Give the Gift of Poetry: Donate, Volunteer and Be Heard!

Be the Reason this Season of Be Heard Impacts Youth Across the State of MN: Donate Now

Every ending brings about a new beginning and the close of the year is no different. As we reflect on the significant social, political and arts based events of 2016 we make a major pivot towards one of the most inspiring events in our community, the Be Heard MN youth poetry slam series. Young people throughout the sate are sharpening their pencils, typing long into the evening and rehearsing diligently for the upcoming series in hopes to join the cohort of youth representing MN as the #BeHeard17 cohort.
Last but not least, not only did we expand our reach to include a preliminary bout in Duluth, MN, we have significantly restructured the program; six brilliant young writers will still attend Brave New Voices as representatives of the larger youth poetry community in MN while simultaneously serving as ambassadors in our local community under the mentorship of Khary Jackson and Kyra Calvert and the TruArtSpeaks team through the end of 2017. 

Meet the Coaches! 

Kyra Crawford Calvert is a silver-tongued time traveler who catalogs the lessons of her navigation through script[ure]. Her soul-mission is to water the Seed of Divinity ever present in herself and her fellows, especially those with skin from crimson to midnight. Kyra is a 2016 Givens Foundation for African American Literature Writers’ Fellow and received the VERVE Grant for Spoken Word Poets via Intermedia Arts in 2014. Urban Griots nominated her ‘Best New Spoken Word Artist of the Year’ in 2008, and her essay work is featured in Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. She also performs as DJ Black Fish Gold and can be heard on Desdamona’s latest record No Man’s Land.

Khary Jackson is a performance poet, playwright, dancer and musician.  A Detroit native, he currently resides in the Twin Cities where he serves as a teaching artist and writer.  He is a Cave Canem Fellow, and has further reasons to love black people.  He has written 12 full length 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 2010 Artist Initiative Grant for poetry from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the 2009 VERVE Spoken Word Grant from Intermedia Arts, and the Many Voices Residency from the Playwrights’ Center, in 2005-06 and 2007-08.  As a performance poet, he has enjoyed great success in national competition, ranking nationally in 2007, 2008 and 2009, as well as winning the National Poetry Slam with the St Paul team in 2009 and 2010.  But few of us really care about all that.  He’s a little weird, but rest assured, there’s a method to the way he stares into your house. ______________________________________________________________

Click here to make a tax deductible donation in support of #BeHeard17 and TruArtSpeaks ______________________________________________________________

Write to Be Heard is Happening Right Now!!! Be sure to stop by and warm your pens before the first preliminary bout. The internet phenom Guante will be leading each workshop, don’t miss your opportunity to learn from one of the greatest writers of our time!

The 3rd Annual Flip the Script Conference is just around the corner as well;Register Here!

Interested in volunteering e-mail


Get Your #BeHeard17 Swag!

Order your swag early and get it for a reduced rate!

Hoodies: $35.00

T-Shirt: $15.00

Purchase Here

Remember, #ReVerbOpenMic is on break until January 5th, 2017. See you all in the New Year!


#10for10 Continues: A Powerful TruArtSpeaks Alumnus Testimony

My Storylucien10for10

Before I met the people associated with TruArtSpeaks and the people at BNV, I was just another kid writing poems in my notebook in my room. My journey with TruArtSpeaks began in 2013 when I first entered the Be Heard MN youth poetry slam competition. I was only 15 at the time, and couldn’t believe it when I was selected as one of the six youth poets to represent Minnesota at the international Brave New Voices (BNV) youth poetry slam and festival.

As the youngest member on the team, I took the opportunity to connect with other phenomenal artists, take in the wisdom given by mentors in the community, and work to perfect my craft. One of the poems I had written during the 2013­2014 slam season was actually picked up by Jet Magazine, as well as praised by Janis Lane­Ewart and aired on KFAI. TruArtSpeaks, including staff and teaching artists like Tish Jones, Keno Evol, Guante, Khary Jackson, and Desdamona, plus the teammates with whom I still have close relationships, are the people who taught me the power in my words. They taught me what it was to be a poet off the page. They taught me what it meant to truly embody my feelings and emotions and portray those things on stage.

One of the hardest moments in my life was the following season when I was told there was a polyp growing on my vocal chord. At that point in my life, it was clear that I was going to need vocal surgery, and doctors weren’t sure if I would be able to compete for BNV 2015. Luckily for me, I had an unbelievable support system from my TruArtSpeaks family, my parents, my girlfriend, and my best friends from the previous year. Amazingly, I came out of surgery and recovered within a few weeks in time to compete for the 2015 preliminaries. If anything, I came back stronger, wiser, and in at a much higher comfort level than I had been at before. I went on to make the team for the second year in a row, compete in Philadelphia, and help my team make semifinals.

