Roots Jam Poetry Slam Opportunity and the American Dream

by Elizabeth Clay Roy   •  

We have held over a dozen community listening sessions with our coalition partners, but when we learned that we were the cause partner for the 7th Annual Roots Jam Session we thought this would be a great chance to try something different – to allow young people to express their ideas and opinions around Opportunity and the American Dream through music and poetry rather than discussions around a table. The Poetry Slam on Opportunity and the American Dream was a special listening session that celebrated the creativity and talent of Los Angeles youth.

Francia Raisa, the talented young actress from ABC Family’s The Secret Life of an American Teenager, opened up the slam with her experiences growing up and the persistence needed to reach her dream.

In their words we heard hope and frustration. Several youth talked about the hopefulness in opportunity, it is “a blank canvas”, “all around us”, or a daily prayer. Samaiya broke down the materialism some call the American Dream, which is “more than designer jeans” and questioned what it means to our country that 1 in 3 teens contemplates suicide.

Watch the short video at the bottom of this page to hear for yourself!

Our poets are taking steps every day to reach their potential and are making positive changes in their community through our Coalition partnersTavis Smiley Foundation and Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD), a South Los Angeles YouthBuild program.

We followed up the slam with a discussion about barriers to opportunity in the youths’ schools and neighborhoods – and they talked about school budget cuts that reduced financial aid for college and eliminated arts programs that gave them a chance to explore their talents.

What do you think? Where should we hold the next Poetry Slam?

Elizabeth Clay Roy

Deputy Director, Opportunity Nation

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