In many ways Gray Bulla is like most teenagers. The eighteen-year-old high school senior spends his days in school, his weekends with friends, and the rest of his time worrying about his grades. 

Unlike most teens, though, he talks openly about his experiences on a stage in front of a crowd of people.

Gray is a spoken word poet. Spoken word, or performance poetry, is an oral art form that may reference issues of social justice, politics, race, and community. Gray described it as “writing that is made for other people. It is poetry, but it is poetry with the community. There is no sense of judgement.” Gray uses his talent as a spoken word artist to discuss important and thought-provoking subjects such as those experienced by the LGBT+ community.

He will perform his spoken word poetry in Nashville in Harmony’s spring program, Brave New Hope. The program features song and spoken word performances meant to uplift and celebrate the community as well as create unity and demand equality for all.

According to nashvilleinharmony.org, Brave New Hope will showcase “Nashville in Harmony’s 120-strong chorus singing popular selections from The Greatest Showman and Dear Evan Hansen, among others, as well as poetry readings from Southern Word’s Debria Tyler, Leslie Garcia, Constance Bynum and 2017 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate Gray Bulla.” The concert promises to be an outlet of hope and a place for our voices to be heard.

Gray first discovered his distinct voice after getting involved with an afterschool program known as Southern Word during his sophomore year at Nashville School of the Arts. “[Southern Word] came to my class and did a few workshops with us and told us about their open mic opportunities, so I started getting involved in the poetry program with them,” stated Gray.

Southern Word is a program that encourages youth to build their literacy and presentation skills and aims to help them act as leaders in the improvement of their communities. They work to provide youth, especially in underserved communities, with as many opportunities as possible to develop and publicly present their voices both live and in print, video, audio, and digital media.

Director of Strategic Partnerships for Southern Word, Amber McCullough, said, “A lot of what Southern Word does is help youth explore what their identity is and how they fit into the world. We are empowering youth to advocate for themselves and to show youth that there are people like them that are struggling with the same things that they are struggling with no matter what community they are from.”

Gray agreed. “Southern Word is committed to creating a community for kids that need it.”

After being involved with the afterschool program for two years, Gray got the chance to compete against other students for the 2017 title of Nashville Youth Poet Laureate as a spoken word artist. Gray’s work with Southern Word and his ability to create a sense of community through his poetry not only helped him win the title of Nashville Youth Poet Laureate but also get an invitation to perform in Brave New Hope.

Nashville in Harmony intends for those attending Brave New Hope to join together to find unity despite any differences. And what better way to do that than through the universal languages of music and poetry.

Gray said he isn’t 100% sure what we can expect from his spoken word performance at Brave New Hope, but he knows what he wants people to take away from it.

“I want people to know that no one is ever alone in how they feel. Even if you feel like you are the only person in the world that feels a certain way, there is somebody else in the world that feels that."

“I write a lot about feelings or issues that I know a lot of people don’t hear about, not even just LGBT identity, but I’ve written about my own experiences with family, drug abuse, drug abuse with teenagers, so I want people to know that they are never alone.”

To learn more about Brave New Hope and to buy tickets to the event, visit https://nashvilleinharmony.org/events/pride2018

 

 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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