New Orleans Youth Open Mic kicks off fall season at Ashe



Now in its fourth year, the New Orleans Youth Open Mic begins its fall season Oct. 18 at Ashe Cultural Arts Center, opening a space for young people to showcase their voice, whether in poetry, prose, rap or other mediums.

Organizers noticed a pattern in poetry scenes around the U.S. where "the best adult scenes have well-supported youth scenes and poetry pipelines," says cofounder Mwende Katwiwa. While New Orleans has developed space for the success of local adult writers and slam poetry competitors, "we don’t necessarily have the next generation set up to do the same," she says.

Sign up begins at 6 p.m. and the events start at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Nov. 15, and Dec. 13 at Ashe Cultural Arts Center (1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.). It's open to people in the seventh-12th grade age range.
The open mic is among a network of poetry and writing events for young people, particularly young people of color, including the New Orleans Youth Poetry Festival, which held its inaugural event this year in conjunction with National Poetry Month and Tulane University's Black Arts Festival.

Open mic organizers hoped to create a space for New Orleans youth within middle- and high school age who are "writing these amazing things with nowhere to show them," Katwiwa says. "It is paying it forward, it is a labor of love, but it is doing a lot for the youth we work with."

Organizers with the festival and open mic also have offered writing workshops, including poetry workshops at the Travis Hill School at the Youth Study Center, and are working to coordinate more writing and performance events. "This year we're really starting to step into the big shoes," Katwiwa says.

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