquiry and encouragement as well.

TruArtSpeaks is happy to answer any follow up questions regarding this meeting and next steps. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

As we get ready for the slam season – check out some footage from Julie Pekala at Finals 2015

Be sure to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr or in person at the Re-Verb Open Mic every Thursday from 6-8p at Golden Thyme Cafe in Saint Paul, MN.


“Page.Stage.Engage.”, Future Corps Fellowships, New Video, and More!

PSE_handbillIt’s been an incredible couple of months for TruArtSpeaks. We have some big announcements on the horizon, and a few exciting updates to share right now too.

Just Announced: “Page.Stage.Engage” on 11/6
On Friday, November 6, catch a special performance at the U of MN’s Whole Music Club w/ TruArtSpeaks family Guante, Tish Jones, members of the 2015 Be Heard MN team and more! Doors are at 7:30pm. All ages. Free.

“Page.Stage.Engage” is about exploring how art– especially hip hop and spoken word– can and does respond to injustice. Through performances, some discussion, and a few surprises, we’ll try to grapple with that question, as well as provide plug-in points for people who want to keep the discussion moving and/or get involved. Hope to see you there!

YouthSpeaks Future Corps OpportunityFCF_graphic
Youth Speaks is launching a two-year Future Corps Fellowship program, designed to complement and expand upon their BNV Festival Future Corps program!

The Future Corps Fellowship aims to support the growth of emerging arts professionals through experiential learning opportunities. Following a comprehensive application process, eight Fellows will be selected and placed at a host organization from within the national BNVI Leadership Cohort. Serving as full-time, salaried staff, Fellows will support their host organization in advancing its mission and its capacity to create safe spaces for writing and performance opportunities that elevate youth voices.

Get more information and apply HERE. Applications are due November 1!

Tish Jones, Keno Evol, Donte Collins, Chava Gabrielle, Fatima Camara and Khary Jackson at Porchfest. Photo by Gawolo Irving.

Tish Jones, Keno Evol, Donte Collins, Chava Gabrielle, Fatima Camara and Khary Jackson at Porchfest. Photo by Gawolo Irving.

TruArtSpeaks in the Community
We’ve been building with our Twin Cities community, and are proud to have taken part in some great events recently.

First, members of the TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board performed at Minneapolis’ Powderhorn neighborhood’s Porchfest on September 12. Later that month, TruArtSpeaks youth ambassadors sat on a panel as part of the #Konopka2015 conference on equity & opportunity in health and education at the U of MN.


Keno Evol, Tish Jones, Chava Gabrielle, Hasani Harris and Laresa Avent at Kanopka.

Keno Evol, Tish Jones, Chava Gabrielle, Hasani Harris and Laresa Avent at Kanopka. Photo by Gawolo Irving.

In October, TruArtSpeaks roster artist See More Perspective had a beautiful two-night run at Patrick’s Cabaret for his #YesYesYes-themed multidisciplinary CD release show, featuring multiple artists from the TAS circle. Later that month, Youth Advisory Board members Keno Evol and Chava Gabrielle performed at the big Victoria Theater Design Reveal Party at Arnellia’s in Frogtown.

This is all on top of the weekly #ReVerb open mic (every Thursday night at 6pm at Golden Thyme Cafe), which has been on fire lately, featuring artists like Glo Pesci and See More Perspective, as well as all of our regular and not-so-regular performers and family.

Finally, check out TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board member Chava Gabrielle with a new poem called “Fool’s Gold.” The concrete imagery, the attention to detail, the powerful delivery– it all comes together in an unforgettable way.

Remember to check us out on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr for regular access to the fun stuff!

For questions or more information contact

To make a donation please click here!

%d bloggers like this: