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Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Oakland) and Youth Speaks (San Francisco)

Award: $34,000 Literary Arts grant awarded in 2004

Premiered: 2005

Spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph; the young poets Eli Marienthal, Biko Eisen-Martin, and Chinaka Hodge; composer John Santos; and Youth Speaks collaborated to create Scourge, a hip hop theater piece critically examining the history of Haiti. Also collaborating were choreographers Rennie Harris, Stacey Printz, and Adia Whitaker; director Kamilah Forbes; and dramaturg Roberta Uno.  Performers included the Oakland-based Haitian dance collective RECONNECT. Scourge was presented as a work-in-progress at the Youth Speaks Fourth Annual Living Word Festival in October 2004 and premiered at the Second Annual Bay Area Hip Hop Theater Festival in May of 2005 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum.

The artists fused dance, spoken word, and live music as a means to re-visit the relationship between Haiti, the United States, and other nations in the Caribbean. Scourge also was the story of a young Haitian man, striving to carry the burden of being the first in his family to be born in the United States.

Lead Artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph has been San Francisco’s Poetry Grand Slam winner three times and won the 1999 National Poetry Slam with Team San Francisco. A former teacher with Youth Speaks, at the time this grant was awarded he was a resident artist in Stanford University’s Drama Department.

Youth Speaks is a non-profit literary arts, education, and cultural resource center. It has become a leader in presenting spoken word and hip hop programming, reaching 45,000 people per year with its education, presenting, and producing activities.