I appreciated the story, "Schooled in hip-hop, changed for life" by Deborah Sengupta Stith featured on the Austin360bets page of the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday. The article described how local poets have come together to form the Cipher, a spoken word project for local youth.
I'm a slam fan myself, and I especially admire the work of one of the Cipher organizers, Chris "Gator" Ockletree. I first met Gator several years ago when he was a winner in our Nonmilitary Options peace poetry contest. At the time, he was a student at Reagan HS and was also active with the Texas Youth Word Collective. Gator is featured on our Nonmilitary Options peace wheel of fortune, too.
One thing I find especially encouraging about the Cipher project, as told in Saturday's article, is the young poets' growing awareness of gender/power balance and the use of language regarding women.
Gator also addressed these issues through his participation in recording "Drop Jewels," a CD produced last year in collaboration with A Call To Men, a national men's organization that works on the premise that ending violence against women is primarily the responsibility of men.
Drop Jewels is a collection of songs by the local group, Public Offenders, and it's been one of the recordings I've listened to most often this year. I feel like it helps put me in the shoes of the young men and women who are trying to figure out their roles in the world. Public Offenders, by the way, stands for: POVERTY UNITED BUILDING LOVE IN INNER CITIES - OUR FUTURE FOR EVERY NATION DOES EFFECT REALITY.
I wasn't able to attend the Cipher event this weekend, but I hope to attend at least one of the upcoming showcases for this year's youth slam team who will be representing Austin in the Brave New Voices slam competition in Chicago next month. This year, for the first time, the Austin team is ALL-WOMEN! Awesome.
Here are the upcoming dates planned by the Texas Youth Word Collective, where we can hear the work of these young poets before they head up to Chicago:
July 2, Slam Bowl, 8 pm, $10 cover, Club Illusions, 2700 S. Pecan, Pflugerville --Team Competition between the Austin Youth Poetry Slam Team, Neo Soul Slam Team, Austin Poetry Slam and Killeen Poetry Slam. Come watch the younger generation teach their elders a lesson or two!
July 5th, 7 pm, Spoken and Heard Feature Performance, Kick Butt Coffee, 5775 Airport, Suite 725
July 6th, 7 pm, The Hideout, Feature Performance, 617 Congress
July 7th, 7 pm, Ruta Maya, Open Mic, 3601 S. Congress
July 10th, 8 pm, Old Skool Chi-City Send Off Dance Party, $10 cover, The Independent, corner of E. 5th and Brushy St.