By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
Spoken word is a calling. Engaging in the kind of self-expression that means baring your soul through poetry in front of a receptive audience isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.
The members of the Spoken Word Poetry club at Sam Houston High School in Arlington need this essential nutrient. For them it’s a matter of survival, like food and water. In the last four years, these teens have almost singlehandedly built a 15-member club officially sanctioned by DaVerse Works, the middle and high school arm of DaVerse Lounge, a joint partnership between Big Thought and Journeyman Ink.
Led by a dynamo Sam Houston faculty sponsor, Chezelle Fiske, and equipped with the DaVerse curriculum, the school’s Spoken Word Poetry club continues to grow organically. Members meet every Monday at the school’s Little Theater from 3 to 4:30 pm. At the recent Sam Houston High School Activities Fair, held October 5 just outside the courtyard, Fiske and her dedicated kids were representing in full force. They set up a quaint booth that featured lots of glitter, performance pictures, DaVerse Lounge memorabilia, flyers, brochures, and great video footage.
“We have been able to take it from here to here,” says Fiske as she stretches her arms to show the leap of progress. “It’s a big movement here at Sam Houston. Kids have a lot to say and want their voices to be heard. This program has taken off by itself.”
But it does have plenty of reinforcement. Ricardo Garza, a renowned spoken word instructor who personally knows DaVerse Lounge creator Will Richey and Dallas Youth Poets founder Joaquin Zihuatanejo, is Sam Houston’s spoken word teacher and also a Big Thought teaching artist. Richey and DaVerse Lounge mentor Alejandro Perez Jr. have held spoken word assemblies on campus.
Spoken Word Poetry club president Michael Buentello, a 17-year-old senior, has read on the DaVerse Lounge stage. His personal journey with spoken word inspired fellow classmates he’s watched transform since their involvement in the movement.
“There has absolutely been a change,” he says. “I have seen so many people be able to express themselves. They have an outlet. I find myself more capable of articulation. I used to have a hard time saying what is on my mind. Not anymore. The emotion of it is so strong. It is required. So many people here need to say what is on their minds.”
For Spoken Word Poetry club vice president Savanah Jackson, another 17-year-old senior, this is her way of coping with the complications inherent while navigating the teenage minefield in 2016.
“It gives me a great platform for what is going on in the world,” she says. “Poetry is another outlet. This is the problem and here is the solution. Poetry helps me find that solution. Once you start writing you come to the realization, and that’s when I figure out what the solution is.”
The Spoken Word Poetry club keeps growing – 25 members is the goal – and the enthusiasm for DaVerse Lounge remains passionate. The club will put on two performances at the school Oct. 13, at 9:15 am and 5:30 pm, fueled by DaVerse Lounge. SWP members are ready to make the pilgrimages to upcoming DaVerse Lounge events Nov. 11, Dec. 9, Feb. 3, March 3 and April 7 at Life in Deep Ellum.
Richey couldn’t be prouder of the DaVerse legacy at Sam Houston High School. “Those students are spoken word ambassadors,” says Richey. “I can’t wait to receive them at DaVerse Lounge. I love Chezelle’s energy. They really have something special going on at Sam Houston.”
DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, State Farm, Liberty Burger, and the M.R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation for their generous support.
Photo by Mario Tarradell/Big Thought