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Lafayette’s At-Risk Children Learn Spoken Word Poetry

Jul 01, 2016 11:14AM ● By Press Release

Every Friday, students at the Lafayette Parish Juvenile Detention Center in Lafayette, Louisiana gather to study, practice and perform spoken word poetry.

Spoken word students at the JDC face enormous psychological, social, and financial difficulties. Incarcerated juveniles are disproportionately from impoverished families, and represent our most at-risk and underprivileged children. Among detained juveniles, 24.5% of them will experience recidivism within three years.

Teaching detained children is particularly difficult with a restrictive environment and a continuously changing group of children. But spoken word artist Alex “PoeticSoul” Johnson gives these children the tools and opportunity to educate and express themselves artistically. Each week, she teaches a rotating group of kids, ages 11-17—from one to ten at a time—how to convert their fears and frustrations into positive, life-affirming art.

Most recently, a group of thirty students wrote, edited, and directed the poem “Eyes of the Sun,” which PoeticSoul then composed and recorded as a spoken-word-and-music video. In April 2016, she presented the video at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC, where a national audience of poets and activists learned of our children’s efforts, returning videos and notes of encouragement. Through experiences like this, these children get to see the quality of their own hard work. They have the chance to learn that, by transforming their anger and frustration into something positive, they can produce wonderful fruit. The video can be viewed at

Alex “PoeticSoul” Johnson is a UL Student Senior Marketing Major and the founder and manager of Lyrically Inclined, an organization that hosts spoken word events in Lafayette, at places like the Acadiana Center for the Arts, the Festival of Words, Cité des Arts, and Black Café. She encourages the people of Lafayette and Acadiana to take this opportunity to encourage our incarcerated children, and help guide them onto a more creative and fulfilling path.