Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Twelve America SCORES poet-athletes from across the East Coast united at the legendary Nuyorican Poets' Cafe on Manhattan's Lower East Side on Saturday, February 8th to celebrate spoken word and to compete for the opportunity to perform at March's America SCORES National Slam.
An integral pillar of America SCORES programming focuses on the power of poetry as a means of self-expression, healing from trauma, and community engagement. Standout poets from each America SCORES city -- Boston, New York, Washington DC, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver -- were chosen to compete in regional poetry slams throughout the US. These poet-athletes have worked with coaches and program staff to perfect their poems in the hopes of advancing to the America SCORES National Slam at the Kennedy Center on March 22. Each of the slams, which will also feature performances from local professional spoken-word artists, will be filmed and edited as part of a documentary movie, tentatively entitled Our Words Our Cities. The stakes were high but it's safe to say that the Eastern Regional Poetry slam competitors did not disappoint!
It was a full house at the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe with parents, community members, and America SCORES supporters coming out in droves to support their city. With the stage set and every seat filled, hosts Shanell Sharpe (Writing Coordinator for America SCORES New York) and Charity Blackwell (DC SCORES) MC'd the evening, walking the audience through the intricacies of a poetry slam and introducing our esteemed judges: Pamela Price (former principal of PSMS 161), Brian Francis (Principal of New Design Middle School), Njambi Morgan (professional poet), Mal Mero (professional poet), and Heather Dunning (teacher at PS 139).
Finally, it was time for our featured performers: our poet-athletes! The youth from ASNY -- Karla from Washington Heights' PS 04, Brayden from Harlem's PSMS 161, Solayna from Brooklyn's PS 249, and Ahmed from Harlem's PS 153-- were eager to take the stage! Each poem's unique approach and incredible rhetoric stunned the audience, leaving them laughing, in tears, or deeply in thought. With topics ranging from gun violence to community, from fleeing war to video games, our poet-athletes felt encouraged to express their deepest selves and left the judges with difficult decisions.
A tie for third gave us four champions who will complete in the America SCORES National Slam next month:
- Third Place: Solayna (ASNY) and Tyreze (DC SCORES)
- Second Place: Ahmed (ASNY)
- First Place: Karla (ASNY)
A huge congratulations to all of the poet-athletes who performed -- you continue to amaze us everyday! We can't wait for National Slam!