Monday, November 2, 2009

Tony's Blog: Open Mic/Open Heart

Sunday, November 1, 2009: Street Poets Open Mic, one week after our return from the mountains and YMC’s Mentee Initiation Retreat. We come together again in community.

Tonight we heard young people read to a homecoming public the poems they wrote on the mountain. We heard the honed skills of experienced poets as well as tentative voices of beginners. Regardless of skill level every poet touched our hearts with the truth of their lives as they courageously shared their wounds and their gifts. The evening was a roller coaster ride of emotive expression. Youth spoke of fathers who inspired, rhymed about fathers who were never there, and anguished about ones they wished weren’t there. They read about mother issues and mothers’ affection. They spoke about the stealing of innocence, rape of bodies and rape of cultures. We heard songs and poems of love and the love affair with a razor blade to bleed out the pain inside. We heard about turning to the streets, to guns, to violence, to drugs and alcohol, but always turning back again to mentors and parents - hard lives and fierce love. We heard stories of desperation and they all ended in hope brought on by determination. They wrote about their past and crafted new futures. One after the next they proclaimed “I will not give up!” They found something on the mountain and were determined to keep it alive inside.

They faced death and chose life.

These young people could safely speak these truths tonight because Street Poets adeptly create the space for it and together we all hold the space. Street Poets staff and volunteers, Youth Mentoring Connection staff and mentors, parents and brothers and sisters said “Sawubona” (we see you). “We see the eloquence behind the curse words, the beauty behind the pain, and the gifts behind the wounds.” “You are important and we will cheer for your voice.” Thus, those who were tentative at first found the courage to approach the microphone and give voice to their own truth. We reaffirmed this community worth fighting for.

The partnership between our two organizations is a testament to what can happen when entire organizations live in integrity, never forgetting their real purpose while struggling to survive. In this society where those seeking to help our most vulnerable are forced to compete against each other for limited resources I refuse to worship at the altar of “market forces”. We do not compete to save lives. We collaborate to do so. Thank you to our co-conspirators in this revolution of love: Street Poets, Inc.

PS to Kike: Viva la revolución!”

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