From left: Eli Ceja, Dominique Arriaga, Rebecca Write, Erich Mejia, and Kiki Lujan. Courtesy photo.

This Saturday, Fresh Ink Youth Slam will host a free writing workshop open to San Antonians between the ages of 13 and 19 at Deco Pizzeria from 1-3 p.m. The youth slam is the first workshop since Fresh Ink’s brief hiatus after their final slam of 2015 that determined the youth team to represent San Antonio this July at Brave New Voices, the international youth slam in Atlanta.

The Fresh Ink 2015 Youth Team at Brave New Voices; from right to left-Kiki Lujan, Eli Ceja, Rebecca Wright, Dominique Arriaga, and Erich Mejia. Photo by Sarah Rodriguez.
The Fresh Ink 2015 Youth Team at Brave New Voices. From right: Kiki Lujan, Eli Ceja, Rebecca Wright, Dominique Arriaga, and Erich Mejia. Photo by Sarah Rodriguez.

In September, Fresh Ink will host two slams where youth poets share their own original works to audiences and five randomly selected judges. In the three-round competition, poets with the highest scores advance and winners are selected after each slam. Throughout the month, these youth poets accrue points for reading and those with the top scores are invited to the end of season final slam, where a team of four to five youth are determined and a San Antonio Youth Slam Champ is crowned.

While San Antonio has a rich history of writers and poets, the city routinely shows up on lists of cities with the lowest literacy rates. In 2014, San Antonio was ranked 73 out of 77 cities of similar sizes in overall literacy. Recognizing this, Fresh Ink utilizes local writers, poets, and show runners to teach the importance of literacy and creative writing, empower the youth for the future, and encourage them to articulate life from their own personal perspectives.

Fresh Ink and its organizers including myself, Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson of 2nd Verse, Diamond Mason, and the Blah Blah Blah Poetry Spot have worked tirelessly to encourage young people to read and write.

“I want to be able to show the people of San Antonio that the youth, the young people, of the community care and have important things to say,” said Fresh Ink Director Sarah Rodriguez.

To accomplish this, Fresh Ink sends poets and writers into local high schools from William J. Brennan High School to Sidney Lanier High School to entertain and encourage any teens with interests in the literary arts. These visits aim to produce more poets and encourage reflection through writing and respecting the works of others.

Former Fresh Ink Alumni Lexi Wurth and Fresh Ink Director, Sarah Rodriguez. Photo by Rooster Martinez.
Fresh Ink alum Lexi Wurth (left) and Director Sarah Rodriguez. Photo by Rooster Martinez.

“As a writer the most fulfilling thing about working with the youth is when you get to watch them grow. It’s listening to their questions, and watching them find the answers on their own through a craft,” said Fresh Ink organizer and coach of the youth team, Diamond Mason.

Fresh Ink also hosts open workshops to create a safe environment for youth to share their writings. These workshops are organized in a way that allows youth to craft their new work alongside professional writers from their own communities. Sharing is always encouraged but never forced, that way the youth will eventually want to share their own words over time. The youth writers also are encouraged to participate in the bi-monthly slams. By sharing their work to audiences and judges, the youth gain a confidence behind their words.

The motto is: the point is not the points, the point is the poetry.

In July of this year, Fresh Ink sent five teens to Emory University in Atlanta to represent San Antonio in the international Brave New Voices youth poetry festival. Teams of teenagers from across the United States, Canada, Africa, and Europe converged at the competition to celebrate community and youth culture. Although the competition side to the poetry festival tends to receive the most press and attention, Brave New Voices also provides workshops and discussions for the visiting youth and their coaches and organizers.

“Brave New Voices was like the whole world paused for a week of positivity and creativity,” said 15-year-old Rebecca Wright, San Antonio’s 2015 Youth Grand Slam Champ.

 A 2015 high school youth poetry summit held at Lanier High School, facilitated by their creative writing department and Fresh Ink. Photo by Rooster Martinez.
A 2015 high school youth poetry summit held at Lanier High School, facilitated by their creative writing department and Fresh Ink. Photo by Rooster Martinez.

The new season of Fresh Ink slams is nearly upon us. Next year, Brave New Voices will be held in Washington D.C. and in San Francisco in 2017. The goal of Fresh Ink is to continue to impress upon the youth of San Antonio that their voices are powerful and their stories are important and necessary.

The 2015 team included youth poets from William J. Brennan High School, Sidney Lanier High School, two from Health Careers High School, and one poet all the way from Laredo. Fresh Ink is always open to more area youth to come out and participate in the literacy movement.

For any additional information of Fresh Ink regarding their slam and/or workshop schedules, or interest in poets coming to your school or nonprofit, email Sarah Rodriguez at freshinkyouthslam@gmail.com.

 *Featured/top image: From left: Eli Ceja, Dominique Arriaga, Rebecca Write, Erich Mejia, and Kiki Lujan. Courtesy photo. 

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Rooster Martinez

Rooster Martinez is a graduate student at OLLU's MA/MFA program in Creative Writing, Literature and Social Justice. A local slam poet for nearly six years, he is the 2014 Grand Slam Champion of San Antonio...