DaVerse Lounge

One Line Wonders Empower DaVerse Readers and Receivers

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

In a word: empowerment.

Yes, yes, that word usually describes the DaVerse Lounge experience, whether you’re reading on the stage or receiving in the audience. But this one, this DaVerse Lounge event Friday, Nov. 11, at Life in Deep Ellum, was especially empowering.

We had homeschooled sisters, college students, middle school dreamers, a recent high school graduate and a local hip-hop artist, among many others, pouring their emotions onto a receptive, loving crowd of 500.

So we thought we’d reminisce the evening with a baker’s dozen One Line Wonders, just to remind us how powerful sharing our thoughts and feelings can truly be.

“I hate you, my number eight”
— A lament about moving, and the uncertainty that comes with instability.
Anna, Quintanilla Middle School

“You said you hated me; I said I needed you”
— Standing up against abuse, from love to politics, emotions to physicality.
Cici, Garza High School

“All I hear is black lives this, black lives that, but we all can’t seem to come together to prove that all lives matter”
— Looking in the mirror of humanity.
Danejah, Lancaster Middle School

“I see my life as just a joke; my emotions are an endless spoke”
— Life as seen through the lens of an adolescent.
Francisco, O.W. Holmes Middle School

“When the monster was in the closet, not the closet itself”
— An ode to a best friend, and to life.
Amanda, North Lake College

“Words are mankind’s currency; they can tear you down and build you up”
— Judge people by what they say, and nothing else.
Sisters Haley and Hana, homeschooled

“My body has scars; not from fights, but from life”
— The generational pain that forces you to be strong against obstacles.
John, high school graduate

“She was a beautiful 15-year-old girl who killed herself because of bullying and depression”
— The devastating aftermath of a tragic suicide.
Serenity, Wilmer-Hutchins High School

“I want to get high to see if I can finally get you off my mind”
— Anger from a woman scorned.
Riley, Winfree Academy

“You still got your people; we are all we got – apparently”
— The state of the country and the world today.
So So Topic (AKA Tommy Simpson), local hip-hop artist

“You’re too pretty not to smile, as if me not having a smile on my face at all times is a sin”
— A manifesto against the misogynistic world we live in
Tasa, Winfree Academy

“I made some bad choices and I heard some bad voices, but thou cannot heal when thou cannot feel”
— Changing your life around through faith before it’s too late.
Dequiris, Sam Houston High School

“I keep gagging at the memory of everything that happened”
— A cathartic note to an ex-lover.
Michael, Sam Houston High School

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, State Farm, Liberty Burger, and the M.R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation for their generous support.

Photos by Can Turkyilmaz @turk_studio


Big ThoughtOne Line Wonders Empower DaVerse Readers and Receivers

DaVerse Lounge Covets Six Word Stories

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

What’s your story in six words?

Is it a heartbreaking, painful tale? Or is it love and light? Maybe you share something clever, funny. Perhaps it’s exercise for your creativity.

Share your six word story soonest. DaVerse Lounge is the event Friday. Life In Deep Ellum, the venue. We’re ready to receive your tale.

First, read six word stories history:

The inspirational genesis of the six word stories movement comes from Ernest Hemingway’s famous short but potent 1920s narrative – “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Six word stories would later become known as flash fiction. For decades this extremely succinct piece of prose has been testing writers’ abilities to craft mini masterpieces for receiving readers.

Jump to 2012 and the six word stories phenomenon picked up steam on Reddit, then lit the Tumblr constituency a mere two years later. The rules of six word stories are pretty basic – write six words. That’s it. You can be as creative, ingenious, heartfelt or funny as you like, but it must only be six words.

And now, back to six words. Six word stories table is ready. See space between henna, artist stations. DaVerse Lounge will provide pen, paper. We want your bold, honest expression. Stories are shared on social media. Or tag #SixWordStories_Daverse and we’ll repost.

What’s your story in six words?

DaVerse Lounge’s 12th season continues Friday, Nov. 11th from 7-10 pm at Life in Deep Ellum. DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, and State Farm for their generous support.

Big ThoughtDaVerse Lounge Covets Six Word Stories

DaVerse One Line Wonders Stir Audience Emotions

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

The 12th season of DaVerse Lounge splashed onto Life in Deep Ellum Friday, Oct. 7. We welcomed 358 guests, from readers to receivers, for the 3-hour emotional literacy love fest.

Among the array of spoken word poets we watched five performers do a little freestylin’. That always stirs up plenty of excitement among the audience.

But so do the words, because words are powerful. So let’s take a look at a dozen One Line Wonders and relive the magic of the evening and the potency of the sentiments.

“This love stuff sticks with you forever like tattoos”
– A lovesick manifesto written as a poem that shot straight to the soul.

“I’m done with your abuse, your burden, and your desire to use me…I can’t hate anyone that I don’t care about anymore”
– Truly potent, nerve-rattling piece about escaping a toxic relationship.

