One of the world’s most powerful and unique events will be coming to Berkeley this week. Between Wednesday and Saturday, young poets will come to showcase their art throughout the city in the Brave New Voices Slam as part of the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.
The quarterfinals of the Brave New Voices Slam will be held at locations including BAMPFA, Berkeley City College, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, the David Brower Center, Aurora Theater Company and The Marsh Arts Center. This competition will be the first time BAMPFA will host an all-day poetry event, according to Sean Carson, program manager at the museum. Round one of the quarterfinals will be held July 21 at 11:30 a.m. and round two at 3 p.m.
The Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival is hosted by Youth Speaks, a San Francisco-based organization that provides free art education through spoken word performance, educational programs and youth development programming. This will be the 20th year of the festival.
More than 600 youths will be representing more than 50 cities and organizations from around the world at this year’s event, according to Sara Lueders, an account executive at RALLY who helps guide media relations strategy for Youth Speaks.
The theme for this year’s slam centers around water and is based on a quote from a poem written by Hieu Minh Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American poet and alumnus of the Brave New Voices program: “Alive now, to see the river rupture.”
The theme, however, is up to interpretation, and poets can bring in what topics they choose during the slam, according to Jeán Teodoro, outreach coordinator for Youth Speaks.
“There are really no themes, which is what makes it beautiful,” Teodoro said. “You really don’t know what folks will come out with. You’re really just there to listen to the next generation.”
Slam teams are composed of four to six members, and slam bouts feature five or six competing teams. Each team brings its own poems inspired by team members’ individual experiences and their experiences within their communities.
Other rounds and events will take place across the Bay Area, including at the Oakland Museum of California and The New Parkway Theater. Four teams will move on to compete at the Grand Slam Finals, which will take place July 22 at 7 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.
Alongside the competition rounds, Youth Speaks will be holding workshops and events throughout the Bay Area, including town halls, workshops and open mics.
Teodoro emphasized that other measures were taken into account from feedback from previous years’ participants, such as ensuring all spaces are ADA accessible, bringing in mental health professionals and holding healing events during the festival.
“It’s a good time for all the youth to be able to share their poetry and stories from all over the world and to also build community and address some of the most relevant issues affecting youth, … relating local communities to what all the youth are experiencing,” Teodero said.
Camryn Bell is the night editor. Contact her at [email protected].
A previous version of this article may have implied Sara Lueders is a spokesperson for Youth Speaks. In fact, Sara Lueders is an account executive for RALLY, where she helps guide media relations strategy for Youth Speaks.