Setting the Record Straight on Competing for Up From the Roots

Next month Up From the Roots (UFTR), one of the two teams which represent Toronto at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW), will be holding its team qualifying SLAM. Being a proud member of this team last year I am curious to see what the outcome will be. I am especially curious as I have been following the rankings this year and notice that besides Dwayne Morgan (can someone please knock this guy off the team already lol), the top ranking poets are all youth of color, with at least one female poised to be on the team again. I look forward to following the outcome and then the performance of the UFTR team at the CFSW which takes place in Winnipeg this October.

Besides their performance, I am more curious to see what kind of reception this team will get at CFSW after last year’s team experienced what was in my opinion a rather hostile send off. After spending a week in Saskatoon last year, for the most part silently observing the way in which this team was targeted, our poems nitpicked for signs of misogyny (and attacked with made up lines when folks conveniently wanted to strengthen their case against my team mates) and the most traumatic finals stage I have ever experienced, my only hope is that the lessons learned from last year’s festival were heavily taken into consideration as the CFSW aims to create a safer space for EVERYONE at this year’s festival.


Generation Z

On January 15th 2016 I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop for Just B Graphic’s Life Series Conference which focused on the works of Sister Souljah, particularly around her book the Coldest Winter Ever.

My workshop for this class was centered around the idea of narrative that the new generation, or Generation Z as it was labeled, was a “lost” generation. I certainly don’t believe that, but wanted to spark some fire within my students so I wrote a poem that was mostly based on all the assumptions, complaints, body policing, respectability politicking that I have experienced through working with adults that work with young people, the media, general conversations, etc.


NEW Program! Words by the Water

Guerrilla of the Word in partnership with Street Level (LAMP CHC) presents…

Words by the Water 
Every Tuesday (starts September 9th)
Street Level – LAMP CHC
185 Fifth Street, Etobicoke
Words by the Water is a new program comprised of weekly sessions where young people (12-24) come and learn to express themselves through oratory art forms such as spoken word, rap, singing, etc in a positive peer-supported environment. The program focuses on teaching writing and performing techniques while creating a space for youth to perform newly created works. Words by the Water also incorporates guest presenters and speakers from the oratory arts world (such as spoken word artists, rappers, poets, mcs, beatboxers, etc) who come on specially organized nights to help inspire the up and coming talent pool of regular project participants.

As a key part of the program the first Tuesday of the month is dedicated to open mic nights. This is an opportunity for participants in the program to showcase what they have been working on in and outside of the program. Open Mic nights are open to a wider community allowing for the creation of an intergenerational storytelling space.

For more information contact me please contact Paulina O’Kieffe at paulina.spwartist@gmail.com or 647 227 6614

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