Too dope to be free


But it is! No ticket price required, but you might want to show up early for the wildly popular Queeriosity. 

It’s Youth Speaks’ annual queer poetry slam. The mostly high school age poets who will lay their stunningly well-worded wisdom upon you will be having fun tomorrow night, but they are not messing around. 

Neither is Youth Speaks. The national San Francisco-based organization works with 30,000 Bay Area youth per year, from school assembly performances to free after school poetry workshops to slams. Veteran Youth Speaks poet Milani Pelley will be co-hosting this year’s Queeriostiy show. Although a raging fire prevented me from meeting up with Pelley in Berkeley today, she told me over the phone about life, art, politics, and the aweomeness that Queeriosity attendees can expect. 

Pelley wrote her first poem at age 12.

“Actually a young lady who also was with Youth Speaks, she got me into writing,” Pelley told me. “In the 7th grade we were kind of tom boys, we were hanging out on the basketball courts and she said hey, want to hear a poem?  And she was little, like five feet,” Pelley laughed. 

“And everyone stopped what they were doing and listened. And after that, I went home and wrote a poem.  Because I said, this is how you get people to listen to you? I want to try it!”

She never stopped. Pelley went to Youth Speaks workshops at age 15, and later served on their Youth Board. She now makes it as an artist, working for Youth Speaks as a Poet Mentor and making jewelry on the side.

Pelley said that poetry sustained her through difficult times. “Once I was able to write down everything that I was going through and work out my pain and sadness I was able to see the bigger picture and really find a solution of how I was going to heal” she told me.

“It was basically me being my own therapist. Because you know how they take notes on you? I was taking notes on myself.”

I asked if Pelley sees her poetry as political.

“I talk about race, or I talk about sexuality, I talk about police brutality. These are regular things in my life,” said Pelley. “But people think it’s political or controversial. And some people think I should be considered pro-woman. People think it’s political because it’s a feminist perspective but I think Its just women being powerful as they should be.”

For one example of the personal-is-political-is-ridiculously-awesome Queeriosity experience, here’s a take on SF Pride from Yosimar Reyes at the 2010 Queeriosity slam.

If that doesn’t convince you, let Pelley: “I definitely think this is going to be an amazing show. It’s free, its way too dope to be free. Personally I think, they should be paying these youths because they’re very courageous, they’re very talented and what is going to be shown tomorrow shouldn’t be missed.”

15th Annual Queeriosity

Fri/15, 7pm

LGBT Center

1800 Market, SF

Related articles

  • In the cut

    Poet Randall Mann's breakthrough 'Straight Razor' slices into gay life now

  • The language of hope

    With its current poet laureate, SF's literary scene is enjoying a poesía en español renaissance

  • Transforming Pride in our schools

    It takes more than a one-time discussion or film screening to support queer youth

  • Also from this author

  • Privatization of public housing

    Many residents feel they're moving from the frying pan of Housing Authority control into the fire of developer and nonprofit management

  • Homeless for the holidays

    Changing demographics in the Bayview complicate city efforts to open a shelter there

  • Betting on Graton

    Newest casino targeting Bay Area residents promises to share the wealth with workers and people of color