“I am what I am; I am me”
– Simple words about self-empowerment that strike a universal chord.

“The freedom not to be trapped behind the man I am”
– Proof that fixing the man in the mirror is a pathway to the stars.

“You made me who I am today because I know who not to be”
– Be independent, not a statistic, and learn from those around you.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t pretend for you anymore”
– A dysfunctional relationship leads to freedom, self-realization, and self-determination

“We went from chains, to ropes, to now bullies”
– The news of the day, police brutality against black men, via heavy, thought-provoking words.

“You traded heartache for hope, hunger for hard work”
– The plight of foreigners learning a new language as a ticket to US prosperity.

“I understand that we need to speak, but some of us can’t because we are too meek”
– Stop the bullying, and always make the bullied strong.

“Our lives are mosaics made up of pieces holding a story”
– A dramatic declaration about hopes and dreams.

“Sometimes I just want to shake the love out of us”
– When a relationship is slowly dying you’ll try anything to resuscitate it.

“You and peanuts have a lot in common – I love you so much but you are so bad for me”
– Toxic love tastes good, but then you must swallow the poison.

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, State Farm, Liberty Burger, and the M.R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation for their generous support.

Photos by Alan Gann




Big ThoughtDaVerse One Line Wonders Stir Audience Emotions

Spoken Word Poetry Essential for Sam Houston Students

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


Big ThoughtSpoken Word Poetry Essential for Sam Houston Students

Spoken Word Movement DaVerse Lounge Returns For 12th Season

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Your best friend – that free-spirited, creatively sparked buddy that always makes you feel special, worthy – took a summer vacation. But now this cherished companion is back, ready to provide a safe haven for self-expression.

We’re talking about DaVerse Lounge, the spoken word movement that’s been a cultural signpost since its inception in 2005. DaVerse Lounge kicks off its 12th season October 7 from 7-10 pm at Life in Deep Ellum. That’s a milestone show that ushers in a new era.

DaVerse Lounge Season 12 will feature six events instead of the customary four. The expanded spate of shows is in direct response to the local and educational groundswell created at each DaVerse Lounge. In addition to the October 7 kick-off extravaganza, catch the DaVerse magic Nov. 11, Dec. 9, Feb. 3, March 3 and April 7, all at Life in Deep Ellum.

So what does the return of DaVerse Lounge mean? For more than 2,600 participants that have already stepped on the DaVerse Lounge stage, it means the chance to read again, to express their most intimate thoughts before a receptive audience. For countless other hopefuls, it means the opportunity to be heard, to be instantly accepted.

For the approximately 600 readers and listeners that attend each DaVerse Lounge, it means another evening basking in a free-flowing environment that welcomes and nurtures youth as well as adults with raw, honest spoken word, R&B-jazz music from Melody Memory bandleader and DaVerse Lounge mentor Alejandro Perez Jr., and impromptu painting.

What does DaVerse Lounge mean to the people behind the scenes – and in front of the crowd?

DaVerse Lounge means unconditional love and soulful acceptance.
– Will Richey, Creator, DaVerse Lounge

DaVerse Lounge means a cross pollination of the arts, culture, and communities reigniting creative conversation.
– Alejandro Perez, Jr., Mentor, DaVerse Lounge

DaVerse Lounge means using my bravery to not only share, but mostly to listen.
– Joel Triska, Owner, Life in Deep Ellum

DaVerse Lounge means freedom for teens around the Metroplex, the opportunity to speak and be heard.
– Shianne Patrick, Youth Development Specialist, Big Thought

The 2016-2017 season of DaVerse Lounge, a partnership between Big Thought and Journeyman Ink, promises a series of thematic shows. While those themes are still evolving, they will include collaborations with 29 Pieces, The Original Carter Literary Society (David W. Carter High School), and Big Thought’s Creative Solutions.

Anticipation is high as season 11 concluded on a decidedly electric high note. The April 2016 DaVerse Lounge drew 640 attendees, the largest turnout of the season. Forty-one students performed; 28 high schools, 13 middle schools, 3 elementary schools and 2 colleges were in the house; 17 of those schools were outside of the Dallas city limits, including McKinney, Mansfield, Greenville and Sam Houston high schools; and 13 Big Thought-supported DaVerse clubs attended.

Big Thought partnered with DaVerse Lounge and Richey’s own Journeyman Ink in 2009, after DaVerse’s first four years at the Dallas Theater Center. The relationship has been symbiotic, fueled by a three-tiered approach that includes learning via a school curriculum, practicing with the after-school DaVerse Works clubs, and performing at the DaVerse Lounge open-mic events. More than 200 DaVerse Works poetry club members use their own middle and high schools as platforms for self-expression.

So you see, DaVerse Lounge is that cherished best friend that means many things to many of us. One sentiment is certainly universal: We’re so happy it’s back.

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, Dallas Mavericks, and State Farm for generously supporting DaVerse Lounge.

