Photos by Teri Williams and Janelle Cipriano
Brave New Voices brings youth poetry slams to the big screen in an HBO documentary mini-series presented by Russell Simmons and narrated by Queen Latifah (check out the first episode here). Think of the network's Def Poetry, but on a whole new level. Starting last March, camera crews began documenting young poets and their mentors from seven cities across the US as they came together through local poetry slams and workshops, building teams to participate in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. All of these individuals are part of Youth Speaks, the leading nonprofit for spoken word education, performance and development programs. This unique organization aims to transcend race, class and gender by embracing language in a whole new way, ultimately proving that poetry extends beyond dead white men.
We recently attended the documentary screening at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, followed by a fundraising party with celebrity guests Robert Redford and Dave Eggers. We knew to expect depth and intensity, but what kept us hooked was the fact that these poets were doing such heavy-lifting at such a young age. To hear this kind of maturity and complexity coming from 15, 16 and 18-year olds was truly awe-inspiring. We were privy to a post-screening live performance by Bay Area youth slam star Mike Taylor and an exclusive Q&A session with both the filmmakers and producers. Later, at the Kabuki Kitchen, Robert Redford spoke in support of Youth Speak's goal of capturing the voice of a new generation and putting young adults at the forefront of our collective future.
Tune into HBO on April 5 at 11 p.m. for the premiere of the Brave New Voices 7-episode mini-series, and then see the SF Bay Area team in live poetry action at the Youth Speaks Grand Slam Finals on April 11.
Robert Redford says a few words at the Brave New Voices fundraiser post-screening
Writer and Publisher Dave Eggers and Youth Speaks' Executive Director and Brave New Voices Co-Executive Producer James Kass
Jamie Redford, Kyle Redford, Robert Redford