Jazmyn Spikes

Home-School Youth Flourishes Through Spoken Word
Written By: Desirae Lee

Music programs are constantly in danger of being cut from shrinking public school budgets even though they’re proven to improve academic performance. According to DoSomething.og Federal funding for the arts and humanities rolls in around $250 million a year, while the National Science Foundation is funded around the $5 billion mark.DSC_0101

Jazmyn Spikes, a 13-year-old youth poet and a now home-schooled student, has experienced first hand negative effects of the shortage of the arts in public schools.

“Being home-schooled helps my creativity. When I was in public school I always had to worry about [home]work, that’s what I can see in my teammates who all go to public school.”

The team mates Spike refers to are part of the Jacksonville Youth Poetry Slam (JYPS) sponsored team P.O.M.E (Product Of My Environment). JYPS was founded in 2004 with a goal to promote literacy, public awareness and critical thinking in young people through the use of poetry/spoken word, music and visual arts.

This year, a team of five youth poets will travel to Washington D.C. July 12th-16th for an international poetry festival called Brave New Voices (BNV) to represent Jacksonville.
The festival is a yearly gathering for poets, activists, artists, teachers, and youth to engage in workshops, emcee battles, slam competitions, and more.

Before joining the team, Spike had never even heard of BNV. Now, she is excited to meet new poets from all over the world and learn from them. She is also excited to learn more about herself through the process. “Up until a few weeks ago I’d never written a poem about myself. Now I’m working on getting more personal. I think I could do better writing more personal pieces,” said Spikes.

I spoke with Spike a few hours before one of team P.O.M.E’s several weekly practices. She describes the team as; “Very loving. But I like how we all have our fun moments and can still be serious at the end of the day.” Spike admits it is a tone she did not quite expect when she made it on the team.

This past April, Spike competed in a city-wide slam poetry competition. She placed high enough to land a spot on team P.O.M.E. Coming in as a true underdog, and one of the youngest members, Spike jumped several personal hurdles just to compete to be a part of Jacksonville’s BNV team. “Usually I don’t like speaking in front of a crowd, I still fidget here and there. But overall I’ve become more confident as a person,” said Spike.

She has only been writing poetry for a year and decided to try spoken word because of “…the energy you can feel while you’re in the crowd. Everything else I tried had no love. It was too strict.”

Spike equates being on stage with a unique energetic freedom. Although Spike does not describe herself as an emotional person, she says poetry has helped her become more expressive and understand who she is. “It [poetry] has helped me to explain myself. I would usually just try to hide what I’m feeling. Before poetry, I had no one to talk to, “said Spike. Jazz2

Finally, being around a new group of teens her age is what pushes her to really try her best to communicate with her teammates. Spike’s personal goal this summer is “…for the team to get along so that we can work better together. If we’re not a family how are we going to do four mans [poems with four performers]? Our energy has to match and we have to be a family.”

Biweekly practices, now tri-weekly as the July BNV date approaches, began in April. Spike and her teammates have spent plenty of time together but every relationship or goal takes work and Spike didn’t expect such a high level of intensity; “I knew there was going to be a lot of work, but it’s so different than what I have seen. It was more on a serious note.”

As a former BNV team captain I can empathize with her shock. There is always going to be an adjustment period after you realize what you love doing requires the most discipline to become better. Spike is so young, and after just one brief conversation and hearing her talk about poetry I have faith that she will grow exponentially on this road to BNV. She is a self proclaimed curious soul, joyful heart, and a natural learner. All great qualities that will make her a better artist.

Already, Spike has a few words of wisdom for fellow and aspiring poets; “Just be yourself, I had to learn the hard way, it’s always better to be what you are than what you aren’t.”