Every year, the students of Arts and Technology Academy have a knack for taking a recent event that’s had a profound impact on their community and bringing it to light on stage.
That was no different Thursday during the second night of the 14th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam! at the brand-new H.D. Woodson High School.
Carrying signs such as “Love, not Hate” and “Equality for All,” the students capped off a brilliant night of poetry, spoken word and song by 13 schools with a performance dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., whose memorial was unveiled in the District just a few months ago.
ATA’s performance won the school a fourth consecutive Golden Mic trophy, but it was far from the only memorable act inside Woodson’s spacious — yet packed with people — auditorium. The Slam! — sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC — was emceed for the second consecutive night by spoken word artist KoM, aka “Mr. Keep on Moving,” who was joined by Grammy-nominated songstress Carolyn Malachi. DJ RBI, as always, provided the beats.
The evening began with longtime supporter Volkswagen Group of America presenting DC SCORES with a large check — literally —for $25,000. "With programs like DC SCORES, students develop a passion for lifelong learning," said Anna Schneider, Volkswagen Vice President of Industry and Government Relations.
Schneider's speech was the perfect segue to a night of performances that sent strong messages through spoken word — especially about the fact that education, going to school and learning are cool, really cool
Howard Road Academy started things off singing, “The DC-CAS (test) is coming/guess what I’ma do … Study, study, study hard!”; Beers Elementary rhymed, “Go to school, you can still be cool!”; and the theme of Cesar Chavez’s songs was to “speak up about education and don’t give up. Fight until the end,” with the hit line of their song, “School is the path to achieve our swag. Smart is the new swag.”
During a break in the school performances, the students’ education was tested when Malachi asked for a volunteer to come up to the stage and explain what a metaphor is. Without hesitation, a Cesar Chavez poet took the microphone from Malachi’s hand and answered her question by explaining that when it’s raining cats and dogs, well, cats and dogs aren’t actually falling from the sky.
While education was one theme of the night, Kelly Miller took home first place in the middle school division with a performance highlighted by a melodic tribute to moms everywhere, singing, “You are my sunshine/M-O-M I L-U-V you!”
ATA wasn’t the only school with MLK Jr. and his vision on their minds, as second-place finisher Noyes, earlier in the evening, put together a complete performance with an ode to President Obama (“Mr. Obama, you have allowed me to believe I can achieve my goals.”) followed by a poem citing black progress but also decrying all the hatred in the world.
Noyes’ poets concluded by pleading, “Let’s come together to make peace to make Dr. King’s dream reality.”
About half an hour later, ATA was echoing that message with another stirring, thought-provoking performance highlighted by a young boy, decked out in a black suit, telling the audience, “He believes that I can stand tall and dream.”
And dream is what the 400-plus students did all evening, telling the audience how proud they were of their background, how hard they studied in school, and what they will become —as one girl poet said, “Maybe even the president.”
There were no boundaries, no limits in the messages formulated and practiced during three months of DC SCORES programming and delivered on stage, under the brightest of lights, Thursday night. It was a performance MLK Jr. would have loved.
Below is the full list of winners from the second night of the 2011 DC SCORES Poetry Slam!.
1st place — ATA
2nd place — Noyes
3rd place — HRA
Spirit award — Moten
Shine award — Nakyiah N., HRA
1st place — Kelly Miller
2nd place — Cesar Chavez
Spirit award — Johnson
Shine award — Jeffry F., Cesar Chavez