Spoken word has and always will be a vent for me, but more importantly it has opened the doors to various new opportunities, including my now thriving Hip­Hop career. The skill set I have been able to bring to Hip Hop is rooted in the things I took from TruArtSpeaks and spoken word. One of the best career decisions I made (with help from Tish and my parents) was to apply to the University of Wisconsin Madison’s “First Wave” program. First Wave is one of the only programs in the world that offers full tuition scholarships to Hip­Hop students and I know it’s where I need to be. With even more love and support from my TruArtSpeaks family, and parents, and friends, I have been accepted into the First Wave Program, where I plan to remain until 2019. Words cannot explain the love, the gratitude, or the respect I have for Tish Jones and all the other mentors in my life that have helped me get to where I am today. Part of who I am will always be because of the unforgettable journey I had and will continue to have with TruArtSpeaks.

Lucien Parker

TruArtSpeaks is a Knight Arts Challenge Finalist, #10for10 Continues + More!

#10for10: Donate $10 NOW and Support TruArtSpeaks into the Future

Big thanks to everyone who has contributed to the #10for10 campaign thus far. We are moving closer and closer to our goal of raising $25,000 by October 15th! Your donations will directly serve:

  • The Re-Verb Open Mic
  • The Youth Advisory Board
  • The L.I.T. Program

Donate now and invest in the future writers, poets, performers and leaders in the arts field.

TruArtSpeaks is a Knight Arts Challenge Finalist!

TruArtspeaks is one of 41 arts organizations eligible for 1.5million dollars of support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for their proposal to implement a Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate. They are amongst great company in the list of finalists – fingers crossed! Read the full article on all finalists and projects here.

Winners will be announced on October 11th, 2016.

Don’t forget to check out Re-Verb Open Mic this week at Golden Thyme Cafe from 6-8p! This week features local artist, organizer and entrepreneur, Miss Brit from the KFAI Radio program Soul Tools





Educators, Organizers & Arts Leaders: This is for you! Build bridges from the classroom to community on Oct. 1st at the U of M. Register now to secure your spot!




Catch us at the Powderhorn Porchfest on Saturday, September 24th!






You can still submit your 50 words to our Magnetic Poetry contest OR your excerpt to our Bookmark Poetry contest! Submit online! Hurry submissions close soon!

Guante is releasing a book! Catch him at one of these five locations! You don’t want to miss this!

Thanks again for all of your support! We will see you out in the community!

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!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

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!

Get Connected: Power Youth Voice with TruArtSpeaks

May Banner

We’re grateful for the chance to build with so many people at In the Heart of the Beast‘s annual May Day Festival in Powderhorn Park. The theme this year was Black Lives Matter, and as people all over the country take to the streets, we are reminded of the role that art– and especially spoken-word– can play in movement-building. At TruArtSpeaks, we believe in the power of communities to organize, and for artists to be part of that work– as signal-boosters, as re-framers, as the people’s media and beyond– so we move into May with a sense of urgency.

YesYesYes flyerUpcoming Events

  • #YesYesYes: Wednesday, May 20 at Intermedia Arts: TruArtSpeaks is proud to co-sponsor #YesYesYes; featuring Guante, Chava Gabrielle, and many other local artists, this will be an evening of spoken-word about consent and healthy sexuality. 7pm. $5 donation appreciated.
  • The weekly ReVerb open mic: all through the summer and beyond, we will continue to host our weekly, all-ages open mic. Every Thursday at 6pm at Golden Thyme Cafe in St. Paul.
  • The Sendoff: stay tuned for details on our annual sendoff show.

BH 2015 Team w ArmandBe Heard Team Update: Welcome Armand McCoy

In April, the make-up of the 2015 Be Heard MN youth poetry slam team changed. The brilliant and bold Isha Camara was unable to move forward with the 2015 team which created a platform for a new and exciting young voice:  Armand McCoy, the first alternate in line to join the Be Heard team. Welcome Armand! We will be showcasing every member of the team here over the next few months.

The team has also started practicing; under the guidance of coach and poetry slam champion Khary Jackson, they are writing, revising, and collaborating with each other, all in preparation for the trip to Atlanta this July. Stay tuned for updates on the big sendoff show, as well as a performance at the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market, and more.


There’s still time to put #7UpForSocialChdonor flyer 2ange and support the work that TruArtSpeaks does. From youth leadership development, to creating spaces for expression and community-building, to much more– you can help us keep growing for just $7. Thanks to everyone who has already gotten down with the campaign! Click here to add your name to our supporters.



Hope to see you at an event, at the open mic, or in the community. In the meantime, be sure to get at us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr!

