“I Love Being Around Poetry”: Digital Media Inspires Teens to Launch Open Mic at Chicago Library
8.10.10 | Previously on StudentSpeak, we met Mike Hawkins—aka Brother Mike—a mentor to students using the YOUmedia digital space for teens at Harold Washington Library in Chicago. In this webisode, we check out what the students are performing at Lyricist Loft, a weekly spoken word and media performance event at the YOUmedia space.
Using YOUmedia’s digital recording tools, students have learned music production, including composition, lyric writing and how to download and remix music and put their words over beats. They’ve also learned how to shoot original video and more about spoken word and hip-hop from Hawkins, who leads after-school and summer workshops.
The Loft grew out of the teens’ desire to have their own performance area where they could showcase their work. The YOUmedia space, already equipped with laptops, mics, and digital video and audio recording capabilities, was the perfect venue.
Now, Lyricist Loft attracts crowds every Wednesday night for a weekly open-mic night featuring original poetry, music and video. The young performers also DJ and MC the events.
The technology available at YOUmedia has become a big draw in attracting teens to the library space. One teen who performs under the name “J-Storm” says that he hasn’t been to his own library in years; it lacks resources like the Mac computers available at Harold Washington Library.
“Maybe if we had some of the technology, I would be wanting to come back,” he said. “I think the technology definitely gives youth something to look forward to, as well as the great poetry and great art that’s going down at the open mic.”
And there’s plenty to keep teens occupied before the event starts, says George, an 18-year-old who performs as “Slick G.”
“While you wait for Lyricist Loft to happen, you can come here, read a book, play some video games, learn more about the studio in which you can make songs and then perform,” he said.
Hawkins charged the teens with using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the open mic, along with word-of-mouth advertising. It worked.
“We started off with 15 people at the open mic,” says Dimress, a high school senior and one of the event organizers. “Second open mic, nobody showed up. Third open mic, we had like 75 people.”
And the latest numbers?
“The last open mic we had 145 people—packed.”
“I have roughly 3,500 friends on Facebook, so that’s one way that it expanded in a small amount of time,” Dimress explains, rapidly ticking off her other social media networks. “Twitter, mentioning people in my tweets, telling them I know they hang out with a lot of poets, bring your friends, bring their friends.”
She also uses YouTube. “I’ll make a video and post it on my friends page: ‘Come out to Lyricist Loft,’ something like that. And then my cell phone—I have, like, 421 contacts.”
Check out the video above to see some talented performers and to learn why so many teens are spending Wednesday nights at the library.
Plus: For more on YOUmedia, see Spotlight’s coverage of “Remixing Libraries: New Teen Space Integrates Digital with Books” and “Anywhere, Anytime Learning.”
StudentSpeak, a video series produced by Spotlight, goes behind the scenes to show how teens use digital media in their daily lives. View previous webisodes here.
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