In October 2014, Detroit International Academy Spanish teacher Olivia Scheidler and English teacher Lisa Brooks started DIA’s poetry club. By the end of the month, the members became known as queenSpeak.
In their first year, queenSpeak experienced much growth and success. The team competed in their first poetry slam, Michigan’s Louder Than A Bomb at University of Michigan Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone, in March 2015, placing second in the final round. After competing at Michigan LTAB 2016, held at Wayne State, the team’s poem about DPS was featured before the final round. The poem addresses the various issues that DPS students have faced as well as the horrible circumstances many Michigan residents have faced recently, such as the Flint water crisis.
Louder Than A Bomb was just the beginning. Last June, various members of queenSpeak performed at the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Kresge Court for the Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo in Detroit exhibit.
DIA senior Hawa Rahman and DIA alumnae Jazmin Johnson and Sakila Islam also competed in Brave New Voices, an international youth poetry slam festival, last summer in Atlanta. Rahman and Islam’s joint poem “Why Are Muslims So…” was featured before the final round and a YouTube video of the performance has garnered over 100,000 views. The two will be returning to the festival again this summer in Washington D.C.
queenSpeak was also able to host a session for the 2015 Allied Media Conference. AMC is run by Allied Media Projects (alliedmedia.org), which “shares and supports models for using media for transformative social change.” The session focused on forging identity through poetry and the process for writing group poems. queenSpeak will be hosting another session at AMC this year.