Slam poetry at the e-Tanka Cafe

June 21, 2010

Slam poetry at the e-Tanka Cafe


Youth Speaks Inc., a nonprofit literary arts organization focusing on spoken word performance, education, and youth development programs, was at Tanka headquarters in Kyle, S.D., Monday, Oct. 12, to hold a training session at the Thunder Valley e-Tanka Cafe for the organization's youth mentors.

James Kass, founder and executive director of Youth Speaks Inc., and young poets Ben Turner and Jacquelyn Whang, all from the Bay Area in California, also got the chance to take in the sights on Pine Ridge Reservation and sample some all-buffalo Tanka Dogs.

Youth Speaks presents local and national youth poetry slams, festivals, reading series and a comprehensive slate of literary arts education programs. The organization's work with poetry slams is what brought the group to Kyle.

Lorie Pourier of the First Peoples Fund, which supports the advancement of American Indian arts, saw Youth Speaks' documentary series Brave New Voices on HBO. Ms. Pourier sought out Mr. Kass because she said she wanted something more for her kids and her grandkids in addition to the cultural teachings and events that brings communities together.

With the help of Youth Speaks, Brave New Voices, the First Peoples Fund, First Nations Oweesta Corp.'s SAGE Collaborative and Thunder Valley Community Development Corp., the goal this year is to assemble a crew of youth poets to attend the Brave New Voices conference in Los Angeles in July.

After the training, the new mentors and local Native poets came together and spoke some of their poems, some already written and some new that day. In addition to Shahela's work in the video above, we will be presenting a variety of the young poets who performed at the e-Tanka Poetry Slam on during the next few days.


(With help from her poetry slam mentors)

Words of wisdom right below orbiting thunder
The sun wakes over Thunder Valley
Trees sway precisely in circles that buffalo travel
The sea quiets the storm
The sun orbits fast around zealots crowing to the moon
A hole in the sky circles precisely
Where the quiet sea calms the storm of people crowing to the moon
I wake up to the morning star shining upon my face
And when it shines, I remember I'm worth being shined upon
Worth more then the feeling of wet drops after rainfall
More than the first flake after snowfall
More than what I should be worth
Fresh lake water cleanses my face
And all the man-made tap gets jealous
In my hood, we use rap to dress us
Hidden in the concrete of a jungle retreat
Where Jane hates Tarzan
And the snakes run the heartland
And where the sun and land empowers you

For more information:

Youth Speaks

Brave New Voices

First Peoples Fund

SAGE Collaborative

Thunder Valley

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