Photograph by Nina Morasky
Every other Friday, in a shoe store called Soul Space, there are passionate and high energy filled events: open mics and poetry slams. People get together to speak their minds about the world around them. It’s a place where their voices are not only heard, but also appreciated. “I like the passion and sense of community … there are lots of feelings and reinstatements of emotions,” said Jada Imani, a poet and emcee at poetry slams around Oakland. “You get to learn about others’ struggles and you get to connect with them,” she said. Avi Sherman, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) said that “the people, supportive environment, music, and comfortability,” are a few of the reasons she enjoys poetry and poetry slams.
Another unique aspect about these poetry slams and open mics is that all of the poets are under the age of 21. Youth Speaks, a San Francisco based organization that believes that young people’s voices matter, runs the poetry slams and open mics held at Soul Space. Youth Speaks’ mission is to hold a safe and secure space that allows youth to have their voices heard.
Sherman said that poetry is important to her because “[she feels] that they are a very community-based environment and a safe space for people to share their ideas and thoughts, and be open about their own identities.” Similarly to how poetry has created a sense of individuality for Sherman, Imani said, “[poetry] is important because it can ponder the nature of life and allows me to see my life and engage in it more … it breaks silence and isolation.” Poetry slams nurture conversation and allow people to be exposed to different thoughts and opinions. With today’s politics and culture, poetry can offer a creative outlet to many who seek a break. “[Youth Speaks] is allowing for a broader range of artists to express themselves and share their experiences,” said Sherman. “I also think that poetry is an important platform for young people, because young people are such an important part of our society, and poetry can help them find their voice.”