Spoken Futures, Inc. is a youth-centered arts and community engagement organization based in Tucson and serving the greater Southern Arizona region. Director Sarah Gonzales works with an all-youth staff on three core programs, the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam, Liberation Lyrics and Kaleidoscope, as well as the La Pilita Cultural Center in Barrio Viejo.
Since 2010 the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS) has provided an open and welcoming forum for writers aged nine to nineteen to express their “words and dreams, applause and screams.” The monthly, audience-judged performance poetry competitions are organized and hosted by youth, with support from adult artist allies. During the 2012-2013 season, over 60 poets from 17 different schools across the region rocked the mic. In addition, TYPS holds frequent “spark performances,” sending teaching artists into schools for assemblies and workshops, reaching thousands of students yearly.
The TYPS is held at Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea, a locally-owned small business which has honored with a Lumie award from the Tucson Pima Arts Council in 2012 in acknowledgement of over 30 years as a private sector supporter of the arts.
Spoken Futures’ second program is Liberation Lyrics, an innovative social justice afterschool program which uses spoken word poetry as a tool to help participants better recognize and understand the systems at work in their communities. The first semester of the program in 2013 was held at Pueblo and Sunnyside high schools in Tucson with the support of a P.L.A.C.E. Initiative Grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Together the teaching artists and youth studied materials, co-lead exercises, wrote and revised poems, aiming to perform them with passion and precision.
Spoken Futures’ final program, Kaleidoscope, uses resources to assist middle and high school students in maintaining safe spaces for queer, trans and allied youth city wide with art that heals and empowers. Kaleidoscope programs spaces for queer and gender nonconforming youth to create art and to hold space for youth to feel empowered in order to create positive social change.
Together, these programs further the Spoken Futures mission, to “widen access to the literary arts and community engagement for young people across Southern Arizona. Through dedication, irreverence and love we use poetry as a tool to dream tomorrow, honor yesterday and live today.”