Written by Jake Lloyd
“I come tonight bringing tidings from our mayor, Mayor Bowser, who wishes she could be here… Tomorrow I will tell her and councilmembers this: The first thing I would tell them about is the fantastic dancing. The second thing I would tell them about is how when teams were on stage and someone was having a moment not remembering (their poem), the support that all the (capacity) audience was giving. What I went to tell them most about tonight is the Power of the Poetry, that you are all going to change the world and that you are taking on — when you hear about in the news people not being respectful and not honoring (life) — what YOU bring to the table is what our true United States is. That’s what I’m really, really proud of and that’s what I’m going to bring back to the mayor tomorrow.”
-- District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles
In a matter of two hours, 19 teams of poet-athletes reminded a capacity audience at Columbia Heights Education Campus that included DC's Deputy Mayor for Education that there is plenty of hope in the world.
Feeling empowered and strong from 12 weeks of poetry workshop sessions this fall season, one school-based team after another took the stage and delivered united, inspiring, stirring, eye-opening, tear-jerking and poignant works of creative expression.
On a day when yet another mass shooting occurred in the United States and there remain massive equality gaps and widespread acts of racism, the performances left Niles -- and the 500 or so others in attendance -- feeling so, so much better about the world and communities they live in.
Truesdell Education Campus Middle School won its second Golden Mic trophy for first place in three years with a performance dedicated to longtime coach Charles Robinson who couldn't be at the Slam! due to health reasons.
Wearing T-shirts plastered with a photo of Robinson -- who we profiled with this video recently -- the Trojans spoke candidly of struggling but persevering in many ways: a girl struggling to learn English; a boy struggling to make friends at school; and, of course, dealing with Coach Robinson's health setback.
Through it all, they persevered. "The struggle is real but we MADE IT," the students said in unison.
Seaton Elementary School also won the Golden Mic trophy for the second time in three years with a performance punctuated by the line, "Love is power."
Decked out in their soccer uniforms, the Stingers lined the stage -- taking up its entirety -- and reminded the audience about imagination.
"Use your imagination/The future beholds/Stories untold/Use your imagination!"
There was no complaining on stage. Teams touched on the issues plaguing society, but instead of sulking about them spoke passionately of hope and resolutions -- future politicians, perhaps?
Capital City Public Charter School did a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump back-and-forth, with the boys reminding the girls that women are just as powerful as men and that when it comes to being president, "What matters is that they care about the people."
Bancroft Elementary School, dressed in their customary yellow soccer jerseys, spoke of "equal education for all" punctuated by a girl throwing her fist in the sky and yelling, "I have the right to envision a bright future. I HAVE THE RIGHT!"
LaSalle-Backus Education Campus, in just its second Poetry Slam!, finished in second place -- the performance highlighted by 9-year-old Dezeray S.,'s poignant poem about school shootings:
"My heart beats with fear that this could happen at my school. Not again. Not again. NEVER again."
Each school performed three poems, and LaSalle's was upbeat as the kids in their green soccer uniforms rattled off everything in their futures from research papers, to getting an apartment, to discovering a cure for cancer, to taking a trip to the moon, to taking a trip to Mars, to "How about Jupiter!?"
Barnard Elementary School's performance centered around dreams: "I dream to go to college to get more knowledge." ... "What do you want to be in the future? I dream to travel the world and learn all kinds of languages.
"Hey, future, you better be ready for us because we are the Barnard Bears. ROARRRRR!"
The host Lincoln Knights let Donald Trump know that Latinos "are united and it is not in vain. I always support my Mexican brothers," and that "Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Dominicans, we all come from the American dream." The Knights spoke of the struggles and risks of immigrating, but also the rewards.
KIPP WILL brought a similar message to the stage, with 20 kids dressed in black leading with the struggles of African-Americans before letting the audience know that "we will be proud and we will be loud and we WILL RISE!."
"We need to unite as one," said Jaquan W., mic in hand, as the Shine Award winner performed in front of his teammates. "I'm done!"
And finally, 3rd-place finisher Marie Reed Elementary School brought us back to "Hope Avenue." Yes, there are many reasons for despair, the large team of kids in orange told us, but there's always hope, too.
"Have you ever heard of Hope Avenue or Change Way!? I want to go there someday. Don't you think there's hope in all of us? In order to cope, NEVER lose hope."
1st place — Seaton Elementary School
2nd place — LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
3rd place — Marie Reed Elementary School
Spirit Award — Capital City Public Charter School
Shine Award — Dayana P., Thomson Elementary School
1st place — Truesdell Education Campus
2nd place — KIPP WILL
3rd place — Brightwood Education Campus
Spirit Award — Lincoln Middle School
Shine Award — Jaquan W., KIPP WILL