Written by Jake Lloyd
Before the Eastside DC SCORES Poetry Slam! began Thursday evening, guest poet Malachi Byrd did a call-and-response with the hundreds of young poets inside H.D. Woodson High School.
"I am powerful," the DC Youth Slam Team member said.
"I am enough." "I am ENOUGH!"
But then a kid piped up from the crowd, "What does 'I'm enough' mean?" Good question, responded Bird, who told the kid and every poet-athlete in attendance what they've come to realize and embrace during the 12-week fall DC SCORES writing program.
That who they are and what they do is, simply, enough. That they should love themselves.
And that was the theme of what followed -- an array of serious, funny, poignant and brilliantly choreographed performances that captivated a capacity audience.
The Aiton Elementary School Bears are known in DC SCORES circles for being quite the tenacious, determined soccer players. They are athletes led by a coach, Mr. Hollins, who takes their games seriously and holds each poet-athlete accountable.
The Bears were in character Thursday, marching out on stage as boxers and dazzling the audience with a rhythmic, perfectly choreographed performance that might land some of these Bears in Hollywood (if they're not playing professional soccer).
I can/I can!
I can learn/I can learn!
I can achieve/I can achieve
I am successful/I am successful!
I am a scholar/I am a scholar!
The Aiton Bears were the Aiton Bears, and at night's end they rushed the stage for a second consecutive year after winning the Golden Mic trophy and danced joyously alongside D.C. United coach Ben Olsen and goalie Travis Worra.
Beers Elementary School's second-place performance was dictated by an event that hit close to home. Earlier in the year, the Cheetahs (team name) lost a beloved teacher to breast cancer.
The Cheetahs not only dedicated their performance to the teacher, but made it educational. Poem 1 was for Mrs. Agurs:
We wish you were here to help us with our work
You were very inspiring and pretty
I wish we had more people like you in this city
Then the students, all dressed in pink, performed "Cure It," a plea to find a cure for the awful disease and for women to take every precaution possible to avoid and/or detect it.
And finally, the Cheetahs performed an ode to all their DC Public School teachers. They might be third- through fifth-graders, but their understanding of life's delicacies and embracing what you have shined brightly.
Teachers educate us and give us knowledge
They give us work to prepare us for college
You teach us different subjects like ELA, science and math
Don't torture them before you come to school/Please take a bath!
Each team took the stage in different outfits. As is usually the case, there were plenty of schools sporting their soccer uniforms -- proud of all the progress they made on the field this fall and feeling united as one, the same school name on every child's jersey.
Leckie Elementary School, decked out in their customary gold shirts, showed great pride in their ethnicity.
"Black like you, Black like me, Black like us, Black like me!"
"Black is beautiful!"
Orr Elementary School brought silly to the stage with an "I am" poem. Each kid approached the microphone and said something completely unpredictable and outrageous, and laughter ricocheted off the walls of the auditorium. The Jaguars finished their performance with an ode to rain set to the song "Drip Drop."
KIPP Quest brought the audience back to serious matters with an appropriate reaction to an event in their community -- a shooting. This was the second time in five years the students at the school, formerly Arts and Technology Academy, had to deal with violence right outside their building's doors.
The Poetry Slam! stage provided what it did then, too -- a safe place for the kids to express their feelings. They did so in a well-rounded way that demonstrated how proud they are to represent their community and also what needs to change. They started with group poems about "urban rappers" and how good they can be, and followed that up with a fun "If I was a rapper" poem.
The rapper in me is an urban poet
The rapper in us goes to KIPP DC
See all rappers are not bad
They go to college and get degrees
And then Shine Award winner M'kya S. punctuated the performance with a solo poem and dropped the mic with this:
"The next time you want to shoot, shoot with cameras -- not guns"
Words have power
Words have power
Words have power
Words have power
Moten Elementary School's poets were the second team under the bright lights and they helped set the stage for the night.
Whether teams were educating about breast cancer, decrying violence in their community, showing how fun it is to be goofy, embracing their skin color, or boxing to the beat of their words, all poet-athletes on stage embraced themselves and their teams.
And that was more than enough.
1st place — Aiton Elementary School
2nd place — Beers Elementary School
3rd place — Burrville Elementary School
Spirit Award — J.C. Nalle Elementary School
Shine Award — M'kya S., KIPP QUEST
Middle Schools \
1st place — Jefferson Middle School
2nd place — Hart Middle School
3rd place — KIPP KEY
Spirit Award — Eliot-Hine Middle School
Shine Award — Lorenzo J., KIPP KEY