By the time Noyes Education Campus took the stage a little before 7 p.m. Wednesday night, it was difficult to spot an open seat in the Columbia Heights Education Campus auditorium.
The Wolfpack put on a memorable performance for the near-capacity audience that capped off an incredible night of self-expression, school pride, and courage on stage displayed by 18 teams of young poets.
"You told me that I would be a hot mess. But look at me now. I'm a success!"
That was the last, captivating line of Noyes' poem — the final, emphatic word spoken as the 11 poets on stage simultaneously unizpped their sweatshirts to display shirts reading "Success." After seeing dozens of impressive, poignant performances throughout the evening, the hundreds of parents, community members and supporters in the auditorium agreed.
The first night of the 15th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam! — funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC — was emceed by poet KoM and Cortney Hicks of Majic 102.3 FM, with the beats provided by DJ RBI. Tonight another 17 schools will bring their original works to the stage at 5 p.m. at H.D. Woodson High School (map).
On Wednesday, five schools new to the DC SCORES program this fall performed at the event for the first time and showed few nerves under the bright lights. Seaton Elementary had the difficult task of going first, but rhymed about their work ethic on the soccer field.
"Practice harder, play smarter, be stronger, go farther," the students, decked out in their orange uniforms, recited together.
Capital City Public Charter School then put forth a thoughtful first performance that earned them second place at the end of the night (see full results at the bottom of this blog). Teamwork was the theme of their performance, as they dropped lines including:
"Teamwork escalates to an amazing, memorable group."
"Taking care of others, always saying kind things, everyone deserves a chance — makes up a team."
"Big or small, short or tall, all together we make a team."
A week ago, Paul Public Charter School's girls and boys teams competed in the Capital Cup middle school championship soccer games. On Wednesday, Paul's students showed their creativity goes beyond the soccer field with a stirring rap performance that had everyone in the auditorium bobbing their heads.
"Take a look at me," the lead girl rapper sang, "tell me what you see!"
What we saw was a showing that earned Paul second place among middle schools when the hardware was handed out at the end of the evening.
First place in that division belonged to yet another new DC SCORES school, Chavez Prep. And the individual Shine Award belonged to Zayda L., who had the most courageous performance of the night — a poem about her deceased father. The team then segued to a poem about how they were frustrated with this, and angry about that, "but we persevere to feel good again."
Just minutes later, Zayda and her teammates were hugging the first-place trophy and posing for photos on stage.
While Noyes' brilliant performance clearly captured first place and the Golden Mic trophy in the elementary school division, there were memorable, unique performances throughout the show that demonstrated the creativity used by students and their writing coaches throughout the fall DC SCORES season.
The Thomson Elementary School Tigers took rapper Taio Cruz's hit song "Dynamite" and turned it into their own, singing about striving to succeed while tapping their feet and hands in rhythm all together.
"I put my hands up in the air sometimes," the large Tigers team sang, "showing Tigers expectations..."
H.D. Cooke's performance put forth an agenda for President Obama that included: more police; better parks; helping immigrants; assisting the homeless; giving education more funding; planting more trees, picking up litter, and providing more trash and recycling receptacles to reduce litter.
The poem was punctuated by a girl taking the mic and commanding, "Don't waste energy/turn off the lights/don't be afraid to do what's right!"
Several third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were brave enough to take center stage, mic in hand, and perform their schools' solo poems throughout the Slam!. The Shine Award for the outstanding individual elementary school performance went to Kastenny C. of Marie Reed Elementary School for her moving poem, "I am a diamond."
"I am strong, beautiful and unique," Kastenny said. "I am a diamond in the sky."
After receiving her trophy, Kastenny wiped away tears of joy as she came off stage, clearly overcome by the moment. She likely will not forget Wednesday night for a long time.
Neither will the Noyes Wolfpack, who had to wait all night, cheering on their fellow schools as they sat patiently for their turn. When it finally came, they didn't disappoint. After introducing their school by way of their signature howling ("AYOOOOOOOOOOOOO ... AYOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"), their winning performance started with "Where I came from."
Standing in a line across the stage, each student took the microphone to describe their background.
"Where I come from, no one is left out."
"I strive for first 'cuz I come from last."
Then Ayanna V., a DC SCORES veteran who performed at the America SCORES National Poetry SLAM! last April, wowed the enraptured audience with her solo poem "I Am Me." Strutting back in forth in front of her teammates, her black boots sparkling, Ayanna was poetic about herself and who she is not.
"I am me. And only me."
Finally, the Wolfpack put a cherry on their complete showing by pairing up on stage and pointing fingers at each other to illustrate how they exceed people's expectations.
"You told me that I would be a dropout," one girl said to another, "but I didn't. I have perfect attendance!"
The performance culminated in that final line, and the unveiling of the shirts.
The message on the shirts summed up the entire night for 18 DC SCORES teams.
It was a resounding "Success."
Below is the full list of winners from the first night of the 15th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam!.
1st place — Noyes Education Campus
2nd place — Capital City Public Charter School
3rd place (tie) — Raymond Education Campus, Tubman Elementary School
Spirit Award — Thomson Elementary School
Shine Award — Kastenny C., Marie Reed Elementary School
1st place — Cesar Chavez Public Charter School - Prep
2nd place — Paul Public Charter School
3rd place — Lincoln Middle School
Spirit Award — Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
Shine Award — Zayda L., Chavez Prep
View the entire Night 1 performance that was live-streamed on YouTube HERE.