My name is Carlos Contreras. I have been twice recognized as a national champion performance poet. I got my start in the area of competitive spoken word, or Slam Poetry. These days, I live and work in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is where I grew up and where I plan on growing old. I work as a local educator, who leads writing workshops in the adult jail facility at the Gordon Bernell Charter School, while at the same time teaching all levels of high school English. I love my job. One of the things that I love about who I work with and for, is that those I work with see the passion I have for helping our community, and so yearly I am given time off to also provide services to the National Hispanic Cultural Center. At the NHCC I play host to the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Voces program, a writing institute for youth. The Voces Writing Institute was awarded a Bravos Award for Excellence in Literary Arts in 2009. I have been very blessed to be given the job as lead facilitator of the Voces program. Over the eleven year stint that the program has enjoyed at the NHCC, I have held jobs in a number of capacities. I originally came to the program as a student, in its initial year. Now I help young people whose shoes I was once in, find their own voices, their own messages, and their own point of delivery. I cherish this opportunity because it allows me to give back to an institution that has given so much to me. It is experiences like that of teaching at such a young age, and working at the NHCC with the Voces program, that garnered me the honor of being awarded a 2012 Bravos Award, as an “Emerging Creative.” As a young writer, driven to succeed and help the community I live and work in I have dedicated myself to change in my community by way of the spoken and written word. Having been a member of 8 spoken word poetry teams at the college and professional level – I have used spoken word as a tool for growth, advancement, and survival. I have visited more than 50 elementary, middle, high school, and college campuses throughout my poetry career. I have also been the guest of and currently am the poet in residence at a correctional facility (MDC). I am building programs around and with amazing individuals, and collaborative partners, because I view it as a responsibility I have to the preservation and advancement of arts in our communities. I dream of a world in which I can support myself solely by way of my art, until then I will continue to work at nurturing and honing my craft.
Diahndra Grill is the co-founder of JustWrite and the Program Manager for Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media at the University of New Mexico. She is the Chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH Rio Grande Chapter, a digital arts community promoting dialogue and activities in computer graphics and interactive techniques, and a member of the SAFE House Board of Directors, an organization that shelters and empowers survivors of intimate partner domestic violence and works to improve the way New Mexico responds to violence. Also a visual and literary artist, she is currently working on film and photography projects involving social justice issues while writing a book incorporating creative verse to foster awareness surrounding violence against women. She uses media tools to give visibility and a voice to groups and individuals in society, while building community and human awareness. She is an educator and facilitates writing, poetry and visual art workshops in prisons, detention centers, and high schools. As a student at the University of Texas with a major in Applied Learning and Development and a minor in Spanish, Diahndra began her work in the community by teaching at St. James Episcopal Elementary in East Austin and directing municipal after school programs and summer day camps for at risk youth. She continued her education at UNM in Women Studies while focusing on documentary filmmaking and photography. She has been actively involved with women and families through various non-profit organizations. Her research interests include critical theory, social consciousness, feminism, domestic violence, public policy, intercultural communications as well as alternative facilities and rehabilitation methods for the incarcerated. She uses artistic processes to encourage and inspire a unique voice in the telling of one’s story, to revitalize and build community, and to work collectively towards individual empowerment and healing.