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Youth Speaks Poets Present Their Words and Instagrams for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

By Harriet Staff

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From the team at Mashable, we bring you this excellent story about Bay Area nonprofit, Youth Speaks, and a performance by its poets on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Nearly 1,500 people gathered in San Francisco’s Nourse Theater on Monday night for the 17th annual “Bringing the Noise for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” a celebration of the civil rights leader that takes place on the eponymous holiday.

This year, the “poetic conversation with MLK,” which is organized by the nonprofit Youth Speaks, included an Instagram campaign designed to broaden that conversation’s reach.

Off/Page Project, the organization’s partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, launched the campaign as a way to start a dialogue among both those at the event and those unable to attend. The idea is to use “social media as a way to make calls out to young people across the country about issues that are most affecting them, and their lives, their community,” José Vadi, Off/Page’s project director, told Mashable.

Upon arrival at the theater, audience members received a blank card with a prompt: “What hurts you or your community more than fists?” that encouraged attendees to respond on Instagram with an image and the hashtag #MLKSpokes. (Spokes is on Youth Speaks’ youth advisory board.) Below, you can find a few of the responses, but many more are cropping up on Instagram following Monday’s performances.

A discussion around violence as experienced by young people in their communities makes sense not only in the context of the holiday, but also in the social media language that they use every day, according to Vadi.

“In a day and age when kids aren’t necessarily getting hosed down or bitten by police dogs like in the Civil Rights Movement, there’s still daily struggles that a lot of our young people encounter that are violent, and that are invisible, and that are not necessarily discussed in the mainstream media, let alone actually visualized,” he said.

In short, it’s a medium that has potential beyond status updates, selfies or viral videos.

“We want [young people] to get involved and to participate and, in the end, to raise their own voice,” Vadi said. “If there’s any way to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s to be able to speak freely on these issues.”

As audience members and performers alike contributed to the discussion on Instagram (between performances, of course), the evening’s D.J., Dion Decibels, played excerpts from three of King’s speeches. After each, poets performed pieces inspired by those words — the products of months of writing workshops with Youth Speaks leaders. “Stakes is high,” Decibels’ t-shirt proclaimed as he spun. […]

Right on! Read on at Mashable.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Harriet Staff.