American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) “If I Could Change the World” Spoken Word project is getting attention all over the Kansas City area. AFSC Program Coordinator Ira Harritt and Peace Interns Joshua Smith, Isabella Fassi, and Pearl Webb, carried out the project to encourage and engage young people in social action. The project was conducted in collaboration with The Writers Place and area spoken word artists.

The “If I Could Change the World” project is one of AFSC's Kansas City youth civic engagement projects. It compels the young people to think about the world they want to see, and how they can encourage people around them to reach for a better world through the art of spoken word poetry.

Ira, the interns, and local spoken word artists went out to school, youth organizations, and community centers, to train young people to create and perform spoken word poetry. The participating groups included Christ Presbyterian Church, CAIR Middle and High Schools (Grandview), Bishop Ward High, KC Academy, and DeLaSalle Charter School.

Watch Vanisha perform “If I could change the world”

She begins:

You want to make a change in the world,
but then again you sit down and don’t say one word.
I know you might be scared, but let’s go help the homeless,
the people that are hopeless.
Let’s go stop discrimination,
the people that stick with one nation. 

More performances are available on YouTube.

If you don't see a video above, please refresh the page.

Following the training, youth were invited to an all-day revision and rehearsal workshop. The youth received feedback from local artists, who encouraged them to be bold in front of a crowd.

Miguel Hernandez, a senior at Alta Vista Charter High School, commented, “The spoken word artists helped me build my confidence.”

Chloe Asbury, student from Olathe Northwest High School reflected, "There were some mind-awakening questions, and I talked and got everything I wanted to say out.”

Once the workshop was complete, the tour began. (Watch their performances on YouTube.) The youth have been invited to perform their poetry about social change at five venues, including The Blue Room, The Writer’s Place, Troost Festival, Synergy Youth Resiliency Center, and Visions for Peace Festival at the June First Friday Art Walk.

AFSC staff, the interns, and the spoken word artists are proud of what these amazing young people have accomplished over the last few months. They have shared their talents while juggling school work at the same time and created moving spoken word poetry that conveys their concerns and hopes for the future and our world.

Even in the midst of a spring snow storm that dropped eight inches, the kick-off performance on March 23 at The Writer’s Place was a full house, and the youth wowed all present.

Rachel Asbury, spoken word artist and mother of one of the project participants observed, “Watching the kids blossom over the course of the project was most enjoyable. This was a fantastic idea that was planned and executed to create a beautiful impact. Great job, everyone!”

Upcoming performances

April 20  the Troost Festival, at 12:40 p.m. and 1:50 p.m.

April 24  Synergy Youth Resiliency Center, at 5:30-7 p.m.

May 7  The Blue Room, at 7 p.m.

June 7 – Visions for Peace, at 6-9 p.m.

For more information about the performances and AFSC, please visit afsc.org/office/kansas-city-mo or afsc.org/document/spoken-word-performance-flyer.

Article by Pearl Webb, AFSC Peace Intern