Youth Poets from all over Hampton Roads participated in the 2014 Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Festival & Slam Season. Youth rained in from all over Hampton Roads during the festival which held qualifying slams at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News, MOCA Museum in Virginia Beach, TCC Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk and Norfolk State University. The season runs from January through April and offers writing and performance workshops, open mics and on-stage competitions to determine who will represent the Hampton Roads region at the Brave New Voices competition, as seen on HBO. The 2014 Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Slam Season & Festival was hosted by the Hampton Roads Youth Poets (HRYP), a division of Teens With a Purpose (TWP). Each year six teen qualify, after rigorous competition, during the HRYP poetry festival, to compete in Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices brings together over 500 youths from around the country and around the globe. They attend workshops, do community service and hold inspirational spoken word events at all of the major theaters throughout the host city. Last year’s event was hosted by the City of San Francisco. This year’s host is the city of brotherly love Philadelphia.
Nation-wide events such as ours are held by affiliated organizations to prepare the youth in their region for the unique experience of sharing an international stage with other spoken word activists. Poets come from all parts of the world like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Jamaica, South Africa, and Iraq and throughout the entire United States. Brave New Voices, has captured attention from media giants like CNN and HBO. HBO has documented the Brave New Voices experience. Cox Communications has recreated a similar opportunity with the local Hampton Roads youth poetry group. They began documenting the journey of the poets and highlighting the Hampton Roads youth in the 2013 Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Slam Season & Festival. The documentary Hear This! Began airing on Cox 11 in April and will continue to air for the remainder of the year. The 2014 Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Slam Season & Festival has also been recorded and will air as a multi-episode documentary series later this year. “We travel throughout the country to Brave New Voices each year so that Hampton Roads teens experience the opportunity to be heard on a world stage, expressing the things that matter most to them, but above all that, I believe they want Virginia to listen to them! For the first time, all of Virginia will have the opportunity to listen and watch. Their poems are sometimes a plea for help and there is healing in simply being heard” said Deirdre Love, Executive Director of Teens With a Purpose.
The six poets representing Hampton Roads are Emily “Em” Allison (17) Chesapeake, Ayanna Florence (17) Chesapeake, ShaJhea Wilson (19) Norfolk, Khayla “Cuyjet” Walker (18) Virginia Beach, Jasmine Kiah (18) Norfolk and Tiarra Smalls (17) Virginia Beach.
HRYP is actively involved in the international youth poetry movement. For the past two years, they have hosted a youth poetry retreat in Norfolk for top east coast youth poets from DC, Philly and Baltimore. HRYP also participates in regional poetry slams in New York, Baltimore and New York. Hampton Roads Youth Poets have participated in the Brave New Voices event for the past 5 years. In 2011, the HRYP team made it into the semi-final round. For the past four years, TWP’s Program Coordinator Richard A. Love has participated at ‘Future Corps’, an elite group of Brave New Voices Alumni who facilitate and help run this large festival. In 2012, HRYP placed second in the mid-Atlantic East Coast poetry slam held in Philadelphia hosted by the Philly Youth Poetry Movement.
Brave New Voices, as seen on HBO, is committed to building safe spaces that challenge young people to develop and present the power of their voices. Carla Crane of Brave New Voices wrote: ‘Besides offering young people the chance for true transformation, it excels at community building, mentoring, and improving literacy and communication skills’. Teens With a Purpose is proud to be a part of a network that reflects our values and mirrors our mission. Simply put, Teens With a Purpose strives to help teens creatively cultivate the next generation of leaders! Aside from hosting this festival Teens With a Purpose facilitates weekly, year-round, teen gatherings and leadership trainings where youth are taught to create their own music, videos, theatrical presentations and educational workshops addressing issues such as teen distracted driving, bully prevention, safe dating and HIV/STI awareness and prevention.
The 2014 HRYP Slam Festival is brought you by Teens With a Purpose in collaboration with WAVY–TV 10 / WVBT FOX 43, Cox Communications, GEICO, Virginia Beach Economic Development, Norfolk Public Schools, Virginia Beach Public Schools, MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, Norfolk State University, HOT91.1, Tidewater Community College, CATCH 4 Kids and The MUSE Writer’s Center
*Jasmine Kiah did not compete on the 2014 HRYP Slam Team.