Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices TV Poster Image
Slammin' poetry empowers a young generation.

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Kids say

age 13+
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Positive Messages

Teens use poetry and spoken word to empower themselves. The series highlights the importance of mentorship, leadership, and team building. The teens and their mentors are from all over the country and from a wide range of racial/ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Several are disabled.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The poets inspire empathy by using their creativity to share their stories and overcome difficult times in their lives. They demonstrate courage and integrity in order to stand in front of an audience and share their truth.


Poems and life stories often deal with violent themes, including lynching, gang/drug violence, rape, and child abuse. Sometimes the poets may argue or lose their tempers and act aggressively (like punching a wall), but it's never aimed at other people.


Some poems deal with teen sexual issues, while others deal with heavy topics like incest.


Some poems feature strong language, ranging from words like “suck” and “damn” to “f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word, as well as other occasional racial epithets.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some poems and personal stories talk about living among drug dealers and/or coping with alcoholics.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices spotlights teens who are writing and performing poetry as an alternative way of coping with difficult life issues like racism, illness, violence, and more. Some of the poems contain rough language (unbleeped, since it's HBO) and occasional racial epithets (including the "N" word). But despite their strong content, the stories are poignant and honest, and overall the series offers very positive messages about using art as way of empowering change.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byclairemaims March 9, 2010


Good but very intense for little kids.

What's the story?

RUSSELL SIMMONS PRESENTS BRAVE NEW VOICES follows the journey of young adults from around the country as they prepare for the 2008 Poetry Slam National Competition in Washington, D.C. Narrated by Queen Latifah, the series features teens from all walks of life who are inspired to write and perform their original poetry with an urban flair. The talented young competitors share why and how they use spoken word as a way of coping with difficult personal challenges and share those experiences with others. At the end of the series, viewers watch as the qualifiers take the national stage and use their voices to define their generation.

Is it any good?

The series' overall message is extremely positive, but there's some pretty edgy stuff here, too. Many of the poems -- which are based on personal experiences -- deal with tough issues like incest, abuse, and other violence. And the young poets often swear and use racial epithets as a form of expression. But taken in context, this series shows how poetry, performance, and passion are giving a generation of young people the chance to be heard and make a difference.

Brave New Voices shows how poetry/spoken word is helping young people overcome a variety of challenges by giving them a chance to express themselves honestly and openly in a forum that both respects and celebrates their point of view. As they work on their craft, they're encoured to think beyond their personal obstacles and focus their attention on something greater. Their work with poetry slam mentors and teammates also helps them build life skills and gives them a chance to reclaim their identity and empower themselves to find new directions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a poetry slam like Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices different from just reciting poetry.

  • What kinds of experiences can teens write and perform about? Are teens the only people who do this, or are there adult poetry slammers, too?

  • Families can also discuss finding alternative ways to cope with life challenges. What kinds of creative activities can help us deal with difficult situations? Do you paint to express yourself? Take photographs? Dance? What are some additional benefits to pursuing these activities?

  • How does Russell Simmons Presents Brave New Voices promote empathy, courage, and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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Character Strengths

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