LA Get Down

North Hollywood resident Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez participates in the third annual LA Get Down Festival April 5-27 during National Poetry Month.

Greenway Arts Alliance (Whitney Weston and Pierson Blaetz, co-founders and co-artistic directors), in association with Da Poetry Lounge, presents the third annual LA Get Down Festival,  celebrating hip-hop and spoken word. The festival runs April 5 – 27, 2019 during National Poetry Month. Events will be held at the Greenway Court Theatre (544 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles). Da Poetry Lounge co-founder Shihan Van Clief serves as the festival artistic director.

The LA Get Down Festival will play host to the 11th anniversary of InkSlam, L.A.’s national premier poetry festival with awards sponsored by Greenway Arts. The festival also features Atlanta-based Poetry vs. Hip-Hop; invitational team and indie slams from all over the country from youths to adults; showcases; workshops; and other events. North Hollywood resident Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez will facilitate writing and performance workshops via his organization Spoken Literature Art Movement.

Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez - LA Get Down Festival via
Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez – LA Get Down Festival via

“Greenway has been a gathering place for who’s who in the spoken word poetry movement. The Get Down Festival is a curated window into this revolutionary art form. We are thrilled to be celebrating National Poetry Month in April with our Festival presentation, so If you are a playwright, screenwriter, actor or anyone interested in being inspired by original expression, come hang out with the poets,” said Greenway Arts Alliance co-founder and co-artistic director Pierson Blaetz.

“Spoken word expands all ages and cultures, we’re excited to have such a diverse schedule of talent leading the workshops this year, they embody the true spirit of Greenway’s commitment to arts and education,” added Greenway Arts Alliance co-founder and co-artistic director Whitney Weston.

“The LA Get Down Festival has importance beyond the City of Los Angeles. One of the main reasons is the lack of any National competition. With the National Poetry Slam’s governing board dissolving at the end of 2018, the ‘nationally’ sanctioned slam event is defunct. The LA Get Down allows teams from all over the country to compete against each other, during our InkSlam competition,” said LA Get Down Festival director Shihan Van Clief.

Van Clief continues, “The hope this year with the festival is to broaden our range of poetic programming, giving opportunities for poetry to be presented in a way that expands on what and how poetry can be consumed by an audience. We have themed nightly events, such as Poetry vs Hip-Hop, we also have Heartstorms, which is poetry packaged as an ensemble piece based around one poet’s work. We also have the team competition in which eight teams from around the country compete against each other for cash prizes.”

“Poetry is very much a niche art form, but with the Get Down we have the ability to show folks that the best way to find an appreciation for it is to experience it in a different capacity than what they’ve been used to. And hopefully, that’s what they get from this year’s festival,” he concludes.

North Hollywood resident Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez will participate in this year’s LA Get Down Festival.

Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez - LA Get Down Festival via
Matthew ‘Cuban’ Hernandez – LA Get Down Festival via

Matthew is a poet, speaker and performance coach from Jacksonville, Florida. He has toured as far as Abu Dhabi and nearly every major city in the United States and Europe, performing, teaching and coaching poetry. A teaching artist for nearly 10 years, Matthew has spent the last four years working in youth detention centers across Los Angeles County. He has opened for artists such as Wu-Tang and has performed for platforms such as BuzzFeed and NPR. Matthew is also a three-time Southern Fried Poetry Slam champion and an award-winning poetry coach. Cuban’s favorite activity is making people feel great; sometimes he does this through poetry.

Matthew is also the author of “3032,” a collection of poems paying homage to the address number of his childhood home in Florida. The book explores the dynamics of his childhood, and how they influenced his path in educating incarcerated youth.

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How did you first become enamored with poetry?

I’m a first generation Cuban-American poet from Jacksonville, Florida.

I first fell in love with poetry in the bars and night clubs of Duval County in Florida. I dabbled on the page a bit and some adults took notice, sneaking me into 21 and over spots where poetry was the late night entertainment. I fell in love with the poet’s power and passion and knew right away that I was capable of the same.

I began working with youth when I was just a youth myself. Beginning at 17, I would volunteer my time in the youth centers of Jacksonville. Just a year or two following, I began my own youth poetry organization called Shattered Thought.

What are you doing at this year’s LA Get Down Festival?

Planning and facilitating writing and performance workshops on behalf of my organization, Spoken Literature Art Movement. One workshop will be led by our alumni teaching artists in training. The other will be led by myself and my partner, Alyesha Wise-Hernandez.

I taught workshops last year and I participated in the group and individual poetry slams a couple of times years before.

How can local youth participate in the L.A. poetry scene?

Plenty of ways! Here are a few organizations that work with youth poets. They all provide some type of free programming.
Street Poets
Say Word
Get Lit-Words Ignite

Any words of advice for aspiring young poets?

• Be inspired, but be on a path to discover your own voice. Don’t try to sound like everyone else.
• Don’t try to become a poet for fame or popularity.
• Be ready to not be perfect. Writers learn the most via the edits.

Don’t miss this year’s LA Get Down Festival!

LA Get Festival via


April 5 – 27, 2019 during National Poetry Month


Greenway Court Theatre
544 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036


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Lisa Bianconi
Author: Lisa Bianconi

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