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Root Slam Mission & Values

The Root Slam was founded in September 2016 by Gabriel Cortez, Isabella Borgeson, Jade Cho, Janae Johnson, Natasha Huey and Terisa Siagatonu.

The mission of The Root Slam is to create an inclusive, socially just space to promote the artistic growth of the Bay Area poetry community. We are guided by the following values:

Artistic Excellence

We aim to be a place where poetry, creativity, and innovation thrive; where artists support and challenge one another to grow. We encourage artists to pursue excellence as defined by the individual--whether they are creating new work, polishing their performance, perfecting their freestyle, experimenting with new forms, or working to better honor their truth.


Social Justice

We are guided by values centering the voices of Black, indigenous, and people of color artists; queer, trans, gender non-conforming, and women poets; working class/low-income, disabled, im/migrant and undocumented folks. In an effort to be most accessible to these communities, we chose a wheelchair accessible venue 0.2 miles from BART and offer the show for free. We are very open to feedback regarding how we can continue to be an accessible venue for all people.

We are committed to social justice beyond the space of the slam. We are committed to dialogue and action outside of the poems. To taking home critical conversations to our friends, families, and communities. We view community accountability as an ongoing process, and are committed to restorative practices rooted in compassion and the belief that no one is disposable. We commit to adapting and revising our thinking and processes in order to best serve our community.

Safe(r) Space / Brave Space

We envision safety as a right afforded to all people to exist without the burden of defending our humanity. We acknowledge that we live in a world where marginalized peoples must continuously navigate “safe spaces” that are oftentimes safe for some, but not for all. While we accept the impossibility of a “safe space for everyone,” we aim to instead foster a safe(r) space or brave space; one that relieves marginalized folks from having to do the emotional labor of maintaining the safety for the room, but rather center them at the core of how courage is cultivated.

We define safe(r) and/or brave space as a place where participants strive actively to be honest with one another and hold one another accountable. We subscribe to a definition of community accountability that moves the focus from blaming individuals to interrogating oppressive systems. When we interrogate these systems instead of each other, we move closer to a shared healing that is inclusive of all of us. This can look like interrupting violence swiftly, directly, and with love while consistently modeling language and actions that honor us all. We acknowledge that accountability is a process and is ever evolving to meet our community’s needs.


Grounded in Community

We acknowledge that we occupy stolen land of the Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone peoples. We mourn the on-going genocide of Native peoples which amerikkka was founded upon and affirm our commitment to supporting Indigenous resistance.

We also recognize the violent increase of gentrification throughout Oakland -- particularly in the surrounding neighborhood of MLK Cafe -- and its devastating impact on Black and brown communities. We understand the potential impact of our presence, as we attract participants from outside of the neighborhood, which may perpetuate the displacement of local residents.

We commit to challenging The Root Slam audience/participants to interrogate our role(s) within this potential displacement. Our efforts to resist this potential impact include: supporting African/Black owned businesses in the neighborhood, including MLK Cafe and Marcus Book Store, and building relationships with local residents and business owners most impacted by our presence while inviting their feedback.

In addition, we actively invite and seek opportunities to collaborate with individuals and organizations who are also doing work within the communities we serve. We commit to continuously learning from our community--especially our youth and elders--and to holding one another accountable.

Shared Leadership

We share power and responsibility amongst multiple facilitators so that no one person makes all the decisions and/or runs the show. We seek to create ongoing pathways for new leadership through mentorship and volunteer opportunities. The more hands that hold it, the higher we can lift it. Our ultimate goal is the sustainability of The Root Slam’s organization so the space can continue to respond to current community needs and foster new collective leadership.


We want The Root Slam to be a place of fun and jubilation, where community can come together and celebrate our voices, our stories, and our full selves. A place where we can do the radical work of affirming joy in the face of a world that seeks to destroy it. We want participants to walk away from The Root Slam feeling inspired, rejuvenated, and filled with questions that challenge them to do critical, loving, and revolutionary work.

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