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Talented Young Atlanta Poets Compete in ‘Brave New Voices’

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Poetry is an artistic way of writing with which people can express themselves. Atlanta Word Works is a nonprofit organization created by Natalie Cook that allows young creatives to express their voices in a unique way.

Natalie Cook, a VOX alumna, is the founder of Atlanta Word Works (AWW). She started AWW in 2009 when someone told her about Brave New Voices (BNV), a five-day poetry slam festival for teen poets ages 13 to 19. At age 16, Cook and some friends from her high school, DeKalb School of the Arts, went to Chicago in 2009 for Brave New Voices. From there, she started teaching and hosting workshops in Atlanta focused on slam poetry. “I always believed that poetry saved my life,” says Cook. 

This year, she merged Atlanta Word Works with VOX. In addition to writing pieces, they also compete in local and national poetry slams. Five young creators from Atlanta Word Works competed for spots on the Atlanta Brave New Voices team. They have been preparing for this year’s competition which is in Washington D.C., July 12-16. 

Dasia Evertsz is a rising senior at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School.  

Photo caption: (Back row, from left) Ivan; Itsel, team coach; Jaha Bela; Cole Jones-Ford, AWW intern. (Front row) Natalie Cook, Victoria, Ninel, Nia.) Photo by Kiaya Simone Robertson, 17, a VOX Media Cafe participant who attends Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy High School. 


They're ready for BNV in D.C.! (Back row, from left:) Ivan, Itsel (coach) Jaha Bela, Cole (coach and AWW/VOX intern); (Front row, from left): AWW Founder Natalie Cook, Victoria, Ninel, Nia
They’re ready for BNV in D.C.! (Back row, from left:) Ivan, Itsel (coach) Jaha Bela, Cole (coach and AWW/VOX intern); (Front row, from left): AWW Founder Natalie Cook, Victoria, Ninel, Nia

As the Atlanta Word Works team goes to D.C. to represent Atlanta in Brave New Voices, we are proud to share their work. Learn more about each of these talented poets, and hear and read their slam poetry by clicking on each name. 

Jaha Bela, 16, attends Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. She first started writing poetry at age 12, inspired by her English teacher, who is also a poet.

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Nia Lundkvist, 18, who attends Spelman College remembers first writing poetry at age 9 — but began writing consistently at 14 after seeing spoken word performances.

Ninel Nekay, 18, a student at Kennesaw State University began writing poetry at age 15, inspired by a poet who taught at the Douglas County Boys and Girls Club after-school program.

Ivan Silva, 18, first began writing at age 11, inspired by his English teacher and Atlanta Word Works partner who recited “Maybe I Need You” by Andrea Gibson.

Victoria Smith, 15, attends Lakeside High School and began writing poetry at age 10. She says she was inspired by seeing people like Alysia Harris and Joshua Bennett in Strivers Row, and people like Natalie and the Brave New Voices teams.


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