Photo by Joseph Brewster









Big ThoughtSpoken Word Movement DaVerse Lounge Returns For 12th Season

DaVerse Lounge Journey Bonds Mother and Son

By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager

Marcus Villagomez was 7 years old in 2005, an impressionable kid sitting in the Dallas Theater Center audience for the inaugural DaVerse Lounge show. His mom, Brenda Villagomez, brought Marcus along with a van full of young ladies from the nonprofit organization Girls, Inc.

Eleven years later, Brenda and Marcus have attended nearly every DaVerse Lounge event. They know DaVerse creator Will Richey personally. They remember poems and poets by name. They’ve grown up and bonded thanks to DaVerse Lounge.

“Throughout my career,” says Brenda, who also worked for Boys and Girls Club from 2003-2015, “I was exposing my program kids to these new experiences right along with my son.”

For the Villagomez mother and son team, DaVerse Lounge has been a rite of passage. The shows and their empowering mantra – My voice has power to speak my truth and share my light – filled a void just as it promoted unity and conversation. Marcus, who never took the stage to perform, breathed in all of the social-emotional learning pixie dust permeating the DaVerse oxygen. Brenda nurtured a beautiful rapport with her son. Together they resiliently coped through divorce and abandonment with DaVerse as the uplifting backdrop.

“It’s all about expression,” says Marcus, who is now 18 and a senior at South Grand Prairie High School. “You hear the stories, what they have been through – sad stories, funny stories. As I got older and I started to understand more I started to understand the diversity of it. There is more than my life and my mom’s life. There are other people in this world that can have an impact on you and share their wisdom with you.”

The Villagomez meets DaVerse Lounge story dates back to the beginning of the new millennium. It was Brenda who first discovered Richey in 2002. She took her Girls, Inc. kids to see Maya Angelou at the Coliseum inside the University of North Texas at Denton. Richey was Angelou’s opening act.

“At that moment we all fell in love with Will,” says Brenda. “There was this huge connection to be a part of his life and his program right then and there. I later attended a poetry workshop led by Will at an Irving arts magnet school. At that workshop Will announced that he was going to start a youth poetry show. I knew I had to see that.”

She did see it, repeatedly. Brenda was always there, with Marcus by her side.

“It’s very rare for us to have a parent come to the show with their child, to consistently bring their child to the show,” says Richey, whose DaVerse Lounge is a partnership between Big Thought and Journeyman Ink. “It’s rare for a parent to come so consistently.”

But this wasn’t just feel-good fandom. Brenda and Marcus found acceptance, boundless expression and, yes, even therapy at DaVerse Lounge. Marcus’ father walked out of his life when he was 6. So mother and son were dealing with emotions bottled up inside, emotions desperately in need of release. They embraced the welcoming, free-forum atmosphere of the shows. They became part of the firmament simply by being regular cheerleaders in the audience.

“At that point in our lives we didn’t talk much about what we were going through,” says Brenda. “I’m sure those brave kids didn’t talk about it either until they were on the mic. So we talked about it afterwards.”

Marcus agrees: “It brought us closer together. We were able to talk about what was going on in our lives because of DaVerse Lounge.”

Richey preaches the DaVerse Lounge gospel regularly, and not just when he’s onstage at Life In Deep Ellum, the venue that has hosted DaVerse Lounge since 2010. DaVerse Lounge’s “emotional literacy,” that ambiance of openness and fairness, is a balm for all ages, races and genders.

“I believe what we do is for everybody,” says Richey. “In more micro-managed households and families we are not allowed to speak out. So it takes a collective. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a collective to support an adult. We just need to express ourselves. The adults always do receive something.”

Brenda lives vicariously, in a way, through the DaVerse Lounge experience. “It is about giving the youth that outlet that they need,” she says. “We needed that outlet when we were kids, too, but we didn’t get it. Now we have it.”

This is all about the back and forth, the spirit of giving and receiving. Through DaVerse Lounge Marcus learned to give, which in turn allowed him to receive. Marcus now sports a short, curly coif. But back in 3rd grade his hair trailed passed his shoulders. That’s when he made an important decision. Two years later, with his mane down to his waist, Marcus cut it all off and donated it to Locks of Love.

Richey caught up with Marcus and Brenda after the 11th season closing DaVerse Lounge show April 1. As they all sat and chatted at Big Thought’s office last week the camaraderie, the exchanges were so casual, so genuine. These were old friends catching up.

“I used to know everybody; we were small and intimate,” says Richey. “Now because it is so big, to see people that you know is so special.”

Brenda and Marcus Villagomez are still around, and they aren’t going anywhere. DaVerse Lounge still has the same impact it did in 2005. Their DaVerse journey still resonates.

DaVerse Lounge thanks TACA, State Farm and the Dallas Mavericks for the generous support.



Big ThoughtDaVerse Lounge Journey Bonds Mother and Son