On Thursday, November 8th, the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) and Portland Northwest College of Art (PNCA) collaborated with youth detained in the Donald E. Long Detention Center to host a poetry slam entitled, “Over These Prison Walls.”
The poetry slam was a lively and often heartfelt event that was part presentation, part participation and all celebration. Activities were designed to showcase the youths’ original works of art, poetry and music. Throughout the event, pictures drawn by youth were projected onto the wall behind speakers and performers. Youth read their poetry, sometimes with musical or interpretive dance support. PNCA students performed materials written by the youth. Tami Cox, who works in the Detention Center and was one of the event organizers observed, “Their readings were so good and raw! A couple of kids were fighting their tears while reading their poems…”
Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith addressed the young people in the crowd and encouraged them to believe in themselves. DCJ Director Scott Taylor and Daryl Dixon, Director of the Office of Diversity & Equity were also in attendance. Additional speakers included: Christina McMahan Juvenile Services Division Assistant Director, Craig Bachman Detention Senior Manager, Michael O’Malley, PNCA, and Barry Sanders, writer-in-residence at PNCA. Guests were handed copies of books made by compiling youth art and writing as they left the event.
The event was planned and coordinated through the Juvenile Detention Cultural Diversity Committee. This committee of volunteers organizes cultural events for youth in detention throughout the year.