Fresh from his trip to the United Nations, where he performed in the Barbershop Conference and tackled issues like gender inequality, Kyle Tran Myhre (Guante) is back in town working with youth as they vie for spots in the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam.
When he was approached to be a part of the U.N. conference, Guante was surprised. He thinks it had something to do with writings on gender and sexism. His piece "10 Responses to the phrase 'Man Up'" went viral, and was posted on Upworthy, the Good Men Project, and Feministing. Another piece he wrote, "Action," addressed sexual assault and men's responsibilities to talk about it with other men.
Last year, Emma Watson (a.k.a. Hermione) gave a kick-ass speech about how men need to embrace feminism. Some world leaders took notice, which prompted the conference. The ambassador of Iceland told Guante how Watson's speech inspired him to be more pro-active in how we encourage men to get involved in gender issues.
The conference wasn't the type of space he usually finds himself. "I don't think I could say it wasn't just bizarre," he says. As a takeaway, he found there's clearly more work to be done, but in all "it was really positive," he says.
Back in the Twin Cities, Guante is putting his energy into TruArtSpeaks. Headed by Tish Jones, the organization supports the BE Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series while offering open-mic nights and workshops in schools.
The Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam Series runs each year from January to March, starting off with preliminary rounds and then moving on to semi-final bouts and finals at the end of March. The top six finals become the team that represents Minnesota at the Brave New Voices youth poetry slam festival, held in Atlanta this year.
Guante helps out with the public relations end of TruArtSpeaks, but also gets a chance to be hands on with the youth with school visits and residencies, facilitating workshops, and working with the team doing coaching. "It's a good mix," he says.
So far, the prelim bouts have been completely packed.
Everyone is a tight-knit group. "We all pitch in, help out, and attend practices," he says. One of his favorite parts of the process is working with the team to polish their pieces and challenge each other as writers and performers.
For him, the power of spoken word isn't so much about the poetry as it is about having a platform to "stand up in front of people and talk about whatever you want to talk about in whatever way you want to talk about it," he says. "I think of spoken word as a form of independent media. It allows us to have conversations we don't get to usually have."
IF YOU GO:
The next preliminary round of the Be Heard MN festival is 6 p.m. Friday, January 30
Black Dog Café
308 Prince St., St, Paul
Semi-finals are on March 6 at Intermedia Arts, and the finals are on March 13 at the Rarig Theater.