Announcing the Inaugural Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate Finalists

This year, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (as part of its KnightArts Challenge), TruArtSpeaks launched the inaugural Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate program. The program seeks to identify one Saint Paul poet between the ages of 16 and 24 to serve as the Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate for a year. That young artist will receive mentorship from nationally-renowned poet (and Saint Paul native) Danez Smith, engage in performances and civic engagement opportunities throughout the year, and inspire other young people to tell their stories, raise their voices, and be heard.

The submission process is now closed! Thank you to our incredible panel of judges (Khary Jackson, Desdamona, Danez Smith, Kyle Tran Myhre, and Duncan Slagle) and congratulations to this year’s finalists:

  • Henry Benjamin
  • Samoa the Poet
  • Chavah Gabrielle
  • Armand McCoy
  • Cynthia Zapata
  • Donte Collins
  • Talia Young
  • Karinna Gerhardt
  • Lindsay Schaefer
  • Xavier Columbus

All of the finalists will perform their work at a poetry slam on Friday, May 19 at the Black Dog Cafe in Saint Paul at 7pm. This competition will decide who will serve as this year’s Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate; don’t miss it!

 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once owned newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.


National Poetry Month: The ReVerb Open Mic and Instagram 30/30

ReVerb is still the place to be for a weekly opportunity to share your work, listen to others, and build community. This free, all ages open mic goes down every Thursday from 6-8pm at Golden Thyme Cafe in Saint Paul. Share whatever you’re feeling, or take part in one of the weekly theme/form challenges. Also, don’t forget about the workshop on every first Thursday of the month at 4:30pm.

TruArtSpeaks has also been posting writing prompts to help propel anyone trying to do a “30 poems in 30 days” National Poetry Month writing challenge. If you find yourself stuck, or are just looking for a little inspiration, check them all out here.


The Endowment Recap: A Beautiful Night of Hip Hop and Community

On April 15 at Icehouse in Minneapolis, some of the leading lights of the Minnesota Hip Hop community came together to both raise money for TruArtSpeaks and celebrate the birthday of the organization’s founder and Executive Director, Tish Jones. From the legend, I Self Devine, to up-and-coming artists like BdotCroc and Dem Atlas, to longtime friends and allies K.Raydio, Guante, and Crescent Moon, the stage featured one unforgettable performance after another. Host Danez Smith and DJ Kool Akiem held us down all night long, and b-boy crews Deadpool and MN Real showcased once again the spirit and vitality of Hip Hop culture. THANK YOU to everyone who performed, and to everyone who came out to support. Let’s do it again. Photos coming soon.

We’ve got a lot more on the horizon! Keep in touch: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr.

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:

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April 15, 2017: THE ENDOWMENT

THE ENDOWMENT is a celebration of Hip Hop culture and the spirit of resistance that drives it. Featuring some of the most dynamic, boundary-pushing performers in the Twin Cities hip hop scene, as well as dancers, poets, and the legendary DJ Kool Akiem on the wheels of steel, the intergenerational lineup is based around the theme of “what we inherit, we pass on.” In that spirit, the show is also a fundraiser for Twin Cities organization TruArtSpeaks, as well as the birthday celebration of the organization’s founder, Tish Jones.

April 15, 2017 at Icehouse in Minneapolis | 21+ | Doors at 10:30pm
Tickets are available now ($10 in advance, $15 at the door)

MEET THE ARTISTS:

I SELF DEVINE: Chaka Mkali, also known as I Self Devine, is a musician, Mc, community organizer, racial justice trainer, graffiti artist, muralist, program coordinator and director of organizing and community building at Hope Community Center in Minneapolis. As an Mc, I Self is known as an integral part of the Atlanta and Twin Cities underground Hip Hop community as ½ of the duo Micranots, ½ of Semi Official, ¼ of the Dynospectrum, and as a soloist. Over the last decade I Self has released over 10 albums of political conscious socially aware music capable of moving the crowd as well as uplift the spirit and sustain the movement.

DEM ATLAS: Since signing to indie heavyweight Rhymesayers Entertainment in late 2013, deM atlaS hasn’t wasted any time in spreading his brand of Hip-Hop music across the world. Steadily on the road since his signing, he was able to find the time to release his unofficial debut, DWNR, in late 2014.

