Ken Arkind and Minor Disturbance rep Denver in HBO's Brave New Voices
This is what Ken Arkind's "brave voice" looks like.
Young poets from Denver's slam poetry scene have taken their words and images far beyond the confines of the city. The HBO special Brave New Voices premiered this week and featured performances from Minor Disturbance, Denver's very own youth Slam Team led by Ken Arkind. The special, co-produced by hip-hop maven Russell Simmons and featuring hosts Rosario Dawson and Common, follows the 2010 National Slam Team championships in L.A.
Arkind, who was in New York last week for the formal premiere, said the Denver team's appearance alongside crews from New York, Albuquerque and California's Bay Area was a major accomplishment for the local scene.
"I think its important for Denver," Arkind said via e-mail. "It could bring a lot of hope to some of the young folks in Denver. The truth is that the Denver team made Slam history in a way that no adult team ever has."
For all of the local significance of the special, which will run on HBO through next month, there doesn't seem to be an overwhelming amount of support from the network brass. Arkind, who helped lead the Minor Disturbance team to a fourth-place slot in the global competition earlier this year, said promotion from HBO for the special has been somewhat lacking.
"[The producers] were talking about how HBO really isn't doing much hype for it," Arkind said from New York last week after attending the red carpet premiere. "I'm getting some insight. There doesn't seem to be a lot of press for it. HBO isn't really backing it up."
Be that as it may, HBO has posted poems from Jose Guerro, Eli Lynch, Dominique Sample, Kyle Sutherland, Libby Howard and Elizabeth Cheever on the special's website.
Here's a sample of the Denver team's HBO input. The poem "Sweatshop" was written by Jose Guerro and Eli Lynch.
I remember waking up and her already being gone
She would catch the ruta before the sun and arrive home after dawn
Being awake that early in Juarez can be dangerous for a woman
She always lied and said she was a fashion designer but in reality she spent long hours
Sewing holes in designer jeans that her children would never wear
The Maquiladora swallowed her and she just became part of the machine
Slavery is the epitome of capitalism
A system built on inequality
for some to taste this kind of excess
Others have to live in poverty
So this is not some unfortunate side effect of a society built in the image of a pyramid it is
Every step you take was made comfortable at someone else's expense
It's easy to point your fingers at CEO's and foreman
But the shirt on your back puts a weight on your shoulders
How did we allow the earth to become so lopsided?
The world's axis is tilting but we are standing still
The key to our obedience is a thirst for possessions
Cause they've got us so conditioned that we purchase our oppression
Now we've all switched to high definition deception
If the purpose of Democracy is to ensure equality
but money equals power then there in no room for poverty
And capitalists thrive on separate classes so they're opposed to this
So it's impossible for Capitalism and Democracy to coexist
Socialists and independent journalists have noticed this
But the TV won't tell you that, cause the real enemy owns that shit
So they control the information, economic weaponry
So we fight among ourselves and never ask "who's the enemy?"
Ninety percent of the wealth is owned by less than 10 percent of the populous
It would seem then that the answer to this question would be obvious
The problems also own the media on top of this
And News Corp is consumed by two thirds of the world's audience
And they literally went to court to defend their right to lie to the public
There's no way to speak out, they'll disconnect your mic if you try and discuss it
So why aren't people disgusted?
The equation can't equal getting mad if
An untainted source of information is subtracted
So the First Amendment's lost if they pretend that being honest
Isn't necessary if it starts infringing on the profits
Information's disregarded for more profitable topics
But they own the information box so there's no way to stop it
It's not just the NEWS
My mind has been swooshed with images of success
From a glistening Michael Jordan dunking on giants with ease
To a series of soccer getting players crossed and statues of Cristiano Rinaldo rising
And I've been told these moments were brought to me by shoes
When Nikes are worn by legends they become symbols of national pride
Which makes me wonder, who built them?
Who has blisters on their hands so our heroes don't blister on their toes
These logos are nothing to be proud of
Because the slaves were not freed just outsourced
A knight is nothing without a blacksmith
So why do athletes hoard the glory of glamorous commercial montages
If they were still burdened by honesty surely this sweat wouldn't be the color of Gatorade
The stars would be tired to run
Fingers too blistered to dunk
But if a knight is nothing without a blacksmith
Then these slaves are responsible for these victories too
They were never blessed with body armor so Nike swooshes whipped exposed backs
scarring them with Adidas stripes like Just Do It
They reached for Converse Stars but couldn't get enough air
Jordan's laces pulled them back into slavery
They've sewed tongues into your shoes rendering them voiceless
Having trouble swallowing their malnutrition
Have you ever wondered whose soul you're walking on?
They are the souls that sew your sols
The little feat that fill big shoes
The weary backs that hold the globe
The little hands that stitch the world
And they've been feeding us propaganda since our conception
But we paid for it
We asked them to lie to us
So when establishing your personality with logos
When wearing your poverty like a badge
Never mistake yourself for the oppressed
We are the Monsters
We are the cogs that keep the world spinning tilted
We too, have been swallowed by the machine
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.