Bermuda Poetry Team Impress in Philadelphia

July 21, 2014

After four days of workshops, community service, and friendly competition, the Bermuda team is returning home from the International Brave New Voices Poetry and Spoken Word Festival in Philadelphia.

Hannah Smith (16), Rakaya Simmons (15),, Dascha Choudhury (16), Bryn Thomas (18), Ashanti Stovell (17), Treasure Tannock (15) and Marquedelle Rodriguez (18) represented Bermuda well both on and off the stage.

Team Bermuda left their mark at the 2014 Brave New Voices poetry and spoken word festival by lending their voices to town hall meetings specifically for the youth, that covered of socioeconomic disparity, gender and racial discrimination among other things.


Fellow participants in the conference shared how Bermuda offered a unique perspective that both enlightened and inspired them. While they did not make it to the final stage the team was part of the lineup for The Best of BNV Show, where poets are nominated on the merit of their performances in the Quarterfinal round.

These are pieces that hold particular gravity that moved judges and festival staff to make the poem available to the broader festival community. Team Captain, Bryn Thomas also had the opportunity to share an individual poem on SpokenHeard online radio as one of the international youth poets at the conference.

While, Treasure Tannock took part in the MC Olympics, which identifies the number one rapper/mc at the conference. Although she did not take the title she made a promise to fellow competitors that she wouldn’t go so easy on them next time.

In addition to the competitions the group took part in enhancing an urban community garden, leaving messages of inspiration at the Institute of Contemporary Art and made a start to building connections that could potentially last a lifetime.

The Brave New Voices Festival brings together a large community of young poets in a supportive environment allows them to explore intimate issues, like weight, anxiety, menstruation, stereotypes and cultural identity.

Although a big step in joining a global network of empowered young people, The Brave New Voices national poetry slam is not the end of the Break The Chains Poetry & Spoken Word Program year.

On their return the young people will not only be featured in a finale poetry and sharing the event, but they will also remain committed to sharing poetry at community events and take the lessons they’ve learned back to their respective schools to build and maintain a truly national sampling of poets to represent Bermuda across festivals, competitions and communities around the globe. .

“I am glad that I was able to attend this festival,” said Rakaya Simmons, 15, the youngest member of the 2014 Break The Chains team. “I have never experience a place where everyone is so open and easy to talk to. Hearing other peoples poetry made me realize that I am not the only one that goes through some of the things I’ve gone through. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Chewstick Foundation Administrator, Deidra-Lee Bean said: “Poetry gives people of all ages an outlet, it is not only an avenue to channel creativity but it gives the ability to reflect, to spark meaningful conversation and brings the opportunity to share experiences that can connect us.Poetry offers solace and life skills.

“Taking part in this conference our young people become more thoughtful, more conscious and better equipped to communicate on their own behalf while respecting the perspectives and insights of others. ”

Sharing her sentiments, the Education Director for Break The Chains offered, “This program is not about building better poets, but better people. Participation in BNV is necessary for growth of family of craft and of experience; it takes poetry from being something on a page and makes it a tangible moving thing it makes poetry more than anything, necessary.”

The team returns today on flight on US Airways flight 824, members of the public are welcome to come to the airport to greet the team, ask about their experience and gain more information about the Break The Chains program and ways they can help. Information on this and other Chewstick Foundation programs, is also available at

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