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!

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!

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!

“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!

#BNV15, Call for Young Artists, WBL’s Hip Hop Teach-In & More!

DonteThe Be Heard MN team returned safely from the 2015 Brave New Voices festival in Atlanta after an unforgettable week of art, activism, and community-building. Following a strong series of performances in the prelims, the team advanced to semifinals; although they did not make Finals stage, team member Armand McCoy was selected by festival organizers to serve as a sacrificial poet for Finals, and perform in front of a packed house in the Atlanta Symphony Hall.

Photo by Outlier Imagery

Armand McCoy; photo by Outlier Imagery

Still, the point is not the points or the individual honors; the point is the poetry, the family, the love. Team member Julie Pekala highlights the importance of this mantra in her reflection: “The Brave New Voices experience meant rediscovering the truest form of myself. There is nothing that compares to amount of community and kindness there, it rubs off in my writing and my personality. It was 5 days of positive stress, laughs, excitement and heart.”

Sam Daiker agrees: “Brave New Voices means community. Not only did this experience allow me to learn with and from poets from all over the country, but it also changed the way I see things in my own life. It’s changed me. It was empowering and inspiring, and I think I’m moving towards writing to change, to connect, to be heard.”

Donte, Sam and Armand bust a group piece at BNV.

Donte, Sam and Armand bust a group piece at BNV.

Duncan Slagle affirms the sentiment of his team members when saying: “BNV meant an immediate community of poets and activists gathered together to build something substantial with each other. BNV also means a community stretched across the globe that is encouraging the same growth and creation. BNV turned me into a community member. BNV taught me about selfless performance, support even under competitive circumstances, and what poetry means outside of a slam. Brave New Voices 2015 was a convergence of artistic individuals cultivating community. At the same time, these individuals were representing the communities they left back home. BNV was, is, and will be a community aiming to serve me, other young people like me, and those who need the healing power that words can offer.”

THANK YOU to all community members, staff/organizers, youth participants, and supporters who made this trip possible. We can’t wait to do it again next year! View photos from our experience below, courtesy of Hieu Minh Nguyen!

DuncanJulie Sam CollabLadiesSlam Master SmithArmand SemisTeam Semi SeatedCoach KharyHieuOpening CeremoniesJames Tish CroppedTeam DinnerKL and TAS








Calling all poets and emcees between the ages of 13-24! Are you looking for anareyouthirsty-100x150 opportunity to write, perform and tour as part of an ensemble? TruArtSpeaks has the perfect opportunity for you! This fall we will be working with our friends at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater to create awareness around the Mississippi Watershed and the global water crisis through a multi-disciplinary Hip Hop puppetry and poetics performance!

Three artists from the TruArtSpeaks network will be selected by a panel of professionals to join the paid “Are You Thirsty Remix” touring ensemble and craft new work around water mwmo-lg-rgbawareness and the Mississippi watershed while working closely with professional writers, puppeteers and theater artists to continue to develop your craft. Apply and learn more here!

Hurry! Applications close on September 22nd, 2015 at 5:00p.

This opportunity is supported, in part, by the generosity of the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.

logo-transparent-04-30-15We are excited to announce that we will be working with some of our national colleagues (Kuumba Lynx, the Hip-Hop Education Center, World Hip Hop Market and Beats Rhymes and Life) to power “Remixing the Art of Social Change: Expanding the Cipher” presented by Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture, an international Teach-In hosted in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center November 12th-13th, 2015.

Remixing the Art of Social Change is a Teach-In designed to outline the tools and resources necessary to develop curriculum, programs, and work (artistic and scholarly) rooted in hip- hop culture. Our field is made up of organizations that use hip-hop culture to promote social change and push the envelope of what hip-hop culture can produce artistically, academically, politically and socially. The presenters at Remixing the Art of Social Change are the artists, scholars and educators who never gave up on hip-hop and are still actively working through it to promote peace, love unity and having fun.

Your voice is welcome and necessary – do you have an idea for a workshop, a panel, an essay? Click here to learn more about how to join the conversation and submit a proposal! Hurry, the deadline is approaching soon!

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS Due Friday September 11th 2015

Group Main

TruArtSpeaks’ Youth Advisory Board: Chava Gabrielle, Donte Collins, Isha Camara, Fatima Camara, Keno Evol

Meet the newest members of the TruArtSpeaks family! Chava, Donte, Isha, Fatima and Keno Evol have joined forces to serve as the Youth Advisory Board for TruArtSpeaks.

As former program participants, they have each committed to advising TruArtSpeaks on all youth programming while remaining champions, patrons and true supporters of the work.

