In the ever-expanding landscape of new media and digital storytelling, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Youth Speaks teamed up on a new project that combines spoken word poetry and investigative reporting. Based in the Bay Area, the Off-Page Project launched this month, and aims to be “a multimedia platform for young people to investigate the issues and stories that would otherwise be silenced.”
Through this project, young poets work closely with journalists and staff at CIR to explore issues such as bankruptcy in Stockton, Calif., and sexual assault among migrant farmworkers. The project participants become investigative digital poets, taking an art form most often seen on stage and combining it with cutting-edge news reporting and video documentary. The result is jarring and powerful.
In the inaugural video “Whispers from the Fields,” 19-year-old Monica Mendoza takes on the challenging issue of sexual violence among migrant women farmworkers. Mendoza lyrically imagines the fear and anguish these women experience, putting herself in their shoes as they struggle with the guilt and frustration of remaining silent. An estimated 56,000 women are currently involved in agricultural production in the U.S., and much of the sexual assault they experience goes unreported.
Perhaps best known for the Brave New Voices slam poetry festival, Youth Speaks overwhelmingly serves youth of color, and this project lifts up their often unheard voices.
“I hope the Off/Page Project provides an additional platform from which young people of color across America can work with investigative journalists to tell their own stories and be documentarians for themselves and their community, and really illustrate how storytelling can be a tool for social change,” José Vadi, the project’s director, says by email. “Stories from the border, reservations, unincorporated communities — we want to investigate it all and have young people at the center of a movement driven by sourced storytelling.”