ArtWell Slam Cultivates Garden of Hope, Guts, and Growth

“She calls it her garden of hope.

Every day she watches over it to see if something will grow.”

-Kadidja, ArtWell Slam Team member

ArtWell has been honored to help plant our own seeds of hope by supporting young poets through an ArtWell Slam Team which competed this year through the PYPM’s Philadelphia city-wide Slam League.

Co-coaches Sara Graybeal and Noel Quiñones masterfully led our students through an exciting season culminating in a semi-finals competition.

ArtWell’s team of middle school students competed against high school students, blossoming in the process. Noel saw this firsthand, “The team grew not only as individuals but as writers, conquering fears of writing as well as stage fright. They learned to work together on group pieces and they showed that they could hold their own with high schoolers. The growth they exhibited is plain to see and I am so happy I got to be a part of that. “

Angelo, ArtWell Slam Team member, echoed this sentiment showing both guts and depth of emotion, “I grew over time going on stage in front of high schoolers. It helped me get over my fear of stage fright. When I did my poem, I was able to get over that. And I also danced on stage.  That experience taught me not to be scared to overcome your fear. “

The Slam competitions bring students from around the city together in a supportive environment. The energy in the room is one of excitement, emotion, and active encouragement. Students are able to take the risk of performance in a place that erupts with appreciation of cheers, positive calls, and applause in salute to their bravery. And these students are just that – brave. Their words speak to personal topics that have a global resonance.

Angelo’s poem, Dear Dad, is a powerful reminder that our youth deal with adult issues every day of their lives, and desperately need a platform to express and connect. His words burrow into your heart finding first sorrow but then overflowing with pride for this young man (Dear Dad can be found at the end of this post).

The slam league is a good reminder of how important it is to provide a platform for youth to express themselves, “They reminded me that I always have something new to learn and that even a 13 year old can teach me what it means to love an art form.” – Noel Quinones.

Need more inspiration? Check out some of PYPM’s performance archived videos (event titles are listed below each embedded video).

Highlights include:

PYPM Slam League East 3/20:

24.36 ArtWell team member Kadidja

35:00 Dance Break

PYPM Slam League East 3/31:

17:00 ArtWell team group piece:

35.58: ArtWell team member Kadidja

1:05:00: ArtWell team member Hakeem

Hungry for even more amazing spoken-word? Live performance this Sunday, May 31st at the ArtWell Festival. Join us as we celebrate our talented students, make joyful art and noise, and imagine a future where our youth find the support they need to grow in their own gardens of hope and blossom into the leaders of our future.

Dear Dad by ArtWell Slam Team member Angelo:

Why did you do that

Why did you steal

Why did you steal when you could buy it

When I was a kid you asked me

what did I want for my birthday

I said my family

But now, I can only see you on my own time.

I used to think that ankle bracelet was for sports

Green was you’re in shape, red was you’re too fat

But come to find out you’re on house arrest.

You are on house arrest for three years.

Now how am I supposed to see you?

How will you see me walk across the stage when i graduate middle school?

How will I take a picture with only my mom?

How does my uncle feel like my dad?

He’s the one who takes me to basketball games and gives me money for food

He lets me ride in the front seat, unlike you

Who puts your flesh and blood in the back and your homies in the front

I’m sorry, Dad

But you had your chance

You lost it.

Now it’s my time to grow up, be a man

And take care of my family.

I won’t mess up like you did.