Meet the 2015 Be Heard MN youth slam team!

photo by Sarah White

Wow. The 2015 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series Finals was an incredible event. A sold-out theater, a hype crowd, life-affirming energy all night long, and some of the strongest poetry we’ve seen yet– congratulations to the final six:

Sam Daiker – Golden Valley
Julie Pekala – Minneapolis
Kaaha Nasteexo – Minneapolis
Isha Camara – Minneapolis
Donte Collins – Minneapolis
Duncan Slagle – Mound

If they accept the challenge, these six will represent Minnesota at the 2015 Brave New Voices international poetry slam festival in Atlanta, GA, this July. As always, we are endlessly thankful for the audience, volunteers, supporters and poets who make all this possible. Extra thanks to every poet who performed– in finals, semifinals, and prelims too. We are beyond excited to keep building with all of you.

The Finals slam was the end of the 2015 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series, but it also marks an important beginning. TruArtSpeaks is thrilled to announce the #7UpForSocialChange campaign, our push to make sure that everyone can help POWER YOUTH VOICE as we move forward. Join the movement here, and check out the video for some powerful testimonials:

photo: Hieu Minh Nguyen

photo: Hieu Minh Nguyen

We want to take a moment to send a HUGE congratulations to Be Heard MN alumnus Lucien Parker on being accepted into the University of Wisconsin Madison’s First Wave Program – the first University Program in the country centered on Spoken Word & Hip Hop Culture! Lucien is a long time member of the TruArtSpeaks family, two-time Be Heard MN Slam Team member and soon-to-be-graduate of Washburn High School in Minneapolis, MN. Not only is he a phenomenal poet, but he is a scholar, emcee and actively engaged community member. Look for his music on Soundcloud and a stage near you. Congratulations, Lucien! We look forward to the greatness to come; keep shining!

phot credit: Sarah White

phot credit: Sarah White

Speaking of First Wave, be sure to check out this Thursday’s Re-Verb Open Mic featuring First Wave Scholar and former Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, Obasi Davis. Davis is a multidisciplinary artist who has made mega noise in the Hip Hop community with his emcee and poetry skills. He will be doing a short set during the open mic after facilitating the free first Thursday writing workshop; don’t miss it!

Golden Thyme Café, 921 Selby Avenue, Saint Paul, MN, 55104

Theme: Props @The Poets — TruArtSpeaks is kicking off poetry month by honoring the legacy of those that came before us. Bring in a poem written by your favorite poet and be prepared to bring them into the space.


Last but not least, be sure to check us out on Instagram with our 30/30 IG writing prompts. Peace and Poetry!

Q2 Flier

#7UpForSocialChange #TruBelievers



Abby Bagel

Joe Bateman

Erick Boustead

Corrine Castro

Beth Cherne

Obasi Davis

Barbara Daiker

Rebeka Dwyer-Ndosi

Alejandro Eduarte

Helen Fagrelius

Siobhan Fitzagerald

Angie Goserud

Arisa Grier

Nicholas Griffith

Cynthia Harvey

Rebbecca Hemmans

Anthony Iovinella

Milford Johnson

Stephanie Ling

Armand McCoy

Denham Mullings

James Myhre

Zachary Pierson

Mary Pekala

Melissa Rach

Leo Remke

Sara Remke

Stacy Remke

Karmel Sabri

Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria

Gaybriel Trendz

Ladan Yusuf


Kathy Black

Kathleen Butts

Ethan Cherin

J Kimberly Flisrand

Arleta Little

Jessie Parent

Benjamin Weiss



Power. Youth. Voice.

Donate $7 to TruArtSpeaks to support youth development, artistic expression and social change. Together, we have the power to create quality, sustainable and safe spaces for young people to grow with one another, create positive social change and unearth, develop and share their voices! To donate MORE than $7 head to our home page NOW!

Our goal is to raise $10,000.00 by July 1st, 2015 and we need YOU – our #TruBelievers – to help us get there!

Head this way to view fellow philanthropists, #TruBelievers and investors that have powered youth voice putting #7UpForSocialChange!

The Ask: $7.00

Extra Love & Donor Levels:

#TruBelievers: Donate between $7-$99.99

#TruSupporters: Donate between $100-$999.99

#TruChampions: Donate between $1,000-$4,999.99

#TruAmbassadors: Donate between $5,000-$9,999.99

#TruAmplifiers: Donate $10,000 or more

#TruBelievers: Will have their names listed on the donor page and the campaign graphic

#TruSupporters: Receive #TruBeliever benefits and a campaign t-shirt

#TruChampions: Receive #TruSupporter benefits and two free tickets to one public TruArtSpeaks event of their choosing

#TruAmbassadors: Receive #TruChampion benefits and a personal letter of gratitude from a member of the TruArtSpeaks Youth Advisory Board

#TruAmplifiers: Receive #TruAmbassador benefits and public acknowledgment as a funder/sponsor on printed material

donor flyer 1

%d bloggers like this: