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Author Topic: Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC  (Read 1471 times)

Dahled

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Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC
« on: February 11, 2012, 11:48:45 PM »
Hi-
My name's Dahled; I'm currently SM of The Oakland Slam and I'm running for the EC.

I got my first taste of Slam in DC in the late 90s. I'd already been going to open-mics for years at that point but the energy was entirely different with Slam. You know how it is, you're here, I don't need to explain. I was hooked. This was at the tail end of my time in DC though so I never actually got up the nerve to slam there. When I moved to the Bay, very shortly after getting my bearings, I found the Slam here. This was in 1999. If you've been around that long you may remember what happened that year at NPS - 3 of the 4 finals teams were from the Bay. SF and San Jose tied for the win and Oakland took 3rd. I wasn't in Chicago to witness it firsthand but, WOW, back here the scene exploded. It was amazing energy to be around. SF moved to a huge new venue with a new SM and still had to turn folks away every month; The Berkeley Slam was made official (certified); the Oakland and San Jose slams both picked up steam despite venue issues; other new venues popped up all over the area and so many poets flocked to the scene it was incredible.

My own poetry is largely political in nature and I generally try to challenge listeners preconceived notions with my work as opposed to preaching to the choir. As a "slammer" I attended my first NPS in Seattle as a member of the '01 SF team. Since then I've only missed one Nationals, competing 8 of the next 9 years and volunteering the last couple. I've been on teams representing SF, Berkeley and Oakland (and Fairfield in a slightly Favresq un-retirement). As an organizer I've been the Oakland SM since '05; was on the committee that threw iWPS '09 in Berkeley; am the Tournament Director for the annual New Word Series; have produced several iterations of The Western Regional Poetry Slam and various other limited run shows and one-offs. Slam has been very good to me. The vast majority of my friends were made here. I actually met my wife (Nazelah, who you may know) at a slam and asked her to marry me several years later at a Nat's (ABQ, still my favorite to date). It's primarily because of this positive impact that slam has had on my life that I even consider making the kind of commitment an EC bid entails.

In the 7 years I've been an SM I've maintained a regular presence here on the forums and been a part of or behind several tweaks that we've made to the tournament that is NPS. For the most part the things that I've looked at affecting are directly related to making the competition as "fair" as possible. On the competition: unlike some other folks I do not hate or resent it; I don't love it or hold it above the art but I do recognize it as a big part of what makes our events as popular as they are. Firstly (with the help of Steve Marsh) I designed, advocated for and got passed the current bout rotations for both prelims/finals (which is the same rotation) and semis (different because of the number of teams involved) in subsequent years. I was also one of 10 or so folks that designed and defined the Win & In system (though Angus drove that bus). Not strictly PSi related but germane to the discussion; I've also, with the help of Marc Marcel, created a Google doc database* of venues across the nation to help connect them with touring poets looking for gigs. IMHO this is and example of the kind of service that PSi should provide to it's members but doesn't. Yes there's the slam map and the list of certified venues released prior to NPS (or Win & In) but nowhere is there a single place where you can simply go to find what day a specific slam is on and the contact info for who throws it. If you're planning a tour or run a show check it out. (it's closed but if you click the link it will send me a note and I'll add you)

*https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArGJha4cIjTwdDhYT252cWtSbzVWdlFpQjVCMmxtNmc#gid=0

Looking forward we must...
-First and foremost developing our web presence is of the utmost importance. An official youtube (or vimeo) channel with video from NPS/iWPS/WoWPS is the obvious first step and should be created immediately. Live streams of national events should be the norm. To start with we're looking for exposure, eventually revenue, but first we need to be the place people go to see folks performing poems. When we have the traffic the revenue will come.

-I would like the EC to investigate some combination of the bid process and "grounding" our national events. Having a small, rotating cast of host-cities would allow us to grow the events in a real and measurable way, to identify potential (smaller, local) sponsors and develop ongoing relationships them, and to concentrate on the festival/tournament itself without having to reinvent the promotional wheel every year.

(One possibility I'm particularly fond of is to have a 4 year rotation with 3 regular host cities and an empty slot to be filled via the current bid process or something similar. This would give the organizers that win the bid a period of several years to observe/work with seasoned organizers before taking over the reins on their own and the regular host cities the ability to cycle through resident organizers and/or more easily bring in folks from out of town to work with their existing structure.)

-A lot of us work with kids and marginalized communities (inmates, the disabled, etc); it would be great to promote more of this work happening in host cities during our national events. Specifically I'd like to find a way to foster getting the poets out into the community they're visiting for Nats/iWPS/WoWPS. Moving to a regular or rotating host city(ies) would make this easier but isn't necessary for it to happen.

-I think that we should increase the prize money for first place at NPS to cover (at least) the average cost of fielding a team (including travel & lodging). This would roughly double the prize money we award at Nat's.

