youth Voices of the 4

Gus Garcia Recreation Center
Public Reading Saturday, October 24 from 4-6p

Growing up in the district as a young boy himself, the relationship between the children and their surrounding community became the focal point early on in the project for Zell Miller, III. An award-winning leader of poetry, theater, and hip hop, Miller presented a public reading of poetry written by the youth in the district, one of the most diverse areas of the city with the highest densities of children.

"I’m someone who grew up in District Four. This rec center that I’m working with is right across from Dobie Middle School, where I used to go. I’ve seen that whole area go from where I could walk to school to now, where it’s gang ridden. The houses are dilapidated, and so for me I’m very invested in this project, in this pride. I used to walk from my home to school. Kids today can’t really do that anymore, so for me I’m very invested especially in the youth and what’s going on in their heads, and how they feel about it.  I want to know what is safe to them, and ask them how do you feel? Do you feel like you are being taken care of?  Are you getting what you need from the city? How big of a voice can we be for you?”

Miller focused his work on creating a writing process that served as safe space for the children to reflect on their thoughts.  Working with area recreation centers and schools he conducted workshops as an outlet for the youth to share their ideas.

 “If you can write, you can write a poem because everybody has a story. I always tell them that when you stand up writing or reading what you wrote, looking like you look, sounding how you sound, dressed how you’re dressed, that’s how the magic happens, because no one expected this to come out of you.”

In a final showcase at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center, the young writers will shared what they had written alongside important community figures who read and acted out the children’s poems.

With special thanks to the Public Reading Performers:

  • Jenny Larsin - award winning director/actress and Artistic Director of the Salvage Vanguard Theater Company
  • Omi Jones - University of Texas at Austin professor and author of two acclaimed novels on "The Jazz Aesthetic"
  • Jason Phelps - award winning actor/dancer
  • Minerva Rivera - critically acclaimed actress and educator with Kipp Charter Schools
  • Melissa Villarreal - Artistic Director of Lotus Dance Company former artistic director, dancer and choreographer for Ballet East.
  • Ryan Hopkins - Principal of Lanier High School
  • Sade Jones - award winning dancer, choreographer, and actress, and Fine Arts Director of Texas Empowerment Arts and Technology Charter School
  • Katherine Catmull - actress/author
  • Mike Whalen - slam poet master/educator
  • Barri Rosenbluth - Director of Expect Respect at Safeplace, Educator
  • Julia Spann - Executive Director of Safeplace
  • Rigel Thurston - musician, Neighborhood Association President
  • Carl Settles - Founder and Executive Director of E4 Youth Communications/musicain
  • DaShade Moonbeam - award winning Hip-Hop artist/film maker/actor/mentor
  • Anne Winter - award winning playwright/actress/publicist
  • Chelsea Mansai - critically acclaimed actress/singer
  • Mike Lee - Senior Producer at KUT for Art Eclectics, Get Involved, and Sonic IDS



Zell Miller III weaves poetry, theater and hip hop culture into every aspect of his groundbreaking work as an interdisciplinary theater artist and educator. He’s an accomplished poet who has performed for Last Poets and Nikki Giovanni. Zell is also an award-winning playwright. He’s a nationally recognized educator with over 20 years of experience. Today, ZM3 produces and hosts the hottest hip hop variety show in Austin, Texas: Hip Hop Theater Explosion.


Zell Miller III photo credit Dávid Lovas