Hundreds of young people from around the country recently gathered in Chicago to step up to the mic and express themselves through words. They are all participants in a program called ‘Brave New Voices’ which presents poetry.

They are young writers, free thinkers and spoken word artists who have a lot to say. The Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam allows them the freedom to say what’s on their mind.

“I like the fact that it allows me to be myself. It allows me to be more vulnerable than I can be around a lot of my peers,” says Lamar Jorden of the Chicago All-Stars.

The poetry slam is sponsored in part by Columbia College and Young Chicago Authors.

“It’s a snapshot into the future of the United States of America. It’s the most crystallized example of democracy at work that you’re going to find,” says Marc Bamuthi Joseph the youth artistic director.

Even though it’s a competition; there are no prizes or awards given out. The teens do it for the love of it.

“It helps you grow up more determined, more dedicated. I think you become more successful, you learn to help people around you. You learn to broaden your community,” says Ashley Hart of the Chicago All-Stars

“Especially in Chicago, it unites so many sides of the city. There are 50 schools. I now have friends at 50 schools,” says Hart’s teammate Nate Losbaker.