Student helps high schoolers find voice

College senior starts poetry program at Kelly Writers House

The Daily Pennsylvanian
April 15, 2005

College senior Talia Stinson has taken on an ambitious senior project -- her goal is to help anyone and everyone find their voice, especially if they feel that they have been silenced.

Stinson interned at the Voice of Philadelphia Project this summer, which aims to increase literacy and creative expression among local high school and middle school students. Stinson was inspired to bring the project to Penn in an attempt to encourage freedom of expression.

"I was always ... silenced, and I hated it," Stinson said, referring to the formation of her own style of creative expression while growing up. "I'm someone who fought back and fought for her own voice ... I thought a lot of people could relate to that."

The project consists of a series of workshops focusing on poetry and spoken word, each led by one of three featured Philadelphia poets -- Davina Stewart, Niama Leslie Williams and Rodney Camarce. The last workshop will be this Saturday afternoon.

Stinson recruited the artists and told them to "design these workshops anyway you want to, this is your forum."

The project will conclude with Eclectic Spoken Word night on Wednesday, April 20, where the three poets and workshop participants will share pieces.

Stinson worked closely with Professor Al Filreis at the Kelly Writers House, where the workshops have been held.

"The important thing about what Talia did is not that she put on a program at the Writer's House, but that she was entrepreneurial about it," Filreis said.

Stinson raised more than $1,200 dollars for the program, and independently set up the project's business plan.

"It's very, very good and important for Penn to open its resources to non-Penn people," Filreis said. Stinson "made connections with lots and lots of voices in the region."

Camarce, one of the featured poets, held a workshop last Saturday focusing on the project's title -- the Voice of Philadelphia.

"I wanted to try to figure out how people use that voice, and poetry, to express a more political voice," Camarce said.

Camarce said he is "for the most part, a visual artist," and uses poetry as a supplement. He feels that poetry was a very effective medium for Stinson's goal.

"The poetry helps ... facilitate conversation and dialogues that don't happen very often," he said.

Filreis agreed.

"Poetry has a special place in culture," he said. "Poetry is associated with asking big questions."

Stinson feels that her project has greatly encouraged this.

"Maybe someone felt like they had been stifled," she said. "People walk out starstruck from these workshops, and they create their own pieces."