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     Arts Help Youth Heal, Triumph & Transform

(Norfolk, VA) – What happens when you combine Art, Youth and Activism?  You get teens creatively cultivating the next generation of leaders!  Teens with a Purpose strings events, workshops, camps and outreach initiatives together using the arts to enable them to effect personal and societal change.  The 9th Annual Hampton Roads Youth Poetry Festival showcased a captivating season of powerful youth voices  that was not to be missed .  This month-long experience displayed young artists and emerging world changers from Hampton Roads ages 12-19. Inspired young writers, emcees, spoken word artists and performers, took the stage to tell their stories about healing, restoration and life transformations.  Hundreds had a front row seat to this riveting engagement, watching each poet evolve throughout the season.  SlamFest ’17, with its series of dynamic poetic events brought the voices of the Hampton Roads youth  front and center, powerfully, poetically, purposefully.

April 21st, TWP hosted its 2nd annual Hear This Middle School Slam.  Hear This! is a standards-based school  program facilitated by trained Teens With a Purpose poet mentors/teaching artists. In a partnership with teachers, mentors and artists work  to bring high-level creative writing and performance workshops into the classroom and after school clubs. Students bring their own personal narratives into dialogue with the issues and themes already being studied in the classroom in along with other current events.  In addition to learning about literary tools and communication techniques, students apply these skills to magnify the strength of their writing and speaking.  Hear This! builds bridges by connecting students from various backgrounds, cities and experience. This program is  currently  being offered at Bayside 6th Grade Annex, Virginia Beach, Lakewood Academy for Discovery, Norfolk, Huntington Middle School, Newport News and I.C Norcom, Portsmouth.

 Saturday, April 22nd, Teens With a Purpose participated in the ROOTS Weekend in Richmond. ROOTS is the fifth of six regional gatherings that Alternate ROOTS is convening throughout the South from 2015-2017. Through the theme of Creating a World Without Prisons, and in partnership with ArtChangeUS, ART 180, and RIHD, organizations took a close, critical look at the U.S. prison industrial complex – the largest system of incarceration in the world. Teens With a Purpose, coalition members for Rise for Youth, a nonpartisan campaign in support of community alternative to youth incarceration was honored to perform poems and songs. This  opportunity brought the youth perspective to the stage at Richmond’s beautiful Hippodrome theater for the culminating event for the ROOTS conference.  By participating in engagements like this, artist-activists are doing their part to work towards a world where prisons are a thing of the past.

Sunday, April 23rd, Leila Hamilton (Lakewood Academy for Discovery), Devon Carter (Maury High School), Chozin Johnson (Booker T. Washington HS), Nia Naomi Johnson (Radford University), Jeremiah Hagan (Hampton HS), Khosi McClain (ODU), Donovan Pollock (TCC) and Williams Williams (Granby HS) – let their truth be heard.  “Art gives life” is a philosophy these poets live by, so they pour their personal stories on paper to get free but also to help any other young person who is struggling with the same issues of – bullying, racism, sexism, rape, molestation, identity, poverty and more. They leave the audience with the feeling of hope that if they overcame, we can too. Williams Williams shared his personal story of being bullied for being albino and for the effects of living in poverty. He thanked all the naysayers because they helped to push him to be better. William says, “I will be President.”  His story captured the media attention of the Disney Dreamers Academy and The Steve Harvey Show earlier this year. Another brave voice that rose up is Leila Hamilton, who is only in the 7th grade. It was her first time to the final stage of Slam Fest and she slammed against her Hear This teacher, who is in college. Leila has been a part of TWP’s Hear This Club at Lakewood Academy for Discovery for two years.

Committed to elevating the youth voice to the stratosphere, Teens With a Purpose also presents the Youth Poet Laureate program which aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, leadership and education across Hampton Roads. TWP teamed up with award winning literary arts organization, Urban Word and youth organizations around the country for the Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate project. Along with receiving the prestigious title of Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate, the winning poet will also be given a book deal from Penmanship Books to publish his or her first collection of poems, as well as a library tour. The Youth Poet Laureate will have numerous opportunities and platforms to share their powerful voices, their leadership, and love of Hampton Roads at numerous events.  Named the 2016 Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate, Dayana Lee will be signing her book on May 11th. A group of esteemed judges will select one teen to be honored with the title of Hampton Road Youth Poet Laureate on May 11th, at Slover Library from 5pm to 7:30pm. The 2017 judges are Charles E. Johnson Jr, Fawn Faulks, Marie Carter, Tonya Shell and Tamara Hamlin.  Art plus youth plus Activism equals a much better tomorrow.

About Teens With a Purpose Our mission: TWP-The Youth Movement, also known as Teens With a Purpose, is a 501(c) (3) non-profit youth development organization. Our mission is “to create a platform to empower young people to use their voices, energy, abilities and talent to demonstrate their power to effect personal change and positively impact the lives of others through the arts, peer-led programs and events. We create a safe, non-judgmental environment for self-expression for all young people as we continue to promote healthy life choices.” Simply put, Teens Cultivating the Next Generation of Leaders. Workshops are offered in collaboration with Norfolk Recreation, Parks and Open Space at the VCM Teen Center Monday – Thursdays. For additional, information visit our website

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