Event Allows Teens to Express Themselves through Art, Spoken Word

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Students from Des Moines area high schools met for the third annual Teen Summit Friday.

The event gives them several ways to express themselves through art and spoken word.

"It’s basically coming together, and fellowshipping and understanding each other’s stories,” said Elnondra Brazzle, a junior at East High School.

The summit took on some heavy topics this year including white privilege, the 'N' word and the media's influence on society.

“It’s so important that we give our young people safe and brave spaces to have these conversations to grapple with these issues, to learn how to respectively disagree with each other and to just provide them opportunities to be leaders in their community,” said Emily Lang, DMPS Urban Arts coordinator.

Lang helped start the urban leadership class at Central Campus, which has grown from 30 students to more than 100 in three years. The annual summit is a collaboration of everyone's hard work.

“We wanted to create an event that brought young people from all over the city together to discuss social issues, and create art using one of the urban art forms. And we wanted it to be youth led, youth produced,” Lang said.

The two-day event offers town hall-style meetings and artistic workshops like graffiti writing, street art and spoken word poetry.

“One really cool part about Run DSM is it’s for youth by youth. And I love the fact that they’re giving teenagers the power to have their voices heard,” said Jalesha Johnson, a junior at East High School.

Johnson helped lead one of the town halls and said the event has provided a safe place for teens to tackle social issues head-on.

“I think it’s important that we have it in Des Moines, because a lot of times, people think Iowa is perfect and corn. But there are problems here. I think it’s really important that we have an outlet to talk about those problems and have people relate to those problems and listen to us,” Johnson said.

The public is invited to a community showcase Saturday featuring the art the teens created as well as a performance from Joshua Bennett, a national poet.

Saturday’s event is free and open to the public. It will be held at Performing Arts Hall on Drake University's campus at 1 p.m.

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