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    Bayou Soul Youth Literary Conference returns to BRCC, July 2

    Baton Rouge Community College will once again be home to The Bayou Soul Youth Literary Conference. The 6th annual conference will be held on Tuesday, July 2 in the Magnolia Theatre, 201 Community College Drive, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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    Toya Wright

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    Lance Gross

    The conference will feature master class and empowerment breakout sessions, a preview of the forthcoming stage play, “Voices from the Bayou,” an oratorical contest, and celebrity authors and guest speakers, including Lance Gross (Star, Fox) and Toya Wright (T.I. & Tiny: Friends and Family Hustle, VH1), among others.

    The event is free and open to Louisiana high school students and BRCC students, although registration is required at bswliteraryconference.com.

    In the spirit of this year’s theme, Empowering Young Voices, students will have the opportunity to participate in a Maya Angelou-inspired oratorical contest presented by Angelou’s niece Sabunmi Woods and great-niece Samyra Woods. The daylong event will also feature a preview of the stage play, “Voices from the Bayou,” based on BRCC student narratives from the book of the same name, that explores racism, police brutality, and the historic flood. Actor Lamman Rucker (Greenleaf, OWN) will star in the production, written for the stage by Clarence Nero, assistant professor of English at BRCC, and directed by Andrew Vastine, managing director of Swine Palace Theatre at LSU. The preview will also feature monologues performed by LSU MFA students, as well as song and dance performances that highlight events that occurred in Baton Rouge in the summer of 2016.

    Schedule of Events

    10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Preview of the “Voices from the Bayou” play, starring actor Lamman Rucker

    1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. – Master Class/Empowerment Breakout Sessions (Participants choose one)

    • Acting, Drama, Entertainment – led by actor Lance Gross and publicist Love Logan
    • Poetry – led by BRCC professors Carrie Causey and Eric Elliott
    • Creative Writing – led by literary agent and editor Maxine Thompson and BRCC professor and author Clarence Nero
    • Culinary Arts – led by Lauren Von Dor Pool, chef for celebrities Common, Venus Williams and Serena Williams
    • Arts & Crafts – led by Sabunmi Woods and Smyra Woods
    • Visual Arts/Painting – led by Sharika Mahdi, Essence Magazine Emerging Artist 2015
    • Empowerment Seminar For Young Girls – led by dating expert, Monique Kelley (NBC’s Access Hollywood Live) and BRCC faculty members Carolyn Smith, Bea Gymiah and Shelisa Theus
    • Empowerment Seminar Young Men – led by Lamman Rucker, Hilton Webb, and Kent Nichols

    3 p.m. to 4 p.m. –

    • Dr. Maya Angelou Oratorical Essay Contest presented by Sabunmi Woods and Smyra Woods, nieces of Angelou

    The program is made possible through the support of the Office of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, RECAST, BRCC Foundation, and BRCC’s Student Government Association.

    ONLINE: bswliteraryconference.com

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    ‘Voices from the Bayou’ pulls powerful, emotional writing from BRCC students

    When Baton Rouge Community College professor Clarence Nero and his teaching colleagues walked into their classrooms for the first time after the tumultuous summer of 2016—a summer that in Baton Rouge had seen the murders of Alton Sterling and innocent police officers as well as historic flood—they had no idea what to expect from students.

    This wasn’t any ordinary semester at Baton Rouge Community College. Many enrolled students had lost their homes due to flooding; most were still reeling from the shootings and the subsequent protests and riots that rocked the capital city. There were students who had been traumatized in ways that defied simple explanations.

    Not only did Nero understand that they were in pain—he had lived with and through the same hellish nightmare that summer—he was determined to let them give expression to their experiences and reactions. Having seen this type of racial tension fuel students’ creativity in the film “Freedom Writers,” based on actual classroom experiences of Erin Gruwell, Nero showed the movie to students in his English classes.voices from the bayou

    The result was an instant connection: the diverse women and men in Nero’s classes identified with the students in Gruwell’s class who had shared stories of frustration and pain growing up in racially hostile, violent communities in South Central Los Angeles.

    Before long, students were sharing their own stories, too, writing narratives and engaging in intense conversations in the classroom around race in south Louisiana. The idea caught on around the college; other professors similarly challenged their students, and the school’s Creative Writing Club members joined in the effort. Students who had begun the semester in varying states of distress were writing powerful and unforgettable accounts of their shared experiences coming of age in the South.

    Voices from the Bayou was born: a collection of heartwarming and heartbreaking narratives told by college students who bravely put it all on the line during a time when our country is most divided, after a contentious presidential election. Their courageous stories of dealing with racism, the police, and the flood in Baton Rouge will leave an indelible impression, reminding readers that our young people are ever watching and their voices must be heard and studied for peace and humanity’s survival.

    The BRCC Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit, has generously aided in the publication of this collection of student narratives. All proceeds from sales of this book will go towards the foundation; in turn, the foundation will help the students who participated in this project continue their education, will assist BRCC faculty with professional development, will facilitate student programming at the college and at literary events for high school students, and will provide scholarship funding for future BRCC students.

    ONLINE: MYBRCC.edu/foundation

     

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