VISION, MISSION AND HISTORY
*narrated by co-founders Amanda Torres and Alex Charalambides
Young people of Massachusetts will develop voice and identity as capable, creative members of a community who use art (in safe and courageous spaces) to shape a more just and equitable world
The field of poetry teaching artists in Massachusetts will be connected, professionally engaged, and accountable to the youth they serve
The literary arts culture in Massachusetts will be diverse, thriving, and accessible, fostering a public that values, celebrates and respects youth expression
The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance (Mass LEAP) is dedicated to building and supporting spaces for youth to experience the transformative power of their own voices in community with one another. We exist as a platform for young people, artist-educators and organizers to foster positive youth development through spoken word poetry forums. We facilitate arts learning spaces and build relationships among communities throughout Massachusetts.
We are a Boston Based 501(c)3 Non Profit Organization, comprised of writer-educators who are united in our passion for social justice and youth voice.
The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP), a group of poet-educator-organizers committed to building a thriving youth arts scene across the state, was created around Anna West’s kitchen table in February, 2011. Anna, former director of Young Chicago Authors, was pursuing a graduate degree in Boston for a year. While living in Boston, she reached out to community members known on the national level for their youth organizing and education work in the youth spoken word (YSW) field. Two of these members included Amanda Torres (Chicago expatriate) and Alex Charalambides (Worcester resident). Our first goal as a collective was to bring people who had similar goals into the same room. We had our first network gathering several months after we formed with over 80 poets, artists, organizers, educators and non-profit wizards in the room. Soon after, Mass Poetry became our fiscal sponsor and developed a Program Director position for Amanda Torres which would support her continued coordination of Mass LEAP.
From the beginning, we were clear that we didn’t just want to put on a slam festival. We wanted, more than anything, to develop youth arts opportunities for young people in the state of Massachusetts and transform the educational landscape by the integration of YSW practices. In order to serve young people, we needed to strengthen the skills of our teaching artist community. We responded to this need and developed the first YSW teaching artist learning cohort with 12 active members. This began the MassLEAP year-long professional development and certification program for teaching artists who would be working with us in the schools. Eventually, this became a partnership with the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion Initiative and our year long professional development series integrated Boston Public School Teachers into the program.
The first Louder Than a Bomb Massachusetts Youth Poetry Slam Festival (LTAB) took place in the Spring of 2012 with sixteen participating teams. The next year it grew to twenty four, the next year to thirty two. Entering the festival's 7th year, we have over 300 teens from 50 communities participating. We currently have four year-long residencies in Boston Public Schools schools in addition to a number of short term residencies and performances across the state to help generate excitement around spoken word and develop a generation of artists.
Mass LEAP pursued fiscal sponsorship with MassPoetry in 2014. In 2015, we became part of the Brave New Voices Network, a national cohort of 16 youth spoken word organizations. In 2016 Mass LEAP incorporated in Massachusetts, developed an Executive Board with Dr. Eve Ewing serving as president. In 2017 Mass LEAP received it's own non-profit designation. Co-founder and first Artistic Director Amanda Torres transitioned out of the organization at the start of 2018. Mass LEAP is currently managed by Alex Charalambides, relying on a small staff and wealth of incredible volunteer & stipended organizers.