Peace by Piece Slide Show

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Word Play Youth Poetry Slam Reflections

        AFSC was recently a part of a Global Youth Festival week with other local organizations. The mission of this Global Youth Festival week was to have local youth focused organizations serve as viable resources for the youth in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas, with regards to promoting the importance of education, self-respect, hard work and teaching our youth how to serve as role models, advocates and leaders in their own communities. Local community activist, Karl Washington, invited us to participate in this initiative. AFSC partnered with Karl, as well as, Asia Rainey with the New Orleans Slam Team to  host “WordPlay” New Orleans Youth Poetry Slam to showcase youth perspectives on the issues effecting them on Friday March 15th from 7- 9pm at Café Instanbul inside of The New Orleans Healing Center. Below are reflections from our AFSC interns, who helped organize and also performed at this event.

Breial M. Kennedy
               The Poetry Slam was pretty cool, but uncomfortable. I’m not a rapper or a poet so to be on stage performing a song during a poetry slam was a new experience and an unfamiliar feeling. It wasn’t so bad because I wasn’t alone. I had my new family, the other AFSC Interns. Besides performing, I loved the event as a whole. All of the performers were awesome but L.Y.R.I.C. Squad’s performance stood out to me the most. Their energy was so high. Another awesome performance came from Asia-Vinae a.k.a. Preach. She performed a couple times and did her thing each time. As an intern and a friend, I’m proud.

Austin Smith     
I enjoyed the atmosphere, it felt like a cool poetic scene. I picked up some good vibes while being at Café Istanbul, it was familiar since I had been before. The whole event made me want to attend a second Word Play session. The room held seriousness throughout the night, which tells me that the words said that night hit the hearts of others. In my opinion the event was carried out as planned and with few mishaps. The performers were very entertaining and inspirational. However, I do wish the message from the chi town group was more comprehensible. I left with the idea that they were awesome but I didn’t remember what they said.

Isaiah Jones
Stage fright is something that I usually say that I suffer from and leading up to the event, even with my lines being the smallest of the piece, I could feel the jitters in my body. Be that as it may I also felt very excited about the flows we as a group of interns were putting together and looked forward to doing my first group piece of poetry ever and in front of a real audience, small and intimate as it may have been. When we finally arrived on stage it was alright. We didn’t spontaneously combust from being the view of everyone for a little bit spittin’ about our ways of the world.  It felt good to share the messages. But on top of what we as interns did, the rest of the night was exhilarating as well.
               From youth peeps in the NOLA fam we got to experience some travels through life and strife and reflecting on a few things though Mary Jane made plenty of swishing strides throughout the night. It was exciting to see some of the bubbling creativity of the area in action making it work live. Then even beyond that there was the mind blowing extravaganza of the Chi town crew who came all the way down here, fifteen hours driving to drop mad fiya into the minds of us present. And all together this was key—in that multi-generational space all ages were engaged and expressing themselves actively.  The energy of the space got me super-duper hyped up to another level letting my mind manage to travel up down and all around some celestial pathways.

Asia-Vinae Palmer
There’s something about being on stage that makes me feel like my spirit is hop scotching across the stars. Sometimes I have conversations with the sky. I say thank you for all the talents I have – like poetry. I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t find out that I could use writing as an outlet. Café Istanbul is such an inspirational venue that I felt honored to be on stage there. Let’s see:
It was an hour before the show and the group was nervous, anxious, and ready to slaughter the microphone. Austin, Bri, Isaiah, and Asia-Vinae were in the hallway practicing the song that none of them thought they would even be able to write, let alone actually like it in the end. Everyone was a little afraid of show time. What if the crowd doesn’t like it? What if they don’t answer the chant? What if? What if? What if? SHOWTIME! They could feel each other’s heartbeats as the song started. And then the beat dropped.
One of my biggest fears before the show was whether or not the kids would get what we were saying. I was worried that we would just sound like an organized jumble of words and not make an impact. And then the crowd started answering the chant. It felt like we were a real rap group and the crowd was singing our lyrics. I was and am proud of my team for pulling it together and collectively stepping outside of our comfort zones. I’m looking forward to our next group performances.

Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond Undoing Racism Workshop Training Reflections
AFSC works in partnership with the People's Institute(PISAB) to train our youth leaders in the process of undoing racism in the communities they live and work in. PISAB's Undoing Racism Workshop works to teach our youth leaders to look beyond the symptoms of racism and gain an understanding of the root causes of racism, understand what racism is, where racism comes from, how racism functions, why racism persists and how it can be undone as a community organizer. Below are reflections from our AFSC interns, who participated in the training on Sat. March 16, 2013 from 9am-5pm.
Breial M. Kennedy          
The Undoing Racism Training was different from what I expected. I honestly didn’t expect to sit in a circle and talk about racism for eight hours. I thought that there would be physical exercises to help us express racism and its role on our everyday lives. However, I found some excitement in listening to the perspectives of others. There were a couple white women in the room whose responses I just didn’t agree with. The first woman claimed to be “color blind.” But when discussing her profession, she made certain to include that she’s been teaching “black” kids for over 40 years. Kids, not students. Another white woman sat at the table with us during lunch and interrupted our conversation to ask if we had ever read a book called “Why Are All the Black Sitting Together at the Table?” More than enough said.
                 (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Breial)
The whole point of the workshop was to undo racism but in my eyes I saw that we only stirred the pot more than it should have been. The tension was too thick in the room and I don’t think that it should’ve escalated to that point. Everything seemed calm; however I felt that some of the people attending the meeting were whispering negative thoughts to each other. There was so much tension in the room that it could be cut with a knife.  I did enjoy the insight of others though. I learned quite a bit while at the workshop that I can carry with me now.

                   (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Austin)

Isaiah Jones
This was not my first workshop. With AFSC this time around was number two but in the grand scheme of things I think I’m somewhere close to six or seven exposures. What makes this so interesting is that every single time I have gone I have learned something new because every time I have been a different person in a new space, energy and understanding of the world. It is exceedingly rare to find spaces that make you critically analyze the world around you and address an issue such as racism in a way that really just makes sense. It isn’t pushed down your throat as THE answer. However after having tried on the lens I feel as though it is powerful and applicable and I use that definition of what racism actually is as a reference point. These experiences with PISAB and how they have moved me have motivated and inspired me to be involved with things that are worthwhile such as this internship and for that I am grateful.
               On another note, the time we spent in the space made me feel and think so much that I almost exploded. At one point my body literally burst with heat as if I was a bonfire in reaction to the overwhelming stimulation of people’s stories and ways of interacting. This did indeed make me happy that us as a team are tight like that and thus I felt safe even though I almost broke open like a blood orange in the hands of a hungry child. But yes powerful things are a foot and I look forward to the ever developing conversation that is happening created by workshops like this one.

             (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Isaiah)     
 Words on the picture: multiple states of ever evolving consciousness; colliding realities, emotional and intellectual atoms smashing together.

Asia-Vinae Palmer Poem excerpt inspired by the PISAB training
Don’t need no charity/Don’t need no pity/Don’t feel sorry for me/Coming round tryna fix us/I got black things to be proud of /Culture seeping from my pores/I ain’t steal nothing from your history/But you been lying to me about mines/Cagin me up tellin me I’m an animal/Give me chains/Give me struggle/Give me uncomfortable walks to the grocery store/Give me separate water fountains/Give me power hosed showers I didn’t ask for/Give me death/Give me February/Sittin in your fancy desk trying to figure out how to fix the negros/We give you a problem/You give us a Band-Aid with no antibiotics/Streets been bleeding for years/Drugging us with pain medicine /Turn us into addicts /Now we lazy/And stubborn/And stupid/And tired.
             (An artistic representation of the Undoing Racism Training created by Asia-Vinae)   

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