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Brave New Voices: What You Need to Know about Team Atlanta’s Slam Poets

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The Atlanta Brave New Voices (BNV) team is here and ready for this year’s slam poetry competition, which will be held in Houston from July 18-21. Teams from all over the U.S. travel to one central location to share their poetry and also inspire others. Our beloved Team Atlanta has trained at the VOX office for eight weeks, writing and practicing their works for the competition. Here’s what you need to know about this amazing group of artists from Atlanta and what they plan to bring to the competition.

The poets, clockwise from top left: Victoria Smith, Jaha Bela, Tia King, Laila Henderson; center: Nathan Wallace.

 

Jaha Bela, 18

Inspiration in poetry:  Ninel Nekay [one of this year’s Team ATL coaches and a previous team member]

Favorite activity: “Um, ooh, I can’t say that … but writing poetry.”

What do you love about poetry?

“I love how alone it doesn’t make me feel, and how I really have seen words and metaphors and similes save people.”

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?

“My favorite piece that I’ve written was dedicated to my great grandmother who passed away and, you know, she was struggling with dementia for a long time. … I never know how to grieve correctly, and I’ve lost a good eight or nine people in high school, lots of funerals. But that was the one time where I actually chose to grieve in a healthy way.”

Are you excited for Brave New Voices?

“Hell, yeah! This is going to be my last time as a competing poet, and hopefully next year I can do Future Core as an alum, which is like the organization for people who have done BNV and want to help BNV be a better place and festival. Super excited. I actually like all of my teammates and both of my coaches, so it’s just a loving and safe environment.”

 

Nathan Wallace, 19

 

 

 

 

Inspiration in poetry: “You’re talking about like if I had to pick a favorite poet? Because there’s not one specific person that inspires my poetry. But if I picked a favorite poet, it’d be [21-year-old slam poet] Rudy Francisco.”

Favorite Activity: “I used to really love football but as of right now, poetry.”

What do you love about poetry?

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“It creates a safe space for honest emotions, to where you can say anything you want that you’re going through and people connect with you.”

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?:

“I like this piece that I wrote in the 11th grade. It’s either that piece or a letter to my first love. But that’s the first one I ever slammed with.”

Are you excited for Brave New Voices?

“Yeah, and I’m kind of intrigued because I’ve never been before so I’m kind of like a new person at this, so it’d be like a really new experience.”

 

Laila Henderson, 17 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration in poetry: “In poetry? Oh wow. I don’t know. I mean, possibly Langston Hughes. But also possibly, this poet called Miles Hodges. He’s the poet who made me like start writing when I was like 12.”

Favorite Activity:

“I love going to concerts. They’re so fun! Especially in Atlanta. I feel like if I go to a concert in another city, it won’t be the same because Atlanta has spoiled me. We have such good general admission concerts.”

What do you love about poetry?:

“What do I love about poetry? Sometimes I find it hard to express my emotions…I just have a hard time expressing my emotions and poetry makes it so much easier for me. Like I can just write it down and like sometimes I put it in metaphors and sometimes I just say it depends on how I feel about it. That’s my favorite thing; that I get to be emotional and not be looked down upon for it.”

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?

“I wrote a piece on how I’m Langston Hughes because we’ve got the same initials, but I’m not really Langston Hughes because that’s wild. Langston Hughes is great, he’s super great. Not saying I’m not great, but I’m not at Langston Hughes’ level or anything, but it’s a really fun poem I got to perform once or twice and I really love it.”

Are you excited for Brave New Voices?

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“Yes, I’m super excited. I turn 18 during Brave New Voices, and I’ve always wanted to go ever since I was, maybe 13? And I started really writing poetry and like looking at YouTube videos and looking at the community, so, yeah, I’m very excited to go.”

 

Tia King, 17

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your biggest inspiration in poetry?

“My biggest inspiration in poetry? Wow, that’s hard. I’m really, really into rap music, and I guess rap music is poetry because I write music as well. So sometimes I’ll listen to other poets around me, like my team. They really inspire me so much, they’re just so f*cking awesome. But rap music, definitely.”

Favorite activity: “I like to write, and I like to bake.”

What do you love about poetry?

“I love that while it is a craft and there is talent to writing poetry, there’s no one way to do it, you know? Poetry is definitely a talent and you have to cultivate your talent, but there’s no one [who] can tell you, “That’s not poetry” or “You should write poetry like this.” And if they do, they’re a**holes.

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?

“Ooooh, okay. I have this piece called “Dancing Shoes,” and it’s about misogyny and it turns women into plains, not like airplanes, but like fields. And it talks about how men build houses out of women and grow, and how we grow for these men and they don’t give us anything in return. So, that’s one of my favorite pieces.”

Are you excited for Brave New Voices?

“Wow, I’m so excited to meet these people. I’m so excited to see what people are wearing because, sis, these looks are going to be crazy. I’m so excited to just get on stage and spit my truth and be with my team. I’m very excited.”

 

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Victoria Smith, 17

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your biggest inspiration in poetry?

“I guess she’s not my biggest inspiration, but she got me to start poetry in the first place, so Alysia Harris.”

Favorite activity: “Probably listening to music in my room, like by myself and cleaning. It’s very cleansing for the soul.”

What do you love about poetry?

“I love that it brings me a community that actually understands me, like not a lot of people understand what each and every person goes through, but in the poetry community we have never been through that. We totally understand who you are as a person and how that made you into who you are today.”

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve written?

“Oooh, my favorite fun piece would have to be from BNV 2016, and it was “The Petty Poem.” It was pretty great. My favorite individual piece that I’ve ever written has to be a poem I wrote this year called “Photo Frame.” It’s just about me and my mom.”

Are you excited for Brave New Voices?

“Oh, yeah, totally. I’m excited to see people who I haven’t seen in like two years, and I’m excited to see new people, and I’m excited to be with my team in a whole different city. And it’s my birthday week, so I’m turning 18, so it’s just going to be like, amazing.”


Jasmine, 16, is grateful to share the voices of Team ATL and says, “They are fun, bold, and just people you always want to be around. I hope that they do well at Brave New Voices, and I’m so excited for them!” 

Follow Team Atlanta on VOX’s Atlanta Word Works’ Instagram and Twitter

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