BDOTCROC: Brynne Crockett, also known as BdotCroc, has been rapping since the age of eight years old. She was born and raised in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bdot started her official music career in 2008 after she graduated high school by recording and writing music and then performing at any venue granted to her. Fans and supporters would say “She’s not dope for a FEMALE MC, she’s a DOPE MC.”

GUANTE: Guante is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist and educator based in Minneapolis. His work has been featured on Upworthy, Welcome to Night Vale, Everyday Feminism, the Huffington Post, and beyond, garnering over ten million views online. Guante has also performed live at the United Nations, as well as countless colleges, universities, and conferences, where he uses art as an entry point into deeper conversations about identity, power, empathy, and resistance.

CRESCENT MOON W/ ANDREW BRODER: Crescent Moon (of Kill the Vultures, Mixed Blood Majority, Oddjobs) teams up with Andrew Broder (of Fog, The Cloak Ox) to make music as dark, challenging, and furious as the times in which we live.

K.RAYDIO: No dashes or spaces. Soul based. Hip hop embraced. Writer and vocalist raised in Minneapolis, MN. Defying convention since 1988.

DJ KOOL AKIEM: From underground mixtapes in the early nineties and the various Micranots releases, to 2006’s Mixtape Deluxe, DJ Kool Akiem formerly of the Micranots and DJ for MF DOOM has been providing a steady diet of funk to the public for years now. Lacing ornate and eclectic samples over rugged drum hits and 808 kicks, Kool Akiem’s productions have a distinct feeling that provide just the right amount of stimulation not to take attention away from the lyrics of his various collaborators. While most producers stick to a time-tested formula, Kool Ak constantly keeps it fresh by reinventing his production style without losing the urgent bump that folks have grown to expect from his tracks.

FEATURING DANCE CREWS MN REAL AND DEADPOOL!

AND HOSTED BY DANEZ SMITH

That’s a one-of-a-kind lineup, all for a great cause. We can’t wait to see you there!

Register Now for the 3rd Annual Flip the Script! Youth Writing and Performance Conference

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 held at 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!

Also, don’t forget about the #FTS3 pre-celebration: a one-night-only production of Zhalarina Sanders’ ROSE GOLD at the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at 7pm. 

A few of the people you’ll meet at #FTS3 (L-R in the image), plus workshop descriptions:

Andrea Jenkins is an artist-activist, and award-winning poet and writer. Andrea has been awarded fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Intermedia Arts, and the Playwrights Center and has won writing and performance grants and scholarships from the Givens Foundation, Intermedia Arts, The Loft, the Napa Valley Writers Conference, and Pillsbury House Theater. Andrea is the co-curator of Queer Voices at Intermedia Arts, the longest-running series of its kind in the nation, and currently works collecting oral histories from hundreds of people in the Upper Midwest transgender community as an Oral Historian in the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.

Ed Bok Lee is the author of two poetry collections, Real Karaoke People (New Rivers Press), a winner of the PEN/Open Book Award and Asian American Literary Award (Members’ Choice) in 2006, and Whorled (Coffee House Press), a winner of the Minnesota Book Award and American Book Award in 2012. Lee grew up in South Korea, North Dakota and Minnesota. As a translator, most recently his work features the poetry of Kim Ki Taek (in Korean Literature Now, Winter 2017). Website.

Donte Collins is a poet. They are the author of Autopsy (2017) and winner of the 2016 Most Promising Young Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets. Collins is the recipient of the 2016 Mitchell Prize in Poetry and is currently a junior at Augsburg College. They are an alum of TruArtSpeaks, a non-profit arts organization based out of the Twin Cities cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through the study & application of Hip Hop culture.

Ollie Schminkey is a white, non-binary transgender poet/musician/artist.  They facilitate, direct, and host many organizations, including a weekly writing workshop called Well-Placed Commas.  They have also represented the Twin Cities in numerous national poetry competitions, and they are the proud author of their second chapbook, You Are Sad and That Sucks a Lot.  You can find them touring nationally or in print in a bunch of cool lit mags.  Feel free to check them out on their website, or on Button Poetry. 