I must say that I originally didn't plan to run but was approached separately by 3 former EC members (and several SMs) and urged to. When I then floated the possibility semi-publicly to the community here "urged to" doesn't begin to describe the response. I think that this is watershed moment in our combined story and look forward to helping move PSi to the next level weather I'm elected to the EC or not.

hsampson

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Re: Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2012, 01:50:54 PM »
Thanks for the info, Dahled.   Very glad to see your ideas, and to have you run for a spot.   This election does seem to be pointing toward a watershed for PSI with most of the seats up for election.

karen_g

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Re: Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 12:37:47 PM »
Write on! :)
nerak_g

Dahled

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Re: Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2012, 05:45:09 PM »
1. "The mission of Poetry Slam Incorporated (PSI) is to promote the performance and creation of poetry while cultivating literary activities and spoken word events in order to build audience participation, stimulate creativity, awaken minds, foster education, inspire mentoring, encourage artistic statement and engage communities worldwide in the revelry of language."

How do you plan to help this organization grow and accomplish this mission?  Please be specific. 

I believe that I at least partially answer this question in my initial essay. One thing that will definitely help psi reach a broader audience is a better online strategy. The simple fact of the matter is that in this day and age the internet is an often free and generally pretty easy way to reach people. First we must use all of the free outlets at our disposal; twitter is one obvious example. Knowing this I personally created (and subsequently passed off to the existing EC) the official psi twitter (@PoetrySlamInc) so that we (the listening public not in attendance at whatever national event was going on at that time and in the future) wouldn't be beholden to random hashtags (which are easily hijacked) and unofficial outlets (with unreliable information) to keep up with things in real-time. It has been our general m-o to recreate things event to event and this is simply not logical or sustainable. There's no reason there should be a @wowps2011 feed, an @wowps2012 feed, etc, etc ad infinitum; a single single place to go for info on all of our events is a much better tack to take.

Additionally, I produce performance poetry shows and events - both Slam and non-slam. Not all of them are officially sanctioned by or affiliated with psi but some are and all specifically further the mission and at least tangentially touch on growing the organization by feeding into our "official" slam.

2. What experience do you have with non-profit organizations - as an employee, as a volunteer, as a board member?  I am especially interested in hearing about experience working with non-profit ARTS organizations, but I do think that all of your professional experience is relevant.

Most of my interaction with non-profits has been as an artist in residence running writing workshops for students in and after school on a contract basis. In that capacity I've worked with Youth Speaks, Lyrical Minded and Opera Piccola. Additionally I'm on the board of NorCal Spoken Word but we ended up disbanding as a 501(c)3 and moving forward with a different organizational structure (one that has a non-profit fiscal sponsor as opposed to it's own status, we generally use Poetry Flash Magazine for this purpose). I'm in a similar position with The Digital Storytellers Project, which is under the auspices of Fractured Atlas.


3. How many hours a week do you have available to dedicate to PSI?  And what is your typical availability (days/evenings/weekends)?   

My availability varies but is reliably in the at least 5 - 10 hour a week range and I can make it a point to stop by the forums on a daily basis. That availability increases as needed situationally, i.e. with events on the horizon. I tend bar for a living and am generally online before or after work (early afternoon / late night).

4.  What would you most like to see changed about PSI?  What would you most like to see preserved?

This one I have to sit with for a bit in order to be able to effectively articulate.

Dahled

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Re: Dahled Jeffries, running for the EC
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2012, 05:47:37 PM »
4.  What would you most like to see changed about PSI?  What would you most like to see preserved?

I think the thing we must strive to preserve most of all is the sense of camaraderie family. It's amazing to me that I can travel all across the country and be welcomed so warmly into the homes of my cousins. My own "real" family is tiny, so it gets me all verklempt to know that I'm a part of this extended one. On the flip side, we need to take it to the next level and make this organization the into the center of a literary movement focusing less on competition and more on outreach. I would love to see some sort of regional structure that allows for poets and fans that aren't able to make it to national event experience what we experience first hand for themselves.


5. Do you believe that the concept of legacy is important to PSi? If not, why not? If so, how would you see that manifested?

The short answer is yes, of course legacy is important. We need to learn from our collective experience and stop trying to reinvent the wheel at every turn. We need to work to keep folks involved in the organization even after the allure of competing in slams has worn off.


In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety of the female members of our community while attending (and traveling to/from) events. What actions have you taken (or policies have you enacted) at your home venue to address these issues? What actions do you plan to take/ suggest on the national level to address this growing concern?

Thankfully this isn't something we've been faced with in a bad way here in the Bay. We've had folks say questionable things from the mic of course and the occasional falling-down-drunk patron (which members of the community played mother hen to) but that's about it. Beyond urging folks to walk in pairs/groups the 2 or so blocks to BART we haven't felt the need to take any concrete actions.


Have you previously volunteered for PSI? If yes, in what capacity? If no, why not? If you are not elected to the EC, (how) will you continue to work for the ideas/ platform you are running on? Be specific. It would be more telling if you desrcibed actions you'd be willing to take as non-EC members than philosophies.

Yes. I've bout managed at Nat's and was on the host city committee for iWPS '09 as venue coordinator. I've also sent multiple teams and individual reps to national events and produce multiple events here in the Bay including open-mics, slams, comedy shows and the local iteration of the Encyclopedia Show. If not elected that's where my energies will be most focused - in my local area doing all I can to help the scene here continue to grow and evolve.