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 a multimedia artist, educator, and feminista who works in schools, prisons, detention centers, and with organizations in advocating and facilitating creative expression as a tool for self-discovery, growth, storytelling, and to revitalize and build community. She is the co-founder of JustWrite, an organization that encourages the creation and presentation of visual and literary arts focused on underserved communities in the education sector and with those who are incarcerated. (nowrongjustwrite.org) Grill is the Program Manager of the Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media Program at the University of New Mexico and serves as the Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter ACM SIGGRAPH, a digital arts community promoting dialogue and activities in computer graphics and interactive media. She is also the Vice President 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. Diahndra has developed violence prevention curriculum and programs as well as spoken on the topics of domestic violence, social justice and art as a tool for healing and social change. She works with organizations and others to advocate for human rights, particularly in the areas of domestic violence and prison justice and abolition. Diahndra’s research interests include public policy, intercultural communications, immigration rights as well as alternative facilities and rehabilitation methods for those incarcerated. Her individual and collaborative creative works have been featured in various different forums tied to her activism, most recently 516 ARTS Heart of the City exhibition and the Amnesty International Regional Conference along with recent featured spots on KUNM Women’s Focus and Espejos de Aztlán programs. Her most recent speaking engagements include being chosen as a TEDxABQ Art Salon speaker, entitled “Why Art?” and speaking on an Amnesty International panel entitled “A Beautiful Movement: Building Relationships & Power.” She was also selected as a speaker at the Color of Violence Conference for a panel and workshop entitled “Beyond Bars: Working With and Against the Carceral System through Creative Writing.” She believes in people and the power of interwoven relationships and story to educate and sustain growth, identity and purpose.