DALLAS -- Some say hip-hop music is responsible for more than a decade of renewed interest in spoken word art, known to many as slam poetry.
This week, Dallas-area students got a lesson from a man whose words and iPhone made him an internationally-known poet in an instant.
“We are the revolution. We are the solution. We hold the key, and it begins with unity!" London poet Dean Atta wrote those words for a piece he did in high school. He shared it with students at Addison's Greenhill School.
“Every line that he says is really powerful,” said Vanessa Akinnibosun, a junior at Greenhill.
It was a poem Atta wrote on the fly, in the wake of a verdict resulting from a racially-charged case in the United Kingdom that led some to dub him the "iPhone poet." In just days, tens of thousands of people had viewed the piece he recorded on his phone and uploaded to YouTube.
“It was a huge surprise, actually, to go viral with a poem,” Atta said. “Because I wrote a poem that was a personal and a real gut reaction to what was going on.”
As a speaker and teacher of poetry and creative writing, he encouraged students to find their own voice.
“We’ve all got a voice. You don’t have to be a poet to speak out," he said.
Also using an iPhone, senior Gabrielle Jackson shared her own ballad of a bad boyfriend with the small group. She does spoken word for fun and thinks it’s a great educational tool to engage a generation raised on hip-hop music.
“I think rhythm and keeping up with timing is really one way a lot of people are starting to get to know or memorize things, especially with history or English,” Jackson said.
Ultimately Atta said students learn to embrace their own power and tell their own truths.
“You are in control of your own destiny,” he said. “So write your own story. Write your own songs. Write your own poems. Write your own life and your own future.”
Paul Quinn College hosted Atta as a part of the school’s Cultural Awareness Week. Through a partnership made possible by the Nasher Xchange, students at Greenhill were able to see Atta perform, ask questions, and talk with him one-on-one. Atta also led a creative writing class at South Oak Cliff High School.
He has been outspoken about negative imagery in hip-hop music.
“Music is just one side of life,” Atta said. “It may represent a reality, but it’s not inevitability.”
Atta will participate in a round table discussion about hip-hop Thursday, Feb. 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Grand Lounge of the Student Union Building at Paul Quinn College. Paul Quinn College is located at 3837 Simpson Stuart Road in Dallas.