Not gonna lie y’all, Spoken Word is scary.
I had seen the poster for the Better Story Project‘s Spoken Word workshop on Facebook and signed up. As many of my decisions go these days, it was impulsive – the process of seeing the poster and registering took approximately 5 minutes. Days later, when I realized what I had signed up for, I panicked :))
Mostly I signed up because I wanted to know more about The Better Story Project and I thought the poster was pretty 😀 But really, I had known about them for a while now thanks to Bea Vergara, a friend of mine who’s part of their core team, and I was wildly curious.
The Better Story Project is very productive girl bonding, if you wanna think about it simply. It’s a mentoring program for young girls that works through leading them to look at their stories, and encouraging them to appreciate their stories exactly for what they are. Somewhere along the way, we girls can forget that whoever we may be, whatever we may look like, whatever may have happened to us, our stories matter. The Better Story Project seeks to remind girls of this fact. Your story matters and because it’s so valuable, it’s up to you (the heroine) to make it better.
Their main course of action is through workshops, like the Spoken Word one 🙂 Every month they hold workshops and conversations on different topics, relevant to their target 20-somethings. January, it was goal-setting. February, it was body-love. The point of the discussions is to encourage and inspire each other to make the important growing realizations and the smart decisions NOW. With them, women empowerment isn’t an angry, defensive thing – it’s a positive thing that’s always a work in progress.
And yes, I would definitely describe the Spoken Word experience as empowering. I would also say that it was “sweating under your shirt, while in an airconditioned room,” “writing like you’re giving birth,” “a dewy Saturday morning full of possibility,” and “that blessed Advil after a whole afternoon of pushing through a low-grade headache.” (Make of it what you will, we were told to be vividly descriptive. Haha.)
Our teacher for the day was Carisse Escueta, a Spoken Word artist who studied the art in Wisconsin. She introduced us to some Spoken Word greats like her mentor, Lemon Andersen, and led us through some exercises that involved a whole lotta writing, contemplation, and duh, speaking. We all had to speak so I volunteered first cause I wanted to get it over with :))
The poem I spoke was from the first and easiest of our exercises – we had to write a poem where the last word of each line would be a word that another person in the group gave you. Here it is, untitled:
I won’t say too much more about the workshop because I feel like it was a very intimate experience for everyone involved. It’s also something that you’d have to go through yourself, and the more in-the-dark you are, the better. I truly hope the Better Story Project holds another Spoken Word Workshop (hi, Better Story girls!) because it’s the kind of outlet we all need to try at least once.
From what I saw, Spoken Word is really all about acceptance of who you are and where you’re from, expressing what you believe in and what you see, and preaching it. All of that, plus a little rhythm and a little attitude 🙂
Coming from someone who has had zero experience with Spoken Word, when you speak in front of an open group of people, it really does seem to give you power and energy and rhythm. Their eagerness to hear what I had to say pushed me to do my best to perform and make the words real. You guys should have seen the others share their poems, speaking with a confidence and an openness they hadn’t had when they came in the room. Wow.
Spoken Word is kinda what the Better Story Project is all about. It’s you realizing it’s a privilege to be you. It’s knowing who you are and celebrating it. Its pushing past fear in a safe place, with girls going through the same things you are. Its making yourself better through lifting other people up.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the women of the Better Story Project and I’m looking forward to seeing more things from them. As a 20-something woman, I need them. Go, girls!
I’ll leave you with this beautiful poem about being a Palestinian in New York during 9/11, performed by Suheir Hammad: