Speaking Out and Acting Up

Artists from Youth Speaks, a spoken word organization, showcase monologues and poetry at IHS

By Arya Sureshbabu | Staff Writer

Delegates from the Youth Speaks foundation, a San Franscisco based group of poets and performers, took center stage in Valhalla on February 7 to present their unique visions of the world through the art of spoken word poetry to the Irvington student body. The program, which lasted nearly all of fourth period, involved a brief introductory statement about the organization’s mission followed by four monologues delivered by the artists and concluded with an “open mic,” the term used by veteran poets to describe an opportunity for members of the audience to come on stage and perform their own pieces.

Youth Speaks defines itself on its official webpage as a nonprofit organization whose primary goal is “to empower the next generation of leaders, self-defined artists, and visionary activists through written and oral literacies,” and its stop at Irvington is one of the many performances it gives in the Bay Area every year. In keeping with the idea of allowing students to find their own voice, the monologues featured a variety of topics, ranging from the prevalence of racial profiling in the United States to the complexity of sibling relationships.

Of the four monologues presented, students appeared particularly touched by the poem presented by Brandon Santiago, a lead artist from Youth Speaks whose speech focused on his relationship with his sister, who suffered from epilepsy. Although the intent of the monologue was not immediately clear, most students found the final theme poignant and relevant.

“It started out talking about how he was trying to explain global warming to her,” stated junior Madhuri Narayan, who saw the performance, “and it turned into something completely unexpected.” She was pleasantly surprised to find that the poem ended up being an incredibly inspirational one.

For many Irvington students, this was their first in-depth exposure to spoken word poetry, as most of the clubs and groups on campus keep creative writing separate from the performing arts. However, thanks to this event, many students are taking note of the potential benefits of this crossover between different art forms, stating that spoken word poetry is unique in its impact.

When asked about her thoughts on the art, junior Camille Chen noted, “It allows the artists to express themselves with a lot of freedom and emotion.”