Daveed Diggs Was Spitting Poetry Long Before ‘Hamilton’

Viva

The world knows Daveed Diggs for his Tony Award winning performances as both Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette in the Broadway sensation Hamilton, but his love for the performing arts and spoken word—deeply rooted in the oral traditions of many societies—was cultivated long before Lin-Manuel Miranda tapped him to relive the revolution.

On Saturday (July 16), Diggs emceed the Brave New Voices Grand Slam Finals in Washington D.C. This annual youth poetry festival pulls hundreds of teens from all over the world to compete, share stories and commune as lovers of poetry and spoken word. Youth Speaks, the non-profit organization that runs the festival, has been an integral part of Diggs’ life since he was a teenager in Oakland, California in the late 1990s.

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“It was a part of what you did growing up,” He said to The Washington Post. ” It was woven in the fabric of the community. I don’t think I realized how special that was until I left. I didn’t know that it wasn’t part of what everyone did when they were teenagers, which was to go watch your friends spit poems.”

Through his participation in Youth Speaks poetry slams and workshops, Diggs was able to enhance his writing so that it rose to the level of his already skilled natural performance ability. His love for poetry spun into rap, which reportedly led to him meeting Miranda in a freestyle group.

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As MC, Diggs hoped he could serve as an example to teens of how bright a future in the arts could be. They might not know it, but they gave him something very special in return.

“The energy in the room is crazy,” he said. “It’s crazy. Every time I come to one of these things, I’m sweating and crying and laughing and screaming. It’s been a while since I was just in a room where kids were being brilliant and honest. I need this for myself. I really wanted to make sure I had the space to come here, and be inspired, and remember what this is like.”