When all that’s being taught in schools is just reading, writing and arithmetic, we are not only disempowering children to solve their own problems but are also stymying our ability to create leaders who have a voice and will solve global problems such as climate change, threats to democratic institutions and widespread sexism and local problems, like that of making an informed choice. Because of the lack of a holistic curriculum, spaces and experiences that empower them with a voice, our children are left ill-equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. Children from underprivileged backgrounds often do not have a choice in what their lives are like, there’s also a lack of space for them to express themselves and be understood. One of the most effective tools to enable their voice is through art.
Although there is no set definition for art, it can generally be said to be a creative act of expression that employs our skill and imagination to make something that is original. Thomas Merton famously quotes, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”, signifying the way that art is a deeply personal activity that both helps us explore who we are and also directly expands our experience of who we are.
Art also helps us enhance our perception of the world, our connection and communication with others, and our quality of emotional and physical living. Since there is no clear-cut way of defining art, it is also infinitely flexible in the mediums used to create it. Directly through the body: as in music, dance, theatre, and so on, and through mediums separate from the body: as in painting, poetry, sculpture, and so on.
Slam Out Loud was founded by Jigyasa Labroo and Gaurav Singh, after having met during their Teach For India Fellowship in 2014. Since then, we have held short-term engagement workshops with 3500 school-going children and 500 college students, and another 1000 children and youth through the Jijivisha Fellowship. Awareness projects have been held within and outside the city such as the Spoken Word Fest, Assessment Roundtable, National Youth Poetry Slam, and other showcases of our work.
What Slam Out Loud aims to do is to provide people with access to, and understanding of these mediums in a way that combines the arts with education and leadership. We do this by enabling artistic activities and arts-based learning in at-risk communities, such as those who are limited by their socio-economic, physical, or social status. Our fundamental aim is this: to give everyone a voice that empowers them to change their lives.
Our work ranges from working with learning spaces (such as in classrooms and in other formal and informal learning centres for drop-out children as well as in Tihar Jail), hosting workshops to providing other kinds of help, spanning over 26 unique learning spaces. By providing access to space for art based learning that is traditionally inaccessible to individuals in at-risk communities, we build in them 21st-century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, fostering leadership that can drive universal change.
The diverse group of children, youth and prisoners that we work with, in these communities discover their voices through the transformational power of the arts enabling them to become creative thinkers who dream bigger, achieve more and create the future.
This access to arts is provided through highly skilled and committed artists, who embark on our 9-month fellowship program, The Jijivisha Fellowship, transforming the communities they work with and themselves into lifelong leaders of the movement of arts for social change.
Through workshops taken by the artists and current teachers, we ensure that the needs of the entire collaborative association are met. While all our programs are directed towards our purpose, they look different from each other, each program achieves that mission in various ways, and to varying degrees of measured success.
For one of our most recent events, on the 13th of May, we gathered for an open mic and mini-workshop event that was hosted by the Slam Out Loud kids. They took the participants through various steps of writing poems—from a three-line poem to individual performances—all done with unmatched enthusiasm, warmth, and professionalism. The kids completely took charge of the event and confidently insisted: “Of course you can do it!” “Of course you can write!”,” Of course, you can do anything you want to!”
The goal of this workshop was to perpetuate the belief that everyone can engage in the arts in a meaningful and satisfying way. We aim to make everyone see that they are special and unique, and that their voice is as important as anyone else’s. By the end of the event, a storm had begun outside, becoming wilder and wilder by the minute. It seemed that the sky too had found its voice and was sharing its poem with the rest of us!
Art in its many forms, whether it be poetry, theatre, or storytelling, is a very direct way of channelling this uniqueness and transforming it into something that goes beyond the realm of everyday experiences. The easiest way to make your life extraordinary is by creating! At Slam Out Loud, we keep these things in mind to help others lead extraordinary lives, full of joy and originality. Laughter, of course. And most of all: growth.