BR’s WordPlay moves forward

by Michael Farrar
January 26, 2012

The WordPlay Teen Writing Project has a new lease on life. Organizers of the former Big Buddy program have started a nonprofit organization called Forward Arts Inc. which now has an office in the Manship Theatre in the Shaw Center for the Arts. This new organization will continue to offer WordPlay workshops as well as workshops on other art forms such as DJing, dance and the culinary arts.

Even though Donney Rose and Chancelier ‘Xero’ Skidmore, the organizers of Forward Arts Inc., are happy with their new space at the Manship Theatre, they still have plans to partner with the Big Buddy program on future projects.

“We are very grateful and proud to be associated with the Big Buddy program,” said Skidmore. “Gaylynne Mack [the executive director of the Big Buddy program] gave us her full blessing and support.”

Both Rose and Skidmore serve as artists/teachers of the WordPlay workshops, which are designed to help refine students’ expressive abilities. The program helps teens improve their verbal and writing skills while gaining confidence.

“We come in as writers, and we see them as writers. So, we see ourselves as mentors who are going to talk to them like fellow writers,” Skidmore explained. “Being able to express yourself artistically or creatively is a powerful skill. They buy music all the time, so we try to connect them to forms of expression they are familiar with.”

One unique example of how Skidmore and Rose reach today’s youth is through a workshop that compares the mega hit “Stan” by rap superstar Eminem to Edger Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven.”

Both Poe and Eminem creatively deal with anger, tragedy and regret. Showing how Eminem’s songwriting can be compared to Poe’s classic poem opens students up to how they can also create communication that reaches people in ways they might not have imagined before.

“Helping young people to have that power is something that creates a greater society,” Skidmore said.

That fits into the Forward Arts vision statement, which reads, “We envision a social landscape in which all people engage with artistic processes, leading to increased dialogue, self-expression, and learning.”

“There is an intelligent side of the youth of our city. I think a lot of times young people in Baton Rouge get a bad rap. But we’ve seen youth poets and artists do great things,” Rose said.

Being a nonprofit organization, Forward Arts Inc. still needs funding in order to make these exceptional projects thrive. Along with monetary donations, Forward Arts is seeking basic office supplies to stock their new workspace.

“We need office furniture right now. We just moved in today. We just have some boxes and a shelf,” said Skidmore with a laugh.

The organization also needs desktop computers (preferably Macs), computer speakers, a modern projector and a portable screen to help with workshops.

All donations are tax deductible and will be used to help the youth of Baton Rouge.

Forward Arts Inc.’s first event is scheduled on Friday, Jan. 13. The event is called The F.A.M. Reunion and features HBO Def Poets Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin as well as performances from local youth and adult artists.

For more information on WordPlay, go to http://wordplaybr.org. For Forward Arts Inc. donation information, please send emails to ForwardArtsBR@gmail.com

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