The 2017 All City Teen Poetry Slam Festival was held over two weekends in early April with the theme “Here Still.”
The finals on April 8 were a tribute to the city’s resilience after the summer of 2016, including the death of 2016 festival participant and McKinley High School graduate Kaiya Smith.
“The theme of this year’s festival saw our students examining the tragedies of last summer from both a critical and cathartic lens,” said Donney Rose, marketing director and events coordinator at Forward Arts, the festival sponsor. “About half of our festival participants wrote poems that carefully examined what it was to live in a city engulfed in civil unrest and natural disaster. The other half wrote a great deal about what it was to process the loss of a friend with whom they had shared a festival stage just last year.”
Smith’s words and images were featured in festival displays. The festival presented its first Kaiya Smith Award for WordCrew Excellence to Tyler Scott, a festival participant and member of Forward Arts’ after-school poetry writing collective.
Scott received an all-expense-paid trip to the 20th annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival slated for July in San Francisco.
Baton Rouge Magnet High School was crowned the championship team, followed by McKinley High School. A second team from Baton Rouge Magnet High also placed among the finalists.
Individual poets selected to the 2017 Forward Arts All Stars slam team are Jazmyne Smith, Olivia Williams, Chazzi Hayes, Kalvin Morris, Imani Sundiata and Imani McCullam. They will compete at the Brave New Voices festival. Forward Arts has been represented by a team at the festival since 2006.
Louisiana School for the Deaf received the Spirit of the Slam award for displaying noteworthy sportsmanship during the festival. The school sent two teams to the festival this year.
A poetry slam is an Olympic-style spoken word poetry competition in which poets perform original writing within a 3-minute time limit, a news release said. Some of the hallmarks of slam poems are originality, physicality and vulnerability.