Mtima Solwazi is a spoken word artist and community activist in Chaguanas.
He began writing poetry in 1988 but did not perform until 1995 at the Islamic Resource Society (IRS).
He admitted that he did not know he was performing spoken-word poetry until he met fellow artist, Anthony “Nth Digri” Banfield, online in 2004.
In 2005, he founded the Roots Foundation, inspired by The Power of Words, an annual emancipation lecture hosted by the IRS.
He also began writing a newsletter called Reflections of Our Oral Traditions. Solwazi said he founded the organisation “to provide a platform for unrecognised and uncelebrated poets to be heard.”
Eight years later, Solwazi created the Cascadoo Caribbean New Voices of Spoken Word Festival, a week-long project that originated out of a desire to provide a voice for the youth.
He felt spoken word was the best way to do it since it is “used as a medium of self-expression, realisation, storytelling and stress relief.”
Solwazi said Cascadoo was “providing a global platform for cultural exchange,” adding that it was the main event the Roots Foundation hosted in an attempt to get spoken word recognised as a “catalyst for social change.”
Michael Logie, a Roots ambassador and spoken-word artist, explained that the Cascadoo project sought to directly engage youth, “especially those who are underprivileged or deemed delinquent by society.”
Spoken-word artists from around the world were contacted and flown in to take part in the festival. These artists visited institutions such as St Jude’s Home for Girls, the Youth Training Centre (YTC) and the national library, Port of Spain, where workshops were held on the art of spoken word, storytelling and positive self-expression.
On the last day of the festival, local and international spoken word artists performed at the Santa Cruz Green Market and later at the Centre Point Mall, Chaguanas.
The variation of pieces, which were based on issues such as home, identity, racism, crime, standards of beauty and black excellence, attracted large crowds.
Solwazi hopes that Cascadoo will continue to grow, engage more young people and expand into the Caribbean Brave New Voices, similar to the United States’ Brave New Voices festival, in which Roots members could take part.
Brave New Voices is an annual international festival that was started in 1998 by Youth Speaks Incorporated.
Solwazi said the goal of the foundation was for more youth to have a voice, to be heard, to express themselves without violence and to be acknowledged as positive attributes to society.
American spoken-word artist and ambassador of the Roots Foundation, Lamont Carey said the foundation and Cascadoo “create a safe space for youth to dream with their eyes open as they live an experience they didn’t know how to bring to life.”