Cecilia Jackson

Written By; Desirae Lee

A slam team’s journey to the Brave New Voices (BNV) competition involves several different people. Coaches, students, sponsors, and team captain each play a unique role to prepare for this annual, five-day poetry festival and slam competition held by Youth Speaks. This year, Jacksonville’s own JYPS (Jax Youth Poetry Slam) team P.O.M.E. (Product of my environment) will be taking a team of five students to participate in the festival.

For months the team will bond through performance and writing workshops, features, and producing a benefit showcase. As a former JYPS team captain, I can say that the true goal for any poetry slam team is to prepare their stories to be received to the best of their ability.

Poetry, and writing in general, is about telling complete stories. It is easy to imagine how the experience will impact a student or a coach, but what about the support system behind each youth poet. I sat down with Cecelia Jackson, mother of veteran Brave New Voices participant Benache Dore. She expresses how being a part of the Jacksonville slam team not only changed her son’s life, but her life as well.


CJ: My name is Cecilia Jackson. I’m a parent of a shatter poetry student. And my son was involved in BNV (Brave New Voices) a few years back and so was I. It encouraged him to broaden his creativity as far as writing and spoken word. It’s helped him to face the public and speak for himself in a positive way.

DL: What do you feel your role was/is as a parent of a poet? Did you ever find yourself adjusting your parenting style for him?

CJ: I did not have to change my parenting style per say. I was blessed to become a parent to some of the other kids. All the other young people in the program, they gravitated towards Benache’s mom. I mothered them with joy. They had a lifestyle I wasn’t accustomed to and I know they needed love. And that’s what I gave them.
I was encouraged by their desire to do spoken word, poetry and writing. It was a good thing to see them to help my own parenting style for Benache. He’s always been a very determined person. Once he set his mind to doing something he has drive and passion. It doesn’t require much of me because I knew that’s who he was. I just encouraged him and was there to be that mother figure, along with his dad so he could express himself. We were there for him and he did very well in the poetry group.

DL: What was the most impactful or most meaningful experience you witnessed with being so involved with the Jacksonville youth slam team?

CJ: Yes. One thing that really stands out in my mind was us being able to attend Brave New Voices in California. The kids had an awesome time. They had a team of about eight people, including Benache. That whole experience with them being on a college campus before they got to [leave home], that was beautiful. They were not in college yet but they got that experience. Then they got to go and do the performances in front of an audience with such caliber! Everything was well put together. It was just beautiful. It was a joy to watch. All of that came together for the kids. They were exposed, they were able to witness other kids involved in the same thing compete. The love the kids had for one another who shared the same interests was phenomenal. I loved that. I’m glad I was able to see that. I recommend if any kid has this opportunity, that the parent allows them [to go]. It will change their life. Being able to express themselves will change them. It can transform them. It puts them in a whole other world, and it makes them better.

DL: What would you like to tell the current members of JYPS?

CJ: What I can say is that they have an avenue to express themselves. In their writing it should come through powerfully. Once they write something, don’t be afraid to express it. For everything it took to write [your poem] give it that same expression. I think with that they will be fine.
DL: How, if at all, did being a part of a slam team and change your life?

CJ: It did. At times I think all these kids [in Jacksonville] they don’t have anything to do. But I didn’t know these things were happening until my son became a part of it. Once I found out what it was about my life changed because I was eager to know more and to be a part more and more. So I became a regular [at the shows] and they just blessed me.

I loved poetry, even as a child. I realized it was a available here for the kids. This changed my life because I was able to live my dream through my son. I hate to say it but it was a wonderful thing. I wanted him to shine. I’ll sit back and look, but I was every bit a part of the passion.