On Saturday August 28, 2010, a crowd of people stood in front of the Fresno Art Museum, waiting for the doors to open. Kick Knowledge: A Night of Poetry and Spoken Word by Fresno Youth, was to start in exactly fifteen minutes. As the doors were unlocked and the crowd was allowed in, everyone rushed to their seats, nearly forgetting to pick up the programs for the evening.
Over 120 people, young and old, came out for a night of poetry and spoken word, written and performed by ten youth from The kNOw Youth Media. Some of the poets of the evening even prepared two poems to perform that night.
The event was made possible with support from Building Healthy Communities, an initiative of The California Endowment, and by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.
Sarah Reyes, Senior Program Officer from The California Endowment, remarked how impressed she was by the young people’s initiative to pull this event together and how she felt like the “smartest” person for doing what she felt was the right thing to make this event happen.
The crowd sat and waited patiently as the lights in the Bonner Auditorium dimmed and the spotlight came on for the emcees to introduce the first performer. The first performer for the evening was Miguel Bibanco, 15. It was his first time sharing his poetry in front of such a big crowd. It was the first time for many of the performers that night.
Miguel nervously made his way to the stage to kick off the event that evening and the crowd cheered when he was done.
The evening was full of young, nervous and excited performers who were ready to kick some knowledge. Their poetry and spoken word touched on a broad range of heavy issues such as physical abuse, rape, homelessness, losing their native tongues, and bullying, among others.
Miguel was followed by Jaleesa Vickers, 21, who gave one of the most moving performances of the evening with her deep and reflective poems about overcoming depression. The first half of the event ended with Yee Leng Vang’s poem about his Hmong history and the story of his family moving to America after the Communist takeover of Laos.
Following a brief intermission, the second half began with powerhouse poet Marcus Vega. Also performing during the second half, was Maria Valdez, a 15 year old from Kerman.
Maria touched many people in the audience that evening. She shared about losing her dreams and being taken away from her family by CPS. Her performance was followed by William Thao, 17.
William Thao closed the night with the most emotional performance that evening. His poem not only ended Kick Knowledge with a bang, but tears for some, as William struggled with both his tears and his last words for the evening.
The night ended with a standing ovation from the crowd as the performers all made their way to the stage, joined their hands, and bowed.
The youth walked away feeling accomplished, their months of hard work finally paid off. With all the nervousness and the spotlight shining into their eyes, their knowledge flowed out of their mouths. It was success for many, and the start of more poetry events to come in the near future.