We are thrilled to have them on our team and look forward to supporting youth run, youth driven and youth led programming into the future with their vision at the helm.

Drop them a line of congratulations here:

ReVerb JulyRe-Verb Open Mic is still going strong every Thursday from 6-8p at Golden Thyme Café in Saint Paul. Be sure to check the flier before you come by; we highlight varying poetic forms, devices and themes from week to week to keep you on your poetic toes and we love to hear different artists approach the respective content.

OH! And don’t forget about the monthly writing workshops from 4-5:30p every first Thursday of the month. It is a safe place to create and share new work amongst your peers while under the tutelage of a professional writer and performer.

For questions you can call or email at: (651) 645-1340 |

Finally, check out this NEW video from Leo Remke, performing in the 2015 Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series!

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!

Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference

Flip the Script!Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference will take place at the Loft Literary Center on Sunday, February 21st, 2015 from 12-5p. Young writers between the ages of 13-19 will have an opportunity to work with Minnesota’s premiere arts educators, writers and performers while also receiving valuable information about college opportunities and professional development in the arts field. Register here and see below for a detailed agenda for the day.

Flip the Script! A Youth Writing & Performance Conference comes jam packed with food, performances, a panel discussion, workshops and more! Choose from one of two tracks as your learning community for the day and prepare to have your mind blown!

Flip the Script!

12:00p – Registration & Light Refreshments

12:15p – Welcome from TruArtSpeaks & the Loft Literary Center

12:25p – Performances & Panel Discussion // “Slam Poetry: What’s the Point?” moderated by Tish Jones

  • Featuring: Laresa Avent, Hieu Minh Nguyen and Saymoukda Vongsay

1:25p – Breakout for Workshops

1:30p – Workshops:

  • Writing & Performance Track // “Spoken Word & the Ancient Art of Storytelling: Finding Yourself In and Through Your Poems” – with See More Perspective
  • Professional Development Track // “Spoken Word Outside of Slam: Building and Managing Your Career” – with Guante

2:30p – Break

2:45p – Workshops

  • Writing & Performance Track // “Getting Elemental: Breaking Down the Separate Elements of Performance” – with Khary Jackson aka 6 is 9
  • Professional Development Track // “Life After Be Heard and BNV” with Danez Smith & Tish Jones

3:45p – Break

4:00p – Closing Seminar

4:30p – Dinner, Community Building and Reflection

5:00p -Conference Close

Laresa HeadshotLaresa Avent is a two time Be Heard MN slam team winner and avid writer. Her work has been published in two chapbooks, Future Calls (TruArtSpeaks 2014) and For Closure (TruArtSpeaks 2014). Graduate of Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Avent is a natural born leader who helped the Southwest Spoken Word club blossom into the student led model of critical self expression that it is today. A singer, model and dedicated member of her community, Laresa is a poet on the rise – look out.


PC: Michelle Tacheny

PC: Michelle Tacheny

 Hieu Minh Nguyen is a poet, author, and performer. He was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, by a single, Vietnamese-American, mother. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a recipient of the VERVE grant from Intermedia Arts, and a recipient of the Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant from The Loft Literary Center. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as The Journal, PANK, Anti-, Muzzle, decomP, Indiana Review, and other journals. He also works at a haberdashery.





Saymoukda Vongsay I’m a poet, playwright, and creative fiction writer who enjoys miscombinations. I believe in doing everything a little abnormally and dislike to be placed in tiny boxes. In 1981 I was born in a Thai refugee camp to the daughter of a Lao provincial governor and the son of a hard-working farmer. The nurse that delivered me was rocking out on her walkman the entire time. Maybe that’s why all of my favorite memories are triggered by songs. I’ve been a poet since I can remember. My composition notebooks were my confessionals. Sometimes I recite my poetry from memory with flair and people tell me I’m a spoken word poet. Truth-telling time: my hands sweat every time I approach the mic.   

In 2009 I co founded The Unit Collective of Emerging Playwrights of Color. As part of the collective’s monthly Madness Series, 8 of my flash plays had stage readings at The Playwrights’ Center and Yellowtail Sashimi (a flash play about “asianphilia” and “sisterhood”) was featured as part of the collective’s production at the 2010 MN Fringe Theater Festival. I co wrote The Cooking Show con Karimi and Comrades that premiered at the Asian Artist Initiative in Philadelphia (2012). My first full-length play, Kung Fu Zombies vs Cannibals (KFZ), as part of the Jerome Foundation/Mu Performing Arts’ New Performance Program had a world premiere in October 2013 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. It debuted to high acclaim and was named “Best Production of 2013” by L’Etoile Magazine. 

That’s dope, right?

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