  • Ollie’s Workshop: Telling Truth: A Poetry Workshop- All levels of writers are welcome to join us in a writing workshop where we will explore nuanced and effective ways to tell your story.  How do you write part of your truth for an audience that might be very different from you (without sacrificing yourself in the process)? How do you write your truth for the people who already know you best?   This is a casual, non-judgmental environment– Bring writing materials, a good attitude, and your friends!

Zhalarina Sanders is a rapper/actress/producer from Tampa, FL who serves as co-founder and Executive Director of The JVN Project, an organization that seeks to use Hip-Hop as a tool of empowerment, and is a graduate student of counseling psychology at UW-Madison. She has had the opportunity to travel and be awarded for her work in theatre and music, appearing on stages such as Broadway in New York and the Queen Elizabeth theatre in London, England. Currently, Zhalarina splits her time between the completion of her first rap album, Again, and working toward a tour of her one-person Hip-Hop theatre piece, Rose Gold.

  • Zhalarina’s Workshop: Rose Gold: Mental Health and Performance Art: The purpose of this workshop is to address the psychosocial experiences of performance artists. We will be debunking myths and misconceptions about artist mental health and focusing on how to accomplish psychological wellbeing through, by, and for the stage. 

Jake Virden is a community organizer, emcee, and practitioner of popular education from NE Minneapolis. Jake has been an active performer and curator in the Twin Cities Hip-Hop community for almost a decade, putting in work on the stage  from Soundset to the Re-Verb Open Mic. In  2016, Jacob released an EP titled The Longest Bridge in collaboration with TC luminary Toki Wright. Check out more music with OFF-10 partners Scoundrel Spence, and Ryan B.U.G.S. Virden here. Additionally, Jake is currently the lead organizer for the Parks and Power campaign, based at Hope Community in South Minneapolis. Parks and Power is a grassroots effort to transform the Minneapolis Park Board and move race conscious public policy at the local level. Check out Parks and Power on twitter at @parksandpower.

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) and [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and the John C. Zacharis Award from Ploughshares. Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize, and hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books). They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Danez’s work has been featured widely including in on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.

  • Danez’s workshop: Finding Honey in the Rock – A Workshop of Obsession: What can’t you shake? What constantly comes back to you? What never leaves? In this workshop, we will talk about the obsessions that capture us for a season and obsessions that follow us for a lifetime. Designed for experienced and new writers alike, this workshop ask us to dive deeper into ourselves and find new language and new knowledge in the topics that we return to in our writing and our personal journeys. This workshop offers tools useful for overcoming writer’s block, for building or refining a manuscript or project, & for finding new entrances into our own work.

R. Vincent Moniz Jr.: An active force in the Twin Cities artistic community, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. has received numerous literary awards and fellowships for his writing and live performances, most recently Vincent became a fiscal year 2017 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. At the E. Donald Two Rivers memorial SLAM, Moniz became the current and reigning Individual World Poetry SLAM’s Indigenous SLAM Champion. He has performed his poetry all over the Twin Cities and has recently started accepting invites internationally. A Nu’Eta tribal member, he is an enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes located within North Dakota on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation. Vincent was raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis and you can find his poems all over the neighborhood. Look for Vincent’s collection of poems out of MSU Press in 2017 and find videos of his live performances at Redoubted.com. Booking requests can be sent to Vincent@redoubted.com.

Khary Jackson is a poet, playwright, dancer and musician. He is an alumnus of Cave Canem, the esteemed writing fellowship for black writers. He has written 12 plays, one of which (Water) was produced in 2009 at Ink and Pulp Theatre in Chicago. He has been a recipient of several grants, including the 2016 McKnight Artist Fellowship in Writing, the Minnesota State Arts Board’s 2012 Cultural Community Partnership Grant and 2010 Artist Initiative Grant for Poetry, as well as the 2009 VERVE Spoken Word Grant from Intermedia Arts. His first poetry book, Any Psalm You Want, was published with Write Bloody Publishing in the spring of 2013.

  • Khary’s Workshop: Participants will actively engage with their writing both vocally and physically, moving beyond the presentational style and towards a more theatrical and movement based approach. They will also collaborate with fellow poets to create mini performances, to experience the creative work that goes into the collaborative pieces that they will create if they make the team. By the end of the workshop participants will leave with some additional ideas for how poems can be conceived and performed.

AND MORE! Aside from all of these brilliant artists, Flip the Script! is about young poets building with one another. This is a non-competitive space for everyone to have fun, sharpen their skills, and build community through art. Once again, poets between 13-19 years old can register here, for free.

A few images from last year’s conference:

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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 www.TruArtSpeaks.org. 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 info@TruArtSpeaks.org


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 info@truartspeaks.org 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:

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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!

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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!

This Friday: THE SEND OFF (Update Announcing Special Guests) + Rooted Recap and more!

2016 Be Heard MN Send Off Image

The #BeHeard16 Send Off Show is this Friday (June 17): 7pm at the UMN Rarig Center’s Thrust Theatre. Tickets will be available at the door, but you can also reserve yours ahead of time here.

The Send Off is the last chance to see the whole 2016 Be Heard team in action before they head to Washington DC this July to represent Minnesota at Brave New Voices. The team will also be joined on stage by some of our community’s boldest and most experienced voices: Desdamona, Danez Smith, Guante, and Khary Jackson, as well as members of the TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board (including Isha Camara, Keno Evol, Fatima Camara, and Donte Collins; member Chava Gabrielle will also be co-hosting). This is a very special lineup featuring some of TruArtSpeaks’ family, and we can’t wait for you to see the show.

We have been (and will continue to be) posting videos from some of our guests on Twitter and on the Facebook event page’s wall. Check them out!


photo: DigieMade Photography

Huge thanks to everyone who made ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening at Intermedia Arts such a success, including the organizers, artists, and everyone who came to see the three sold-out shows.

Members of the Be Heard team performed on all three nights; even TruArtSpeaks’ Executive Director Tish Jones got on the mic.

Check out a slideshow of images from the production here.

Also, be sure to check out Intermedia Arts’ other upcoming events, programs, and opportunities here.


seemore reverbFinally, while we gear up for the Send Off and the Brave New Voices trip, remember that the ReVerb open mic is still going strong, every Thursday evening at 6pm at Golden Thyme Cafe (921 Selby Ave.) in St. Paul. Every first Thursday also features a free workshop session at 4pm for anyone looking to sharpen their skills.

ReVerb is free and all-ages, so no matter how much experience you do or don’t have, swing through and share a piece, get some feedback, and/or just listen to others. It’s a space for us to build community and have some fun, each week.


As always, keep in touch via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr for updates!

#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:

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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’s Thrilling Conclusion is Here!

Finals Flier FinalThrough seven packed, raucous preliminary and semifinal slams, twelve youth poets have emerged as the finalists in this year’s Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series organized by TruArtSpeaks.

At Finals, these twelve will share their work, tell their stories, and leave it all on the stage as they compete for five slots on the team that will head to Washington DC to represent Minnesota at the 2016 Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam Festival. As always, however, “the points are not the point; the point is the poetry,” and no matter who makes the team, the Finals slam promises to be one of the biggest, best, and most transformative Twin Cities arts events of the year.

Congratulations to the twelve finalists: Harun Abukar (Minneapolis), Yasmin Aden (Saint Paul), Eshay Brantley (Minneapolis), Sydney Holmes (Minneapolis), Cypress Kenney (Minneapolis), Amir Khadar (Brooklyn Center), Pierre Lawhon (Brooklyn Center), Olivia Mahedy-Wilson (Minneapolis), Mark Pekala (Minneapolis), Elizabeth Pierce (Saint Paul), Duncan Slagle (Mound), and Katherine Wagner (Buffalo).

Event Details:
Saturday, March 26 at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater
7pm. $7 for Students, $10 for Adults; Reserve your tickets now!
Hosted by Danez Smith and Laresa Melody Avent


Semifinals Recap

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This year’s two semifinal bouts were both packed, proving yet again that here in Minnesota, our community is down to power youth voice. Huge thanks to everyone who attended, our judges, our two semifinal partner venues (The Loft Literary Center and MacPhail Center for Music), all of our partners in general, and especially the poets! Here’s a recap of semi #1, plus a poem from Eshay X!



