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A Message to Young Men From the 2016 PADV Teen Summit

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“I want the men in the audience to [know] that … you don’t have to fit the template of what a man is or isn’t supposed to be according to the society that we live in,” says Cole Jones Ford, 19. “Exerting your force isn’t the only way to show that you’re strong.” 

Ford, a student at Georgia State University, and fellow poet and GSU student Joshua Stewart, 23, hope teens take this message from their spoken word performance at the 7th annual PADV Teen Summit, held on March 5.  

As members of Atlanta Word Works, which is dedicated to encouraging Atlanta teens to use spoken word poetry as a form of expression, Ford and Stewart shared their original piece at the beginning of the Teen Summit to introduce the topic of dating violence and encourage a moment of reflection with the audience. 

The performance examined the role men play in dating violence and illustrated the problematic ways men frequently view and treat women.

“Most men think this is a man’s world, and that women are flowers waiting to be plucked,” was just one of the poets’ powerful statements.

The young poets said they drew inspiration for the performance from a number of personal experiences. Stewart explained: “As a black man, it’s different… I’m black, I’m oppressed, but I’m also a man, so I contribute to the oppression of women sometimes. I have to understand where that comes from.”

Although the topic of dating violence is never particularly easy or comfortable to discuss, Stewart and Ford understood the importance of starting a dialogue, and, according to Ford, they were eager to join the discussion.

“I know people who have been victims of domestic violence, and a lot of times, that’s a story that people don’t get to tell,” he said. “I feel that art is expression, and there are people who can’t express themselves, or they’re not given the opportunity to express themselves, so I wrote this to try to be a voice for someone who may need their voice to be heard right now.”  

Additional reporting by Jason Crichton. Atlanta Word Works is now a program of VOX. 

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