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“Be Heard. Be Healed” The Poetry of Initiation at the Los Angeles Gathering

From the start, as we began fostering connections and taking stock of who felt called to organize around pulling this gathering off, we engaged with a small number of Los Angeles-based organizations and practitioners around the nuances and themes that come out of LA who would go on to become our host partners.

Chris Henrikson of Street Poets Inc who stepped forward early on, observed, Los Angeles is the “PR system for projecting the West’s collective wounds onto the world.”  The stories coming out of Hollywood continue to promote unsustainable ways of living, perpetuate unequal structures of power, and glorify values that undermine the health of our communities.  At the same time, LA County houses the most incarcerated youth of any county in the world, ripping families apart and initiating young people in the most unintentional, hellacious of ways every day, causing more and more wounding.

About the gathering in 2016, Chris goes on to say: “There is a deeper transformational story surfacing in LA now inspired by many of the earth’s indigenous traditions, those that originated here and those that have found welcoming soil here beneath its gang and violence-plagued streets.  It’s about community rooted in nature, our ancestors, the rebirth of ritual, old wisdom made new. This gathering will be an opportunity to explore and uncover some of those roots and to see how they are supporting social change on the surface of our city – all with the understanding that the antidote for what ails us as a society can be found where the poison is most present.” Street Poets use these dynamics in their approach to working with youth of all kinds through the art of poetry.

The Poet Laureate of LA at the time and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore Luis J. Rodriquez, and the youth of the Young Warriors (a for youth by youth group that has grown from the roots of Tia Chucha’s) joined as host partner’s as well. Tia Chucha’s offers a vehicle by which the voices of young people, authors and artists of all kinds from varied backgrounds and lineages can as one of the Street Poets mantras goes: “Be heard. Be Healed.”

As such, throughout the gathering poetry, language, and the arts, in general, became an enormous method of offering and unpacking wounds and creating a dialog around their healing. We wanted to offer some of the brilliant and soulful work that was shared below:

Poetry (in order of appearance) by Mayda Del Valle,  Dayvon Williams, Chris Henrickson, Art Quiros & Frank Escamilla. Clips taken from “The Poetry of Initiation” workshop offered by Street Poets & from our public event Blessings & Beauty.

The poet laureate of Los Angeles Luis J. Rodriguez (as well an MC of the whole gathering) reading from his 1993 work “Always Running”

Favio Lovos, a Street Poets Youth who was invited to be a witness to the gathering offered his closing reflections in the form of a poem he was currently working on. It was so powerful we asked if he would speak a bit about what poetry meant to him and recite it for us again.

And finally here are 3 Works shared by Dayvon Williams our youth representative from the Youth Justice Coalition. Read Kruti Parekh’s reflection on her time with Dayvon and an elder from the Pine Ridge reservation Becky Chief Eagle HERE.


I come from the grassroots of struggle. The streets and incarceration system where I was thrown away crucially unvalued. In the shoe with no one to talk to but four walls. The streets of a financial struggle where there were days I didn’t know what I was going to eat. In order to get by the struggle I blew trees and drank gin causing a little sin because this foundation is rough and reall!!! Where do I build up?!!! I was founded on parents who were addicts, immediately rolling me into the child welfare system, which was founded on the continuation of breaking up families. I come from a foundation of doing what you have to do to survive. It’s a daily drive, just to get by. Many time I’m out of energy and drained, that’s when I practice my generational addictions and reach for my gin. This my foundation, but I will fight the struggle and move on, I’m rebuilding my grass roots.

A Dream Deferred

I’ve lost, I’ve lost it all! O shall I just say I have a dream deferred? Here I am, stuck viciously in this trap, with no way out. I had plans, I had goals, and a future planned step by step on how I was going to get there. Now there’s a block in my road, a default! A dream deferred. How did this happen? Why?! So here I am, lost, with no direction to my next move. I’ve worked so hard for this, took flight and faced my fears. Then strong wind in the pretty blue skies caused massive turbulence. I crashed and burned, energy drained, feeling things words can’t express! A dream deferred. Back to the pits and grounds of earth this gravity has pulled me to, I just plant new seeds while I’m stuck in this rain. But while the sun rises to make its contributions for me to grow, I will search, I will work, utilize and exhaust all my resources just as this heartless world has exhausted me, and I will not, I repeat, I will not have a dream deferred.



I am the rose that grew from the concrete budded stones, rocks, cement, drug vials, and addiction from an unhealthy environment. Those are my roots. My colors faded slowly, nobody ever gave me any water or put me in the sun. How am I to survive? I wondered at that stage why nobody offered to repair me? So I started taking steps on my own wondering and trying to figure out” what grows in the midst of all this chaos?! I started to navigate my way through this environment, reflecting my past and visualising my future. So I found new ingredients. Over time I started to notice the color of my rose was brightening. My leaves were stronger! My ingredients had changed. So I look back having reflections of emotional abuse, drug vials, and addictions, poverty and an unhealthy environment and I see as I move forward, looking in the mirror at my reflections and a new healthy environment. The weather always changes, its rebuilding the roots, that will get you through it all. The weather isn’t a reflection of me, my choices reflect my weather.

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