Additional thanks to both the Twin Cities Daily Planet and 3-Minute Egg, who both ran gorgeous video features on the Be Heard series:


TruArtSpeaks is a 2016 LRNG Innovators Challenge Granteeeducator_innovator_logo_NWP

LRNG Innovators is challenging teachers themselves to reach beyond the schoolhouse door to develop partnerships and programs that connect in-school and out-of-school learning and create opportunities for young people to follow their interests and do ambitious work.” TruArtSpeaks is proud to be part of this challenge through our collaborative proposal:

From Classroom To Community Spaces: Cultivating Voices That Matter Through Arts Literacy
***TruArtSpeaks, Minnesota Writing Project, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN***
This partnership seeks to bring in-school and out-of-school learning together through a collaboration of teachers and artists who prioritize creating space for the development of youth voices at the intersection of social justice, literacy, and arts. By designing a high school course together, From Classroom to Community Spaces will develop a curriculum anchored in contemporary African American literature, utilizing elements of Hip Hop and Spoken Word culture. Moving fluidly between the high school campus and local art space, this collaboration will meet the interests of students, provide equitable access to relevant coursework for students, and provide a space for students to develop their own voices in dialogue with contemporary African American texts and issues.


Job Opportunity with Graywolf Press

Our friends at Graywolf Press are seeking an organized, detail-oriented, and well-read person for the position of Editorial Assistant. If you’re looking to work in the world of publishing, check out the full job description here.


The Re-Verb Open Mic is Still Every Thursday Night

We’re all excited for Finals, but it’s also good to remember that the Be Heard slam series is only one way to get involved. Come build with us every Thursday night from 6pm-8pm at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul. Bring a piece, bring a friend; share something, give feedback, or just listen. This is where the work happens!

Keep in touch through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr too!

Join us for the 2015 Send Off Show: June 15 at Intermedia Arts!

A few big updates as we move into summer:

Join us for the 2015 Sendoff Show!
Each year, we work with our partners and allies to organize a show here in the Twin Cities to showcase and celebrate the work of the Be Heard MN team before they head to Brave New Voices to represent Minnesota. This year’s send off show will be held on Monday, June 15 at Intermedia Arts, and will feature the Be Heard team, plus a special lineup of surprise guests. Our last few events at Intermedia have all been huge, and this should be the most exciting one yet– come see the team perform the pieces that they have been working on all summer. Doors will open at 6:30pm, and the show will begin at 7pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students; get them ahead of time here. See you there!

Recent events:
It’s been a busy month in terms of events. In addition to the weekly #ReVerb open mics (every Thursday at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul), TruArtSpeaks representatives and family have been part of some very cool shows.

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On May 20, TruArtSpeaks cosponsored #YesYesYes, an evening of consent-themed spoken-word and hip hop featuring Guante, Chava Gabrielle, Keno Evol, Simone Williams, See More Perspective and many others. On May 30, The Be Heard MN team performed at the Midtown Farmer’s Market; later that afternoon, Tish Jones, Keno Evol, Fatima Camara and Laresa Avent presented at the Black Youth Summit at Metropolitan State University. As always, thanks to the organizers, community partners and others who put these events together!

Congratulations to Danez Smith for winning a 2015 Lambda Literary Award
TruArtSpeaks roster artist Danez Smith won the award for Gay Poetry at the 2015 Lambda Literary Awards. Danez has had a monster of a year in general, and is a great example for aspiring poets; coming from the world of youth spoken-word, Danez has been lighting a fire under the publishing world as well. Check out this writeup of the Awards in The Guardian, and find his latest work here. We can’t wait to see what he does next.

New Video!
Thanks to our partners at Line Break Media, we have a few new videos from the 2015 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series prelims, with more on the way; check out Noah below, and all of the videos at the TruArtSpeaks YouTube page:

#7UpForSocialChange:
If you weren’t able to make it to any of the past events, and can’t get to the Sendoff, you can still support the work that TruArtSpeaks is doing through our #7UpForSocialChange campaign. Click here to donate $7 (or more) and help power youth voice!

As always, get the most up-to-date information on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr!

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