Winners of Left Turn Village’s “Freedom Rhymers” Juneteenth Edition Poetry Contest

New York, NY, June 20, 2023 --( On June 15, Left Turn Village (L.T.V.) partnered with C. Neptune Darby Consulting Services, Inc., Veronica Marshall, and Joseph Graham Jr., to launch its inaugural Freedom Rhymers Poetry Contest and Open Mic just in time for Juneteenth, sponsored in part by Creatifshere, LLC. The “Freedom Rhymers,” whose name was inspired by the “Freedom Riders'' of the Black Civil Rights Movement, will be a consortium of poets who give voice to the lived experiences of marginalized groups. In addition to contributing to L.T.V.'s programming, Freedom Rhymers can be sought to perform for conferences, workshops, trainings, lectures, and other events. The consortium will include a large swath of poets who can speak to the issues and beauty surrounding BIPOC identities, LGBTQ+ identities, living with HIV, disability, mental health, and immigration, among others.

Five poets, Jamai Wray (Jamaica, NY), Dralanda Larkins (25; Minneapolis, MN), RJ Gourdine (30; Newark, NJ), Nathan Wallace (24; Atlanta, GA), and Christian Contreras (23; Huntsville, AL) graced the proverbial mic. In line with the Juneteenth theme, the subject matter highlighted the challenges and triumphs of the Black Diaspora. Poets spoke about the murder of the Charleston Nine, self-liberation, the Black church, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Black motherhood along with other related subject matter.

Larkins, a spoken word poet, arts educator and curator, who appeared in the Minnesota Women’s Press, Witness Writers, and multiple anthologies, won first place. Larkins is the co-editor of Cracked Walnut’s anthology “Rewilding Hope 2023” and a member of The League of MN Poets and Art to Change the World. Wallace, winner of Atlanta’s 2019 Youth Poet Laureate, came in second place. Wallace has a Grammy nomination-considered album, and is the author of “I’m My Own Therapist" and “Before My Own Eulogy.” Contreras, better known as “Silent Knight” on the poetry circuit, placed third. A recent graduate of Ohio State University, Contreras is a poet and a musician. All five poets will be inducted into L.T.V.'s “Freedom Rhymers.''

Immediately following contestant performances, emcee Joseph Graham, Jr. aka “PG” opened the floor to the audience for the open mic portion of the event. Several people read pieces, including Dr. Joanne Frederick, author of "Copeology," who was in attendance. After the open mic, partners CND Consulting, Inc and Veronica Marshall shared mental health resources to help mitigate the impact of racism on mental health. “We thought we’d do something a little different with our poetry event,” said Dr. Tyree Oredein, owner of Left Turn Village and event organizer. “Poetry is an incredible tool for sharing lived experiences, however, we also know the impact that experiencing and even listening to experiences of race-related oppression has on mental health. We didn’t want to just let that trauma linger unacknowledged, so we partnered with mental health professionals to provide resources. And based on feedback, it seems the resources were really appreciated. That’s going to be our format going forward.” The next Freedom Rhymers Poetry Contest and Open Mic event is planned to be in July for Minority Mental Health Awareness month.

LTV is a small Black & woman owned "queer-accompliced" public health and social justice company which offers programming to help entities create safer, inclusive, and culturally competent spaces for People of Color, LGBTQ+ persons, People with Disabilities, and other marginalized groups. C. Neptune Darby Consulting Services Inc., Veronica Marshall, and Joseph Graham Jr., all offer mental health consulting services, and will be on hand to provide resources to help mitigate the impact racism has on mental health. Graham, better known as “PG” in many circles, is an author, professor, faith and mental health coach, CEO of Equity On Everything, LLC, and a poet.

For further information, contact Left Turn Village at
Left Turn Village
Tyree Oredein
(347) 762-8296