They’ve been called the Dynamic Duo. Gabriel Giron and Kirk Latimer are the rock star poets and motivational speakers behind an organization they started ten years ago called Kinetic Affect. A large part of their mission has been to speak to and alongside at-risk youth at Lakeside Academy and the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, and similar organizations nationwide.
According to Giron, “We met on the slam poetry circuit in Kalamazoo.” In fact, Latimer says they were actually competitors, “And he thought he was better than me.” “I was better than you,” Giron says, and Latimer agrees, laughing.
The two glance at each other knowingly, with a hint of mischief. Theirs is a relationship like that between brothers. They may not share parents but they both have a passion to make the world a better place, especially for the underdog: kids who've gone astray as they both once had. "Been there, done that," they'll tell you. But now it was time to make up for misdeeds and pull others up along the way. Once competitors, they realized that their combined voices were stronger than either one alone.
Side by side with Kinetic Affect, the name the two use on stage, Giron and Latimer created Speak It Forward. It's a nonprofit organization with the mission of “transforming the lives of youth and adults by using spoken-word poetry as a vehicle to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, break down barriers and instill a sense of empowerment and community.”
After a highly successful decade traveling nationwide to give performances and workshops, Giron and Latimer are now looking forward to the next ten years.
“We’re doing a lot of work now with racial equity, understanding identity, and we are now beginning to work with the prison system in North Dakota,” says Latimer. “We’ll be working not only with residents of the maximum security prisons, but also to train trainers in each prison to carry on our work.”
He adds, “That came about when we were invited to come to Denver, Colorado, to take part in something called the warden exchange, with wardens from the top prisons, those with names people would recognize.”
In an effort to create more rehabilitation programs and lower recidivism rates in prisons, Kinetic Affect will develop programs that offer education as well as give prisoners a voice.
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