Give the Gift of PageSlayers on #GiveMiamiDay

We’re proud to announce that PageSlayers will participate in Give Miami Day, a 24-hour online giving event on Thursday, November 16th that provides individuals in our community with the opportunity to build a greater Miami by making charitable gifts to local, nonprofit organizations.

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During the 24-hour donation period beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, November 16th, you’ll be able to access the online profiles of more than 520 local nonprofits—including PageSlayers—and make a contribution through the Miami Foundation’s event-specific page.

If you are considering donating to PageSlayers this calendar year, we encourage you to contribute through Give Miami Day. The Miami Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and partners will extend the reach of your generosity by making a bonus gift for every donation between $25 and $10,000 received during this time.

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100% of proceeds from Give Miami will provide operational support for PageSlayers. Every gift is tax deductible and sustains PageSlayers’ efforts to provide free creative writing summer camps to rising 4th and 5th graders in Opa-Locka. Your contributions will translate into hiring professional, published writers-of-color as teachers, visiting instructors such as Edwidge Danticat, procuring supplies and PageSlayers camp shirts, and creating a PageSlayers Zine showcasing the writing of each camper.

We appreciate your support in helping ensure PageSlayers continues to thrive as an innovative creative writing program, fostering the next generation of writers-of-color in South Florida!

If you're ready to donate, click here.

Meet Our Session Three Instructors: Chioma Urama & Itzel Basualdo

Unbelievable as it is, we've come to our final session of PageSlayers this summer! How time flies.

Today marks one week in with our new crop of future novelists and poets. As we move into our final week for the summer, we'd like to introduce to you the duo of instructors guiding us to the finish line: Chioma Urama, coming back to us after leading our first session in June, and homegrown Miami artist and writer, Itzel Basualdo. 

Chioma Urama

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Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I’m from Northern Virginia, about 20 minutes outside of Washington, DC. I write fiction and dabble in poetry frequently. Right now, I’m working on getting my yoga teacher training certification. I’m learning to integrate mediation, breathing, and visualization practices into a creative writing curriculum for a more holistic approach to teaching.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

I love teaching creative writing and working with children and PageSlayers presents the wonderful opportunity to do both. It’s also very important to me to be able to work with black children and to provide them with the tools and instruction that is often considered a luxury or a privilege in our society.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I’m really looking forward to getting to know the kids! My teaching style is very collaborative. I work with the ideas, issues, and concerns that my students bring into the classroom to build creative assignments.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I fell in love with writing very early on (probably 2nd or 3rd grade) after reading a story called “Amelia’s Notebook.” It’s a children’s story written like a diary with doodles and postage stamps and restaurant napkins pasted in the margins of the pages. I’ve been writing and journaling and sticking leaves and feathers in between the pages of my notebooks ever since.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

Creative writing presents children with a safe space to begin to think critically about their world. It encourages them to engage their imaginations and promotes self-confidence that strengthens other areas of learning.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work? 

I’m in the works of putting together a site, so be sure to check back for updates soon!

Itzel Basualdo

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I am, as they say, one of those who was born AND raised in Miami. Against my Argentine father and Mexican mother's will, I have begun to establish myself as a visual artist. Lately, I've been working on a small book that addresses and presents the crisis in Venezuela from multiple sources: Twitter, interviews, and that of an absolute outsider. I will also be an MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago beginning August 2018.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer?

I wanted to join PageSlayers because I enjoy working with children; I was excited about the possibility of teaching creative writing! And I like creative writing! 

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I think what I'm looking forward to most is seeing the children enjoy themselves and enjoy the writing process. I think PageSlayers offers these kids a wonderful introduction to the possibilities that exist in writing, and is helping those who had already become enamored by it tap into it even more. I hope that beyond learning about metaphors and rhyme, PageSlayers allows them to see the world through a different lens.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I think I first fell in love with creative writing in elementary school. I don't remember who, but someone gifted me with a journal in the second grade and after that, my life was forever changed. I've kept a journal since then, and from there I moved on to writing short stories about spies and a half-cat/half-human girl named Cassandra.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

I think it is important for the children to be exposed to creative writing from an early age so they view and treat literature differently—so they can see for themselves that reading and writing doesn't have to be boring. It is much like planting a seed, this appreciation for literature. It is something that they can take with them, and it might be a short story, or novel, that helps them navigate a difficult period of their lives.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work?

