Amid the unending news cycle, the ongoing pandemic, and unwavering racial and social injustice in the U.S., it can be difficult to keep your head up. In the words of poet Jovan Mays, “Us storytellers, we restore order with our imagination. And we instill hope again, and again, and again.” Spoken word poetry can help to restore a sense of hope and dignity amidst some of the harshest realities of life. Enjoy these performances by some of TEDxMileHigh’s best spoken word poets.
“The Constellation Zacharias” | Jovan Mays
In this poignant tribute, spoken word poet Jovan Mays uses the power of storytelling, imagination, and memory to make sense of the impossible: the loss of a young life too soon. In 2007, Jovan Mays was greeted by “one of the most amazing young people who ever came to my life.” His name was Zachary. Celebrate the life of Zachary with Mays, and the truly unique, young man he was.
“It wasn’t that Zach was actually awkward, it was that he was just so good at being himself that we weren’t used to seeing something so buoyant and beautiful.” – Jovan Mays
Jovan Mays is an award-winning poet and the emeritus Poet Laureate of Aurora, Colorado. He is also a National Poetry Slam Champion and the Youth Voice Coordinator of Aurora Public Schools. Through his program, Your Writing Counts, Mays has helped over one million students find their voice through poetry.
“My Hair” | Toluwanimi Obiwole, Franklin Cruz, and Jose “Jozer” Guerrero
In this three-person spoken word poetry performance, poets Toluwanimi Obiwole, Franklin Cruz, and Jose “Jozer” Guerrero explore the cultural history of their hair. Learn from these three poets as they explore the injustice they experience due to western and white standards of beauty. Experience the collective reclamation of their ancestry and cultural heritage through their hair.
“My hair. A knife. A noose. More important than my resume. My liberation.” – Toluwanimi Obiwole, Franklin Cruz, and Jose “Jozer” Guerrero
Toluwanimi Obiwole is an award-winning Nigerian poet, performer, and workshop facilitator based in Denver, Colorado. Some of her accomplishments include being the Brave New Voices International Slam Champion, Denver City Slam Champion, and Denver’s 2015 Youth Poet Laureate. Today, Obiwole is a lead organizer with the Palm Wine Collective, a Black, Queer, and Femme-led collaborative curating creative spaces and content for Black collective healing. Discover more of Obiwole’s poetry by reading her poem, “According to my Upbringing.”
“You did the damn thing, and now your hair looks fly. That doesn’t mean it wants to be fondled. This is not a petting zoo.” – Toluwanimi Obiwole, Franklin Cruz, and Jose “Jozer” Guerrero
Franklin Cruz is a queer latin poet based in Denver, Colorado. He has performed throughout the Southwestern United States, Peru, Puerto Rico, and in University and Environmental Leadership camps, and his work has been featured in the Denver Art Museum. His art explores immigration, self-love, culture, and nature, among other topics. He aims to “address intersectional liberation, confronting our complicity to privilege and oppression and the pressing lesson of specificity over simplicity.” Learn more about Cruz.
“He carries his ancestor’s survival lessons in his waves.” – Toluwanimi Obiwole, Franklin Cruz, and Jose “Jozer” Guerrero.
“Have You Seen These Pictures?” | Jose “Jozer” Guerrero
In the second part of the above video, Jozer begins a moving solo performance exploring the devastating realities of youth kidnappings in Mexico and the violence against people of color in the United States. Join Jozer on an emotional, eloquent, and heartbreaking journey to restore compassion and eradicate apathy in the general public watching these tragedies from their screens.
“Have you seen these pictures? If you haven’t, all you have to do is open your eyes.” – Jozer
Jozer is an award-winning spoken word poet, musician, actor, and writer. He is a three-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and a vocalist for the Chicano Funk band, Los Mocochetes. In addition, Hozer has performed on HBO, Univision, and PBS. Watch Jozer’s other TEDxMileHigh spoken word performances, “You Are Not The Father” and “Mi Abuelita” and his most recent TEDxMileHigh Los Mocochetes performance at TEDxMileHigh: Imagine.
“Ascension” | Dominique Christina
What does it mean to “rise”? TEDxMileHigh has attempted to answer this question in preparation for TEDxMileHigh: Rise, but no one other than spoken word poet Dominique Christina could bring the question to life. Explore what it means to rise in the face of injustice through Christina’s inspiring poem, “Ascension.”
“Dear heart, red, red heart, has there ever, been anything, that could keep you from rising? Again and again and again?” – Dominique Christina
Dominique Christina is an award-winning poet, author, educator, and activist. In four years, Christina received five national poetry slam titles including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Christina’s slam poetry is heavily influenced by her family’s legacy in the Civil Rights Movement.
Additional Incredible TEDxMileHigh Spoken Word Poets
Feeling inspired? Unable to stop watching these moving spoken word performances? Same here. Continue experiencing the magic of the best spoken word poets by watching more TEDxMileHigh performances. Find more spoken word poetry here.