Brave New Voices in the Bay: A Selective Preview

I don’t have much time right now to write — I’m busy getting ready to welcome over 500 of the world’s best young writers to the Bay to do their thing. Yes, my friends, it’s time for Brave New Voices.

This is the culmination of the Youth Speaks program year, and this year, it’s the culmination of my time on staff at Youth Speaks. (Big news coming, more on that later.) BNV is four jam-packed days of world-class poetry slams, artistic workshops, political panels, and endless street ciphers. Oh, the ciphers.

Check the website for the full schedule. Most the events are free and open to the public. But to help you pick your poetic poison (and by poison, I mean sheer joy and amazement), here’s some highlighted events I’d especially recommend. One for each day, just for you.


BNV 2011 Opening Ceremonies
Wednesday, July 20 – 6:00pm
Sproul Plaza / UC-Berkeley
Free and Open to the Public

Brave New Voices 2011 kicks off with a massive outdoor rally promoting the power of youth voices for social change.  Taking place on historic Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, the ceremonies feature Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. We also hear performances from new and veteran teams, as the many voices from around the world set the tone for the festival. Hosted by Michelle Mush Lee and Josh Healey.


Brave New Teachers
Thursday, July 21 – 1:00pm
Youth Radio / 1701 Broadway St, Oakland
Register Here

All across the country, students are engaging with high levels of literacy through spoken word, hip-hop, and poetry. This Brave New Teachers mini-conference offers professional development workshops highlighting the work of acclaimed educators and teaching artists including Michael Cirelli, Jeff Kass, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph. This event is for registered participants only. Seating is limited.


The Encyclopedia Show & MC Olympics
Friday, July 22 – 7:00pm & 9:00pm
Chevron Auditorium at the International House // UC-Berkeley
Free and Open to the Public

The Encyclopedia Show, the hit variety extravaganza show, comes to Brave New Voices in a special edition featuring BNV poets, coaches, and Bay Area artistic favorites. Hosted by Robbie Q and Jamila Woods, this showcase highlights original creative works all on one topic: The Future. Like, not now, but over there, later on.

Immediately following in the same venue, BNV’s top young lyricists flex their lyrical skills to be crowned the MC Olympics Champion. This hip-hop battle royale is hosted by Rafael Casal, features beatboxers Joshua Silverstein and Joshua Walters, and includes special guest judges.


Saturday, July 23 – 7:00pm
San Francisco Opera House / 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco
Buy Tickets Here

The top 4 BNV teams from throughout the slam take center stage to see who will be crowned the 2011 Brave New Voices Grand Slam Champions. After a week of slams and ciphers, the Finals takes place at the historic, 3,200-seat San Francisco Opera House. Four additional teams from throughout the festival that had deserving poems will also hit the stage to showcase the best of BNV.