Every Friday throughout the run of From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, we will publish dedicated content inspired by Bruce Springsteen and the First Amendment. “Freedom of Expression Fridays” will feature unique and original posts by staff writers, musicians, visual artists, and more, with a focus on a range of issues including protest, dissent, and the role of art in politics and political campaigns.
There’s a now famous speech by the late college basketball coach and motivational speaker Jim Valvano that suggests that we should do three things every day: “laugh, think, and be moved to tears.” Audiences in Philadelphia and around the nation have been experiencing all three through the power of spoken word by two young performers.
Femininjas–a poem about Feminist Ninjas written by Charmira Nelson, a junior from Constitution High School and Kai Davis, a senior from Central High School–highlights the contradiction of female strength and the continuing struggle for women’s equality. Kai and Charmira are part of a non-profit organization, Philly Youth Poetry Movement, that provides a safe space for Philadelphia teens to discover the power of their voices through literary expression.
Kai: “The idea for Femininjas came when our friend threatened to karate chop someone for a misogynist comment. Our coach took the event and flipped it into a prompt. He just said, ‘Femininjas,’ and told us to just write it, so we did.”
“I am most deeply inspired by life in general. It is so complex and can be picked apart in many different ways. I aspire to leave some sort of mark with my art after I leave this earth. I want people to look back on my work and think: ‘She really had something important to say.'”
Charmira: “I’m inspired by trials, because even through conflicts humans become more motivated to do better. I aspire to create a stepping stone for young adults who find it hard to find themselves. I’d like to say if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Having confidence and pride in yourself will carry you through.”
Too often we find ourselves questioning the motivations of our elected leaders (and of each other) when motivation could be used as a collective force to move our country forward. This is particularly true with our youth, whose optimism and energy has been the catalyst for some of the most dramatic shifts in policy and change in our country’s history.
Jim Valvano died less than two months after his famous speech and after a year-long battle with cancer. Before he died he established The V. Foundation For Cancer Research whose motto is: “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up.” The Foundation’s message also seems timely and relevant for those looking to rid America of another type of cancer: partisanship.
PYPM offers literary arts education programming for youth ages 13-19 that promotes creative expression, critical literacy, life skills, and civic engagement. For more information visit: phillyyouthpoets.org.