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HYP was created in order to give Hamilton youth a chance to have their voices heard, as well as to expose them to the world of linguistic art. Spoken word is a chance for youth to speak their minds!! Twice a year the slam is open to all ages and everyone who competes in the slam will earn points to compete in finals and to making it on to the team!

Liz Chernichenko introduces the group of five poets that represented HYP at the 2015 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Winnipeg.

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By Elisabeth Cherninchenko

In our waking lives, there are an infinite selection of topics and feelings to think about, and an infinite number of ways to express them. Poetry is a powerful medium of expression, in that it can come to a place where it’s least expected, only to realize it was already there waiting. Last week, a group of Hamilton youth took to the national stage to showcase their efforts towards tapping and unleashing that power.

The Hamilton Youth Poets (HYP) is an arts organization comprised of young adults. Born three years ago from a local Youth Poetry Slam, they have been unstoppable. Together, the group has utilized poetry as a way to raise the volume, the beauty, and the clarity of the youth community around them. Competing against 23 teams from across Canada, the entourage of performance pros took third place in Saskatoon at the 2015 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

The team is composed of strong personalities that work to both contrast and compliment each other’s strengths and abilities. At 24 years old, Kevan Davidson is the eldest member and a current Ryerson university student. Adiba Ahmed is 22, while McMaster and BHSC graduates Eddie Lartey and Chika Oriuwa are both 21.

Rounding out the team is 17 year-old Victoria Daniels. Each member has something unique to offer in their styles, but share motivations common to the spoken word community–the chance to reach out to others through their publically spoken truths.

“A lot of my poems are very personal,” said Kevan Davidson. “Some of them deal with abuse and stuff like that, and I find that once you write the poem and you put it on paper and you’re like ‘I’m going to perform this’, the poem no longer belongs to you. It becomes the medicine of the individuals that will listen to it. So you have to learn to understand that it’s not about you anymore. It’s bigger than you– it’s about helping people. And that’s the best and biggest lesson that I’ve learned this far.”

Nea Reid, the Artistic Director of HYP, has 20 years of experience in arts facilitation and performance programming. “We have been very blessed and fortunate to have a number of youth who have been inspired and moved from the work of our organization,” said Reid. “We have been able to inspire youth through the literary arts while establishing relationships with youth of all backgrounds and spectrums with the Hamilton community. We have seen first hand how our program and spoken word poetry has saved the lives of young aspiring poets.”

The following is a snippet of a poem written by Hamilton Youth Poetry team member Victoria Daniels (age 17). The poem, “Prom,” is about her struggles as a youth and how her involvement with HYP has been a catalyst for positive change in her life.

Prom by Victoria Daniels

A few weeks ago I performed for the first time outside of a slam
In the library in front of the mayor, and a handful of other people smiling when I spoke
It may not mean a lot to you
But to me it is everything
There was a picture of me in the paper with an interview.
My mother laminated this momentous papyrus
Like she was trying to trap my recognition in plastic
Because it had been one of the first times in a very long time
That she could be proud of me.
That may not mean a lot to you
But to my mother it is everything.
To be full of sunlight for a daughter that she could have lost*This poem, this poem is not a poem
it is survival
it is waking up a tribute
it is legacy
This stage to you may not mean a lot
But to me it is destiny
So, no. I will not be with you at Prom I will not have the picturesque end-of-high school experience.
I can make my own punch and celebrate my freedom from the machine
I will be my own power-couple
The blisters on my heels will be from me walking down the street with my head held high
With my own god-damn crown
That I will melt-down and mold from the medals of my achievements
So, no.
I will not be attending prom
Instead you can find me spilling my survival on a stage

According to the group’s mandate: “By safe, we do not mean unchallenging, uncritical or unaccountable. In fact, we do not believe spaces are ‘safe’ unless they require bravery on behalf of all participants – those who share their stories and those who listen. Our performances encourage youth to tell honest and authentic stories, while acknowledging that the most important story they can share is found in the ways they observe, understand and experience the world around them.”

HYP is looking for members of the community to volunteer and support HYP and Louder Than A Bomb Canada. It is said that it takes a whole community to raise a child, but these Hamilton youths have shown that sometimes it takes a child to raise a whole community.

For more information about HYP see:
http://www.hamiltonyouthpoets.org


 

Elisabeth Cherninchenko is a Media Arts and Journalism student at Mohawk College

 

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