UPDATES : ChewSLAM in Chicago Brave New Voices 2013

Friday, August 9th Update – 1:30 p.m. (Chicago time)

Following yesterdays workshops and discussion on global social issues the ChewSLAM group was eager to delve into the competition, which began with ChewSLAM up against worthy Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor, Atlanta and New York. Yesha Townsend (Education Coordinator) said the kids “spilled themselves onstage” and placed fifth in their first bout, now on their way to Bout 2, against Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and Baton Rouge they are eager to represent for themselves and Bermuda, taking in as much as they gave. Keep up to date on pariticpant posts on the Youth Speaks Facebook page and check out updates from the Bermuda team by checking out ChewSLAM on Facebook.

Thursday, August 8th Update – 10:30 a.m. (Chicago time)

The team is all set and settling in, after a delay of nearly an hour yesterday, due to issues with radar systems, they’ve registered and are learning and connecting with young people from the U.S. and around the globe. Today started with an opening plenary where the direction of the day was set and presentations were made by BNV Executive Directors James Kass and Hodari Davis, as well as an introduction to the day, by Off Page Project Director Jose Vadi. There was also a special presentation from BNV Alumni FM Supreme and the International Youth Peace Movement. The youth are now splitting off into 10 groups for town hall discussions being conducted as part of the the Off/Page Project, a BNV Network affiliate program designed to capture the activity of the BNV community. The discussions will examine topics related to issues of violence and how they manifest themselves in our daily lives and will be filmed by the Center for Investigative Reporting. No doubt the Bermuda Youth will have a unique perspective on this, more to come as it’s just starting and the youth and coaches are just setting in.

Wednesday, August 7th Update – 10:00 pm (Bermuda time)

After months of reaching out for community support and taking part in intensive fundraising and subsidies from family and friends the ChewSLAM Teen Poetry & Spoken Word group has arrived in Chicago eager to officially represent Bermuda for the second time at The 16th Annual Brave New Voices Poetry & Spoken Word Festival (BNV), a prestigious event, that has seen legends such as Mos Def, Saul Williams, Chinaka Hodge and more! Check out the schedule of events here.

Education Coordinator Yesha Townsend and The Chewstick Foundation’s Gavin Smith, will steward Tenae Hassell 16, Makeem Bartley 19, Marquedelle Rodriguez 17, Dascha Choudhury 15, Hannah Smith 15, Kevina-Lorae Davis 19, Grace Edwards 19 and Kalaeb Tannock 16 as they take part in the BNV Festival, where they will have the opportunity to connect with a global community of young poets, strengthen their voices, foster connections and to express and understand each other. The Brave New Voices Festival is an annual opportunity with a tremendous focus on the voice of the youth. This is a chance to represent Bermuda on a world scale so that efforts a will be ongoing to make participation available to the group into future. The community can support the efforts all year-round by contributing to the donation page on www.ptix.bmsupporting the indiegogo campaign, inviting the group to perform at local events and staying tuned for more events featuring this group of talented young people.

For further information on this and additional Chewstick Foundation programs, call their office at 292-2439, email info@chewstick.org or visit www.chewstick.org. Check out the article on the Bermuda Sun for information on their departure and stay tuned here for updates over the next week and beyond.


The ChewSLAM Teen Poetry & Spokenword Club needs your help to represent Bermuda at the 16th Annual Brave New Voices Poetry & Spokenword Festival, taking place this year in Chicago. This is a unique opportunity to give some of our young people a chance to engage with people from all over the world that are equally passionate about the power of poetry and spokenword and the value it has in helping them to recognize their collective voice. Each participant is eager to take on the challenge of being the voice of Bermuda’s young people and are diligently seeking support via pledge sheets, as well as participating in performances at community events. All these are ways that the community can step up to support these young people as they not only help those that are on the trip but also demonstrate to their peers that the arts have many avenues towards creating a better path for themselves, their societies and the world.

The ChewSLAM program is designed to help develop public speaking, community consciousness, collaboration and literacy, and most of all encourages young people to speak up about the things that matter to them most and to know that they are not alone. The opportunity to share on the issues that matter to them with youth from around the globe is a tremendous step in for the ChewSLAM group to claim their place as the leaders of their generation.

For the past few months the ChewSLAM team has been meeting weekly to prepare for the conference and competition and is really excited to be going off to represent Bermuda. Among the group is a Marquedelle Rodriguez, Dascha Choudhury, Hannah Smith and Kalaeb Tannock, who all represented ChewSLAM in the Coalition for the Protection of Children’s “Bermuda’s Youth Got Talent” Competition, Makeem ‘Haz’ Bartley who is an amazingly talented rapper focused on clean and uplifting lyrics, Tenae Hassell, Grace Edwards; the group’s talents range from singing, cycling, African Dance, and graphic design and they’ve all come together in this program to enhance their passion for storytelling and move forward on a journey to be positive examples for their peers.

Most participants in ChewSLAM are not only poets but share their lessons learned in other mediums as well. Through the program, participants are not only exposed to different elements of writing and performing poetry but are also exposed to countless other opportunities in the field. They have become Bermudian ambassadors overseas and creative ambassadors locally; this trip is vital toward giving them broader awareness of the world that they directly bring back and share. This is a great development opportunity that has already shown alumni giving back to help the next generation both in the ChewSLAM program as well as the broader creative community. Matthew Johnston, a participant with ChewSLAM last year has stepped forward in a bid to be part of the Future Corps group; a group within the Brave New Voices context which affords alumni of the Festival the chance to help run it.

One of the quantifiable benefits of this experience is also the opportunity to represent Bermuda on the world stage. This creates an awareness of Bermuda that has already shown benefit with several people that were met through Brave New Voices since our first trip in 2012.

The team is led by a facilitators, Yesha Townsend, Gavin Djata Smith, Stephan Johnstone and Deidra-Lee Bean, who all have unique knowledge to pass on to participants. Yesha Townsend has recently come through with experience in the world of SLAM as she has a passion for the sport and insight into how it all happened. Ms. Townsend was also a performer in South by Southwest and recognized at the Chewstick Foundation’s Anniversary in January as the 2012 recipient of their “Mary Prince” Bursary Award. She is currently studying overseas and has come through to mentor the team in the final weeks to get them polished for the competition. Stephan Johnstone has been involved with the program for a few years and as the quintessential “Bermudian Poet” is ensuring that the young people on this trip are prepared to share pieces that are uniquely Bermudian. Djata Smith, brings his years of experience as a singer/songwriter and creative at the helm of The Chewstick Foundation, he has a unique offering for developing stage presence and thoughtful delivery that has helped each member of the team to be a hard hitting, thoughtful performer and to “own the stage” in every aspect.