BOOST Speakeasy- Celebrating Youth Voice
Kids are not a single mold and this morning we give youth a voice and platform to celebrate and express who they are and what they believe in. Step inside the BOOST Speakeasy and be inspired by personal stories, poetry, struggle and resilience by some of the most dynamic youth voices today.
Adriana Ibanez is a Filipino-American transgender woman who began public speaking at the start of her high school career. She focuses on raising the consciousness of the people around her on what it means to be transgender, advancing intersectionality by incorporating a “we are all people” theme in her speeches. Adriana works with human rights and educational groups that encourage the understanding of the experiences of LGBTQ people, and plans to continue doing so. Her ultimate aim is to ensure the acceptance of LGBTQ people in society, not just mere tolerance.
Merveille Kouekabakilaho (pronounced Koue-ka-ba-ki-la-ho) is an 18-year-old young lady brought into the world by Justine and Alphonse, who were not supposed to be able to have children. She is the fourth child amongst six children.
She came to the United States as a Congolese refugee at the age of 16 after living in war and refugee camps for 13 years. As a young refugee in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she did not have access to education, and that continues to impact her life today. Before coming to the US, she received only one year of formal education. Now, as an immigrant in the United States, she has access to education but faces the discouraging realities of what it is like to be supported as an English language learner in the American public school system. Nonetheless, she continues to fight hard to overcome her barrier and is scheduled to graduate high school this year, on time and as a college-bound student. In spite of all the setbacks and hardships, she has found her courage of character and her voice as an intelligent and powerful young woman.
Merveille attends Hoover High School in San Diego and is active in Talent Search Club and College Avenue Compact. She is also active in the Ocean Discovery Institute’s programs, including a science research experience in Baja California and, most recently, a college access program where she works one-on-one with a mentor to apply to college. In her spare time Merveille likes to listen to and deliver spoken word, and cook.
She many passions including writing in French or Lari, the language of the Congo, because until she is ready to share herself with you, she wants her words to be disguised in unfamiliar languages. She plans to attend college in the fall and studymedicine to become a doctor.
After winning a slam poetry competition, in June, athis school, 14-year-old Royce Mann was surprised when the school’s on-line video reached 40,000 views.The video of this performance was soon taken down when the school could no longer monitor the comments. In his controversial poem,"White Boy Privilege," Royce tackles the difficult but necessary subject of racism, white privilege, injustice, inequality, police brutality and exclusion.
A few days later his mother casually reposted the video to share with family. It soon had 100,000 views. Then half a million.
Equally as powerful is his second poem, "All Lives Matter, but...", which he premiered on national television in July and has been viewed well over 6 million times.
As uncomfortable as these topics may be, sometimes divisive and all too often avoided by many, Royce has intentionally chosen to be vocal about them and other societal injustices.
Royce’s keen awareness of social issues grew while he was “unschooled” by his parents from infancy through seventh grade. Unschooling is a teaching method where parents allow the children to discover the world, and essentially educate themselves, through exploration, curiosity, and natural life experiences. Last year, in eighth grade, Royce enrolled at a private school in Atlanta that continued the learner-driven education that he was used to. He believes that, “School should be about giving kids a platform to create their own opinions, to think creatively, to express themselves through art, and to interact with others. Those will be the skills needed later in life.”
The course, "Race, Class, and Gender" at Royce’s new school opened his eyes to the prevalence of white male privilege in this country and others around the world.
With the millions of views that his poems have received, not all have been positive. Royce has been targeted by white supremacist groups, neo-Nazi’s, and others refusing to believe that white privilege exists. But through turmoil and hateful messages that could rattle any adult, this 14-year-old remains hopeful. He’s not defensive or angry; he believes people simply do not understand the concept of privilege because it is not taught in our schools.
The instant notoriety has afforded Royce the opportunities to be interviewed by and share his powerful message and tender heart on several prestigious media outlets such as: CBS, CNN, FOX News, radio shows and many blogs. He's appeared on national talk shows, The Preachers (in July) and TD Jakes Show, on the OWN Network.
Even more exciting, he's been retweeted, with amazing comments of encouragement and praise, by many Hollywood celebs, namely Shonda Rhimes, Taraji P. Henson, Talib Kweli, Dule Hill, Tracee Ellis Ross, Trey Songz, Matthew Modine even Khloe Kardashian (where he has well over 3.7 million views on her IG Page).
This young and powerful poet stays even-keeled through both the negative and positive attention. In between flying around the country to speak at events, partaking in interviews, finishing homework, and spending time with family, Royce still manages to find time to “be a kid.” He plays basketball, baseball, ultimate Frisbee, and competes in a bowling league. (“My high is 248!”) He plans on continuing to write and use his words as a platform to inspire people to address major social issues in our society. “Whenever I see something in the news, or hear something that needs to be talked about that’s an injustice, or even something positive, I’ll try and write about it and share it with the world.”