You can very soon follow me on my website, and check out my film photography (posted on occasion) on my Instagram.

Meet Our Session Two Instructors: Shameka Poetry Thomas & Miguel Pichardo

We just wrapped week one of our first session and so far it has been an absolute success. Our students are motivated and energetic, and our instructors have led them through fun exercises and activities establishing the fundamentals of both fiction and poetry.

As we move into our final week of session one, we thought now would be a good time to introduce to you the wonderful instructors who will be leading session two, starting July 3rd. Meet Shameka Poetry Thomas and Miguel Pichardo, two home grown Miamians who have accomplished a lot on the page and have a passion for educating the Magic City youth.

Shameka Poetry Thomas, M.A.

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Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now?

I was born and raised in Opa-Locka (3-0-5 DADE COUNTY, lol)! I am an international spoken word artist and poet (which is the theatrical and oratorical version of creative writing). I am the founder of the SISTA-SPEAK UP Poetry organization at my alma mater, Spelman College, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, I have studied abroad in South Africa and was nominated as one of the top ten spoken word poets of Cape Town in 2008. I have performed my poetry in Dubai, Cuba, and Kenya. Currently, I am a PhD candidate at the University of Miami. However, I still perform my poetry throughout various open-mics in Miami as a hobby.  I am also the proud mom of my five-year-old daughter, who has already started memorizing the poem “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer?

I LOVE SEEING KIDS THINK OUT LOUD!!! I think it’s fascinating to dream big with children and allow them to paint their skies orange or purple! I joined PageSlayers as a Lead Teacher because I want kids to SLAYYYYYY, write, and speak from their hearts and souls!

What are you looking forward to most in the program?

I am definitely looking forward to getting to know each and every personality in my classroom! I am excited to see their transformations and to help them discover their own voices. I am also excited to turn reading and writing into summer fun!

When did you first fall in love with creative writing?

I performed my first poem, entitled “I AM THE BLACK CHILD” when I was about five years old. I have always loved writing, reading, performance poetry, dancing to reggae music, and being full of wonder lust! I am an old soul with a young heart. That helps me fall in love with poems, quotes, journal entries, and novels—differently, and in every season!

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age?

To find an outlet. To learn a new “love” language. To hear themselves. To hear others. To Be. And most importantly: TO FEEL / EXPRESS.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work? 

Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Miguel Pichardo

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from originally? What sort of writing do you do? What are you working on right now? 

I was born in Queens, New York but moved down to sunny Miami when I was six. As a Latino man of Dominican and Ecuadorian descent, I try to convey the nuances of my cultures through poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Currently, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Fjords Review­an international literary magazine. I am also working on my thesis project as an MFA candidate at Florida International University.

What made you want to join the PageSlayers teaching staff this summer? 

The Knight Foundation granted me a fellowship to attend FIU, and since then, I’ve considered the organization a champion for art and culture in the Magic City. When Dana De Greff was awarded the Knight Arts Challenge to make PageSlayers possible, I thought I couldn’t be more excited for her. But then she invited me to participate in a program that catered to the creative needs of young people of color, and my excitement reached a whole new level. I’m as thrilled as I am proud to be a part of a team that values our youth’s artistic expression as gifts that should be nurtured and shared.

What are you looking forward to most in the program? 

I’m a kid at heart, so I honestly cannot wait to play games with the students. Our curriculum incorporates play into the creative process, which I believe is essential for raw expression. When students come together to play, they can cut loose, be themselves, and bring that authenticity to the page.

When did you first fall in love with creative writing? 

I suppose it was in middle school when I started rapping with my friends. I didn’t know I was writing poetry; I just knew that with the right rhythm and cadence, language could produce art. We kept making music until I went away to college in New York. I was rapping less, but reading more. It wasn’t until I saw my reflection in the pages of Junot Diaz’s Drown that I realized I could write something authentic, even beautiful without beats and rhymes. I took every creative writing course I could and have been refining my craft ever since.

Why do you think it is important that students in the program have the opportunity to be exposed to creative writing at an early age? 

Having spent my childhood in Miami, I know that it can be a confusing time for many kids, especially for children of color. Creative writing can help them navigate their frustrations and bring light to their hopes for the future, as it has for me.

Where can students, parents or supporters find out more about you and your work?

My work has appeared in the online magazines Luna LunaDuende, and Literary Orphans.