For many years, Boston has enjoyed one of the richest poetry slam and spoken word poetry scenes in the country. Great right? Only problem is that all the shows are 21 and 18 plus only. Our organization Mass LEAP (started as a collective, but now a non-profit) has been grinding for the past 6 years to develop more opportunities for young people to pursue spoken word poetry, not only for the art, but for the community and social change that this art promotes. We've done this by establishing an annual festival called Louder than a Bomb Massachusetts (last year we brought over 300 teens together for a month long festival where young people from over 40 school communities write together, attend performances and listen to one another's stories through the poetry slam competitions. Now there's a ton more interest, yet not enough consistent safe spaces for young people to gather throughout the year. Last year we piloted a new program called "Youth Spoken Word Leaders" where we selected 5 teens to receive paid mentoring, while they learned about organizing, managed their own monthly writing workshop and open mic series. It was a great success, with hundreds of youth attending these events out of our offices at Makeshift Boston (Columbus Ave, South End) throughout the year. We very much wish to continue the program past year one, but need a little more community support. As we build our organizational capacity to keep the festival going, provide free professional development opportunities and keep the lights on, we seek sponsors and partners in order to ensure that we can continue to train and PAY young people to take on the work of service their peers. Our vision is for this program to exist in every urban center of Massachusetts, but we need to stabilize the program in Boston first. We had one year of national support to incubate this project, but currently do not have the funding to continue. You all should see how incredible these youth open mics are!
Funded by Boston, MA (December 2017)