At the Eastside Poetry Slam! Thursday night, students from 10 schools used the bright stage to send many powerful messages to a packed and loud audience full of school spirit and proud parents.
Reading poems such as "Stop the Violence," "Let's all Save the World Together" and "Free Woman," the DC SCORES poets made it clear what changes they believe need to happen in their respective Eastside communities.
Perhaps no school's message was stronger than that of the Arts and Technology Academy, who brought a handmade coffin on stage to illustrate their message that violent acts in their community need to cease immediately. ATA's strong performance, which included "Stop the Violence," "Self-destruction" and "I am so Angry," garnered them the Golden Mic trophy for the second consecutive year.
One of the best lines from ATA came during an individual poem, when a girl said about a friend's tragic murder: "I won't avenge his death because violence is a vicious cycle that only repeats itself."
ATA's performance capped off the 12th annual Poetry Slam, but before they took the stage there were several outstanding readings that also sent strong messages to an adoring audience that often stood up to give standing ovations.
Burrville and Anne Beers tied for second place among elementary schools -- Beers for its poem about the naughty kids and the smart kids simply needing a caring teacher to bring them together and thrive in the classroom; and Burrville for its strong messages about violence, the environment, and assisting others.
Beers came out in two groups, with some students in black shirts that read things like "Big and Bad" and others in red shirts with words such as "Good Girl." The bad kids rhymed about being troublemakers and the good kids talked about succeeding in school. But then they got to the bottom line, even dropping the city council in their poem to let everyone know that when teachers are present in their classroom, everyone wants to learn.
They finished the performance with a tribute to educators, saying, "Without teachers, there wouldn't be this show."
Burrville's message was strong in a variety of ways. In reading "MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!," the large throng of students in decorated white T-shirts lamented in powerful, bold voices that "people are going too far, life is just becoming too hard!" In their second group poem, "Help the Homeless," the Burrville poets expressed how they feel when they see people struggling so mightily: "I give to the poor, but want to give them more. It makes me sad to see them eating out of trashcans near my door."
As strong as Burrville's group poems were, their individual poem might have been the highlight. Flanked by her fellow poets, Jasia S. took the microphone and instantly asked the crowd, "Do you like nature?" It was an unexpected question, but it quickly caught everyone's attention as she delved into her poem ("Let's all Save the World Together") about protecting the environment through recycling, sustainable planting and not wasting.
Early during Jasia's poem, someone yelled from way back in the audience, "That's my sister!!" and Jasia smiled, but kept on reading. Her poem earned her the Shine Award for the best individual performance.
Another highlight of the seven elementary schools' performances included Howard Road Academy dressing up in many different costumes (a nerd, an artist, an athlete, a "fashionista") and everyone approaching the microphone to tell the audience what makes them unique and a superhero. Their performance them the Spirit Award for getting the Slam! off to such an energetic start.
But let's not forget where the event was held -- at Kelly Miller Middle School. And the Lions represented their school very well, winning the middle school first-place trophy for their reading of "My Life is Free." Sporting black sunglasses to go with their school uniforms, a host of Kelly Miller poets told the audience what it means to them to be free and what they are going to do with that freedom.
Being in the United States is a reason they have such freedom, so it was only appropriate that the introduction to their poem was the singing of the national anthem by their own Kristina F., who got a rousing standing ovation after using her beautiful voice to confidently get her team's performance started. She'll no doubt be reciting the song on several more occasions at future events.
Cesar Chavez took home second place, with their time on stage highlighted by a poem about successful leaders. Jefferson won the Spirit award for its theme of being overlooked as students and future leaders who can make a real difference.
The performances were terrific, the energy in the small auditorium -- which was near capacity -- was at an extremely high pitch, and other performances mixed into the Slam! only made it an even livelier night.
Black Boo of Mambo Sauce MCd for the second consecutive evening and was joined by WPGC-FM's Justine Love, who jumped rope, did a little dancing and kept everyone entertained during brief breaks in the action while DJ RBI set up the next song.
For the second straight night, there was a dance-off that had the audience going bananas (some of these kids are just amazing in doing splits, the pop-and-lock, the jerk and many other moves); HRA showed off its many artistic sides with a poetry in motion performance in which students moved silently and in unision to music and a step performance, during which students in two lines engaged in friendly competition; and the Aiton cheerleaders did a rousing and daring routine, which included a basket toss on stage.
So, yeah, there was plenty of excitement to go around at the Poetry Slam!, and judging by all the smiles plastered on kids' faces, they enjoyed the night as much as most of the audience did. And as an added bonus, when the winners were announced and ran up to the stage to receive their trophies, they were presented with them by soccer stars Abby Wambach of the Washington Freedom (a former gold medalist) and Clyde Simms of D.C. United, who was the MLS MVP a few years back.
When the night was finally finished, the ATA poets had one final rhyme to let spectators hear as they filed out of the auditorium.
"We rep the SCORES, SCORES, SCORES! We rep the SCORES!..."
And that was a cap on the 2009 Poetry Slam!
Below is the full list of winners from the 2009 Eastside Poetry Slam!
ATA -- 1st place
Burrville, Beers -- 2nd place
HRA -- Spirit Award
Jasia S., Burrville -- Shine Award
Kelly Miller -- 1st place
Cesar Chavez -- 2nd place
Jefferson -- Spirit Award
Kristina F., Kelly Miller -- Shine Award