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Friday, December 5, 2014

Teamwork, leadership, commitment (and much more) on display at Eastside Poetry Slam!

(See our first-look Eastside Poetry Slam! photo album HERE; Storify HERE.)

"We good in school/ that's the No. 1 rule/ TLC be cool."

That line came from Miner Elementary School, the first of 20 schools to perform at the DC SCORES Eastside Poetry Slam! Thursday. It set the tone for a special night.

During an inspiring, captivating, often hilarious, and often courageous three hours at H.D. Woodson High School, DC SCORES teams could not have better demonstrated the Teamwork, Leadership and Commitment -- SCORES' core values -- that's instilled during the fall season.



There was Aiton Elementary School on stage, clapping and stomping in perfect unison as one student after another approached the microphone to describe why they're a survivor.

I’m a survivor because I never give up
I’m a survivor because I’m a strong young man
I’m a survivor because I keep a cool head
I’m a survivor because I reach for the Stars
I’m a survivor because I have faith
I’m a survivor because I don’t criticize, I exercise

That was just a small piece of Aiton's Golden Mic-winning performance, which the Bears rightfully celebrated by rushing the stage to hoist the large trophy. The celebration is surely continuing in the school's halls today.

There was Drew Elementary, the school that burst on the scene in its first Poetry Slam! by claiming the Golden Mic a year ago. When a school joins DC SCORES, there's always the question of how quickly the kids will buy into the spoken word and self-expression component of the program. At Drew, that's never been an issue.

Drew began its second-place-winning show with a step-dance routine, before a kid interrupted to say, "That's OLD SCHOOL, we did that last year!" It was just part of a beautifully synchronized and choreographed performance that began with a poem about hot pink, ended with a solo "About Me" poem -- just one type of poem kids learn during the fall -- and included this in the middle:

You Know 
You know I am the best, because I always try on tests
You know I am a winner, because I eat healthy dinners
You know I am a king, because I always help my team
You know I am a star, can't you see me from afar?
You know I am intelligent, aren't my DC-CAS scores relevant?
You know I am the greatest, because I strive to be the greatest



Much like on the soccer field, DC SCORES poetry teams need leaders -- kids who will take ownership of the team, help others, and when the Slam! arrives, often perform the solo poem.

The near-capacity crowd at H.D. Woodson was loud and boisterous all night. There were hoots, hollers, loads of encouragement, and plenty of laughs.

It could have been seemed an intimidating environment, especially for a kid all alone under the lights. But that was never the case, and this was best exemplified by Leron B.'s Shine Award-winning poem, "Freedom Isn't Free." Imagine Hope Charter School was the second-to-last school to perform during a long night, but Leron kept the crowd captivated.

People are being held back, held down.
Let people express themselves instead of frown
Have their dreams and be who they are...
Shouldn't everyone be a star?
Freedom isn't Free!



Middle schools that perform in the DC SCORES Poetry Slam! have an added challenge.

Not only are they tasked with performing three poems in front of hundreds of people; they have to produce their spoken word pieces to music. Getting the timing and rhythm down -- and incorporating everyone -- is a big challenge.

KIPP AIM has mastered it.

The middle schoolers in their orange soccer uniforms might have even upped their Golden Mic-winning performance from a year ago with a committed, nonstop entertaining show that had many in the audience singing along.

First they did a remix of J. Cole's "Got me up all night," inserting their own lyrics.

Got me up all night, trying to get these A's tho
GOT ME Up all night, all I'm doing is learning

Then, after William T. invoked Frederick Douglass in a solo poem, KIPP AIM brought down the house with remixes of the current hit song "Lifestyle" and the forever classic "Man in the Mirror."

You're looking at the kids going to college
We’re going to achieve our dreams
And No Mission Could be
Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The hood A Better Place
you gotta pick up your bags and go to school


From Miner's opening to Kelly Miller Middle School's closing, there was no dropoff during the three-hour Poetry Slam!. Emcee Charity Blackwell had the large crowd's attention from the get-go, DJ RBI had kids dancing in their seats in between (and even during) every performance, and the dance contest while scores were being tallied got so loud, eardrums popped.

Each great performance helped inspire the next. It might have been Thomas Elementary's first Slam!, but like Drew last year, the Tigers matched the competition and had many of the night's best lines, including, "When I'm president, my phone's gonna be blowing up!" Thomas finished in third place in an incredibly competitive field.

And just like every other school, they demonstrated that TLC that shined on stage throughout the evening.

Below is the full list of winners from the second night of the 17th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam!.


Elementary Schools
1st place — Aiton Elementary School
2nd place — Drew Elementary
3rd place — Thomas Elementary
School Spirit Award — J.C. Nalle Elementary
Shine Award — Leroy B., Imagine Hope Community Charter - Tolson Campus

Middle Schools
1st place — KIPP AIM
2nd place — Chavez Parkside
3rd place — Kelly Miller Middle School
Spirit Award — Johnson Middle

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