BONK! 136 Goes Digital with Still Waters Collective

Over the past 20 years, Still Waters Collective has
influenced more than 14,000 youth, trained dozens of arts practitioners, curated
hundreds of performances and workshops for spoken word and storytelling, and
designed capacity building fellowships for new leaders and seasoned creatives.
“Our very first open mic amounted to five people sharing poems across a bar table,”
says SWC founder, Dasha Kelly Hamilton, who was recently named Poet Laureate for
the City of Milwaukee. “Every initiative since has been about creating space for people
and their stories. Poetry slams, anthologies, workshops and community projects have
all, always, only been tools for building community, capacity and confidences.”
The weekly open mic grew to hold national regard, attracting touring poets and
performers from across the country. SWC revived Milwaukee’s poetry slam community,
reconnecting the city to an international competition and launching local poets and
spoken word performers into national scenes. SWC was invited to create poetry
curricula for elementary classrooms and, then, after school programming for middle and
high schools, earning recognition for Best AfterSchool Programming by the school
district. The signature SWC youth programs were a High School Slam League,
connecting as many as 16 high school teams every season; the Scholastic Writing
Awards of Milwaukee, connecting young scribes to the nation’s oldest arts contest for
teens; the Junior City Slam, in-class residencies to strengthen the muscles for listening
with empathy and the bravery to be heard; and post-secondary leadership training and
professional development through internships and fellowships. Last year, SWC piloted
a professional development fellowship coaching creatives for the fields of cultural
organizing, art intervention strategy and community vitality.

The anniversary celebration will stream live, Wednesday, May 20 from 4am until
Midnight at The Retreat MKE on YouTube and Still Waters Collective on YouTube and
Facebook. The 20 hour tribute will broadcast new programming and archive footage,
and live writing workshops, guest visits and performances, erotic poetry, live DJs sets
and a virtual open mic. Throughout the day, viewers will be asked to make
contributions in $20 increments. Proceeds will be shared between the non-profit and all
of the artists and alumni performing, speaking and teaching throughout the day.
“These first two decades were all about us, the folks who poured ourselves and words
into this incredible container of spirit and curiosity and healing,” says Kelly Hamilton,
who volunteers as the organization lead. “Our next decades will preserve Still Waters
Collective as an institution and a ready network for human and social wellness.”
Founded in 2000, Still Waters Collective, the mission of SWC is to leverage the craft of
creative writing and the art of spoken word to build confidences, capacity and
community. Contributions can be made through PayPal/Still Waters Collective.