The Word is a transformative literary arts program for New Haven young people. The Word partners experienced teaching poets, award-winning spoken-word artists, and emcees with creative students, teachers, and administrators across the city to equip youth to become stronger poets and culture creators.
In 2021, The Word spurred...
WHAT WE DO
Former Word students Salwa Abdussabur (age 20) and Dymin Ellis (21) stepped into leadership roles as Youth Programs Developer and Associate Artist, and, along with new Program Coordinator Precious Musa (22), planned The Word's first-ever Spring Intensive and WordFest. High school students were featured performers at many Word events, and 3 high school-age activist leaders (Kelly Piños, Mia Joseph and Lihame Arouna) were panelists at the Arts & Ideas event, engaging peers in an insipiring dialogue about youth leadership in activism.
The Word worked with unprecedented numbers of English Language Learners this year – 100 students in nine classes between Fair Haven K-8 and Wilbur Cross High School. Students created bilingual poems exploring the art of translation – expanding knowledge of English as they translated their original Spanish or Arabic poems.
Students also translated past experiences with violence or trauma into powerful poems taking control of their narratives; our belief (based on our own lived experience!) is that expressing emotional responses to trauma into carefully crafted poetry can be a fundamental way of translating, and thereby transforming, our relationship to the trauma.
A CULTURE OF BELONGING
One of the Word’s not-so-secret goals is to help shift culture in New Haven towards radical inclusivity. In 2019, young people referred to The Word as one of the few (but growing in number) safe spaces for young people of color, especially queer POC, in the city. The Word grew this culture of belonging in 16 different public school classes; intergenerational Lit Cyphers; artist residencies with hospitalized teens at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital; Weekly Word Workshops and the Spring Intensive; and our first WordFest: 7 events co-produced with the Arts & Ideas Festival in June.
Another subtle cultural shift is seeing young poets featured in the programs of other events: literacy symposia, organization galas, organizing meetings, etc. Alan Veloz, a junior in our hip-hop program at New Haven Academy led by teaching artist Abioseh Cole, created a stirring spoken word piece about his desire to be a different kind of man. He performed this poem at several non-Word events, then translated it into Spanish to inspire ELL students at our citywide middle school jam. Alan helped the audience create and perform a collective poem about translation, which he performed aloud in English and Spanish. Youth voices are taking center stage in New Haven, and The Word is proud to be a part of this movement.