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Youth Speaks' 7th Annual Bringing the Noise

Poetry, especially in the slam and spoken word arenas, is changing the way we think about youth and, more importantly, the way youth think about life. The growing popularity of shows like HBO's Def Poetry and the emergence of a hip new faction of performers in the circuit have transformed the scene from an insular cache of one-note artists to a veritable hotbed of creative activity. Aside from a vital connection to hip-hop, urban art and political activism, performance poetry is amplified by the way it enables personal exploration and self-definition among young poets.

Youth Speaks, the first organization in the country to ever stage a teen poetry slam (a high-energy competitive event at which poets perform their work and are judged by audience members), stages its seventh annual Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The event is part of the Bringing the Noise Reading Series, which is hosted by members of Spokes Youth Board, the organization's all-youth internship program.

Youth Speaks has been at the forefront of the poetry trend way before Nuyorican Poet's Café became a pop cultural landmark. Youth Speaks has been the premier organization for young people's poetic voices and spoken word events since 1996. Carried by the momentum created by a provocative array of new voices on the slam and open mic circuit, the organization has achieved tremendous success with its innovative, free after-school workshops, which engage youth and encourage critical thinking, as well as its range of spoken word events, including the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam, Second Sundays, and the Bringing the Noise Reading Series.

The pivotal Bringing the Noise Reading Series had its beginning seven years ago, when Youth Speaks decided to create a new way to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. A monthly occurrence that attracts poets, MCs, writers, singers, and artists of all types, Bringing the Noise strives for diversity and positive social dialogue across boundaries of age, race, class, gender, culture, and sexual orientation. According to founder and Executive Director of Youth Speaks, James Kass, "This generation of multicultural creative youth is the realization of Dr. King's dream, and by giving the young poets an uncensored place to speak, we're helping them shape their voices and impact on society." Kass also attests that the incredible rise in popularity of poetry among youth from all walks of life is a central force bringing kids together, which is also a major purpose of the event.

Comprising over 25 young poets from San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will present past and present Youth Speaks Teen Slam Champions and workshop participants in a collective sharing of personal stories and viewpoints on global issues. Because it's a non-competitive poetry event that includes both individual and group pieces, Kass says that all participants are encouraged to push the boundaries of their creativity and collaborate with various artists, ranging from dancers to musicians. Just as Dr. King revitalized the art of public speaking, the young poets are reviving the rhetorical traditions of questioning, affirming, and inspiring receptive spectators. The majority of the work performed will be brand new, according to Kass.

Performers range from ages 14 to 21. Other guests include MC Jason Mateo, DJ Funklor, and members of Young Artists at Work, a year-round, part-time paid employment program for San Francisco teens from diverse backgrounds.

This year's young performers possess a remarkable gift for analyzing the world in a variety of artistic and cultural contexts, and express themselves with a grace and tenacity beyond their years. If a major principle of Dr. King's civil rights work is taking responsibility for one's words and backing them up with action, Youth Speaks is certainly an embodiment of his legacy.

Monday, January 19, 7:30 pm
The 7th Annual Bringing the Noise for Martin Luther King, Jr.
location: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission St @ 3rd
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138
415.978.ARTS (2787)
admission: $10 regular, $4 seniors and students

more info: www.youthspeaks.org

Screening January 15, 8 pm
$8/$6 members, students, seniors

At New Langton Arts Gallery
1246 Folsom Street
(between Eighth & Ninth)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 626-5416