Speaking Truths: Young Adults, Identity, and Spoken Word Activism

Speaking Truths: Young Adults, Identity, and Spoken Word Activism

Date and Time

Jun 5, 2022 6:00 pm

Location

14th & V

2021 14th St NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20009

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Description:

Dr Valarie Chepp discusses the book Speaking Truths: Young Adults, Identity, and Spoken Word Activism

The twenty-first century is already riddled with protests demanding social justice, and in every instance, young people are leading the charge. But in addition to protesters who take to the streets with handmade placards are young adults who engage in less obvious change-making tactics. In Speaking Truths, sociologist Valerie Chepp goes behind-the-scenes to uncover how spoken word poetry—and young people’s participation in it—contributes to a broader understanding of contemporary social justice activism, including this generation’s attention to the political importance of identity, well-being, and love.

Drawing upon detailed observations and in-depth interviews, Valerie Chepp tells the story of a diverse group of young adults from Washington, D.C. who use spoken word to create a more just and equitable world. Outlining the contours of this approach, she interrogates spoken word activism’s emphasis on personal storytelling and “truth,” the strategic uses of aesthetics and emotions to politically engage across differences, and the significance of healing in sustainable movements for change. Weaving together their poetry and personally told stories, Chepp shows how poets tap into the beautiful, emotional, personal, and therapeutic features of spoken word to empathically connect with others, advance intersectional and systemic analyses of inequality, and make social justice messages relatable across a diverse public. By creating allies and forging connections based on friendship, professional commitments, lived experiences, emotions, artistic kinship, and political views, this activist approach is highly integrated into the everyday lives of its practitioners, online and face-to-face.

Chepp argues that spoken word activism is a product of, and a call to action against, the neoliberal era in which poets have come of age, characterized by widening structural inequalities and increasing economic and social vulnerability. She illustrates how this deeply personal and intimate activist approach borrows from, builds upon, and diverges from previous social movement paradigms. Spotlighting the complexity and mutual influence of modern-day activism and the world in which it unfolds, SPEAKING TRUTHS contributes to our understanding of contemporary social change-making and how neoliberalism has shaped this political generation’s experiences with social injustice.

Valerie comes to the Busboys stage joined by some of the poets featured in the book to tell us more about their collaboration.

This event is free and open to all. Our program begins at 6:00 pm, with an introduction from a member of our Busboys and Poets team, and will be followed by an audience Q&A. Copies of SPEAKING TRUTHS will be available for purchase before and after the event. Full dinner service is available throughout the show. Please note that this event will not be live streamed.

We ask that guests RSVP in order to receive direct updates about the event from Busboys and Poets Books. Proof of RSVP may be requested on arrival if capacity is reached.

VALERIE CHEPP is an associate staff qualitative researcher in the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and associate professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. Previously she served as associate professor of sociology and director of the Social Justice Program at Hamline University. She is the editor of Readings in Social Justice: Power, Inequality, & Action and co-editor of the qualitative methods book Cognitive Interviewing Methodology.

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