The grass-roots nonprofit group will host a Teen Poetry Slam at the Kentwood library on Thursday, followed by a fundraising masquerade party to help make a difference in youths’ lives.
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For Marcel “Fable the Poet” Price, earning the title of poet laureate for the city of Grand Rapids has not been his greatest achievement.
In fact, when it comes to making a difference in his community and for others he meets along the way, his work is just getting started.
Beyond being Grand Rapids’ youngest poet laureate – and the first person of color to be awarded the title – Fable is using his title and opportunities to affect youth in West Michigan communities. And he isn’t alone.
Joined by local poet-activists Rachel Gleason and Foster (aka, “AutoPilot”), the trio of wordsmiths works tirelessly as The Diatribe, a nonprofit collective. The group visits schools across the area to help the students express themselves, publicly recite pieces they write, talk about the issues they face and, generally, lift each other up.
“These students will be the next generation of artists and poets,” Fable said of the students. “We are setting ourselves up to continue to become a thriving city of art and poetry. It is incredible: In every facet of our community, everyone is so brave.
“They use this to unwind, to vent, to remember that they are not the only ones who feel this. For them to find this here, it’s incredible. Our students are those same people, who want to share those stories. And nine times out of 10, the first time they get up there, they are shaking like a leaf. But they grow, and what they achieve and accomplish is amazing.”
A GRASS-ROOTS ORGANIZATION WITH BIG PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Students featured in a video about The Diatribe described it as an outlet for their creativity and a way to share their perspective on life. “It’s nice to be able to get things off of your chest and just kind of spill your guts onto paper,” one student remarked. Said another: “You just feel really good after you read your poem because people can learn what you’re going through.” (Watch video below.)
The three members of The Diatribe first met through an inclusive ArtPrize exhibit that was designed to be easily accessible to people who were blind or deaf: All written words were in Braille, and all videos were closed-captioned. Several groups of students went through the event and plans for what would eventually become The Diatribe began to fall into place.
The Diatribe is truly a grass-roots effort, Fable insisted, with plans under way to raise funds to acquire property that could be used as a theater for the group’s activities, including after-school programs for area students to further pursue their writing and self-expression.
Fable is confident this capacity to help is where his journey has brought him now, with less touring and traveling so he can focus more attention on this local nonprofit.
“To see it come full circle is truly incredible,” Fable said. “There are not a lot of nonprofits like it. We work with so many students, but we’re really grassroots. We have become very well-known and respected. It’s kind of cool.”
THURSDAY’S POETRY SLAM AND FUND-RAISING PARTY
The public this week will get a chance to see some of these students in action. The Diatribe is hosting the third annual “Find Your Voice: Teen Poetry Slam” at the Richard L. Root (Kentwood) Branch of the Kent District Library at 6 p.m. Thursday. Get more information about the event online here.
“These are kids that we’ve worked with, and kids from other schools who we have reached out to, saying, ‘Hey, you have a voice: You need to share this,’” Fable said. “We want to show kids that their voice has value, and their voice has weight. If people want to see some incredible young kids read their incredible work, the event is free, and totally open to the public. It is a great chance to see how great and creative our youth really are.”
At 9 p.m. that same evening (April 26), The Diatribe will kick off its first “Fun’Raiser” of the year at The Waldron Public House in downtown Grand Rapids, an event that’s open to the public. Proceeds from the masquerade party featuring DJ sets by AB (Adrian Butler) and DJ Omega Supreme will help make summer programming free to students participating in Diatribe programs every year. The event encourages attendees to wear masks and there will be masks and T-shirts for sale, along with information on Diatribe programming and ways people can support youth poetry and performing arts. Tickets are $15; get details online here.
Next year, Fable said the group hopes to start publishing students’ work and begin an online competition with cash prizes for students who are not only dynamic poets but active in their community.
He said he has more ideas on how to advance The Diatribe, as well as the organization’s reach and impact on local youth.
“Every single day, in every single classroom we’re in, I learn more about myself, I learn more about our students, and how to be a better educator and individual,” Fable said in a recent Michigan Radio spotlight on the Diatribe. “It makes me fall in love with our programming, even more. And seeing them do the same … makes it worth it.”
For more information on The Diatribe, visit thediatribe.org online.
VIDEO: The Diatribe
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