Founded in 1996, Youth Speaks, Inc. is an organization after my own heart. They use language and performance to empower our nation's youth because, as their tagline states, "the next generation can speak for themselves."
If you tune into HBO, you may be familiar with Youth Speaks' International Poetry Slam-- Brave New Voices. Russell Simmons, a known proponent for the development of underserved youth, sponsors the presentation of the annual slam as an HBO documentary series. The show follows teams from more than 50 cities worldwide as they write, practice, train, and perform their hearts out on the spoken word stage. It also features appearances and words of encouragement from heavy-hitters like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Common (who hosts the show).
While some poems are light-hearted accounts of first-love and summer fun, others are controversial, in-depth looks at race, gender, and social inequality. Brave New Voices also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the writing process-- the tears, the meltdowns, the moments that get too real for comfort.
This show is worth surrendering to your couch on a Saturday night. These young people have some things to say, and you best believe they are going to be heard!
Team Philadelphia's Alysia Harris performing her poem "That Girl" in the 2008 Brand New Voices competition.
You can catch the season premiere this Saturday at 11/10c on HBO. http://www.hbo.com/russell-simmons-presents-brave-new-voices