LTAB-DMV is an annual teen poetry slam festival involving schools throughout the DMV area. LTAB was founded in Chicago in 2001 to “give youth around the city of Chicago a platform to share their stories.” The festival has since become a ‘bridge’ for young people from many different backgrounds to come together and find a common ground through their narratives. LTAB is the largest youth poetry festival in the world, featuring over 100 zip codes within the Chicagoland area. This year LTAB-DMV was a month-long event that continued through May 2014. As of right now, there are over 30 high school slam teams throughout the DMV area, however only 25 teams participated in the festival. Each team had the opportunity to slam against other teams within the five different preliminaries. The two teams that had the highest overall score at the end of the bout moved onto the next bout and eventually to the semi-finals. This cycle continued throughout the month of May until there were only four schools left: Friendly High, Wilson Senior High School, Madeira School, and this year’s Champions, Cesar Chavez PCS-Capitol Hill.
The CooLots performing at the Block Party
On the day of finals, May 31, 2014, there was a free block party that was open to the public. During the block party there was an MC competition as well as musical accompaniment from the CooLots, an all girl rock/soul band. The party was catered by Island Moon Catering, & Pizza, and Busboys and Poets, including delectable food fit for both meat lovers as well as vegetarians. The party quickly drew in a crowd of not only youth poets but college students as well. Personally, I enjoyed the party and I thought it was a great way to start off the day and hype people up for the finals later that evening.
Thomas Hill of the DC Youth Slam Team reading a Dr. Maya Angelou poem in memorium
Before the start of finals, LTAB-DMV coach Joseph Green and co-host Reesa Renee explained the rules of the slam and the order of events. Once they finished explaining the rules, Thomas “Vocab” Hill came to the stage to do a tribute poem for Maya Angelou. After Thomas’ performance, Quintin “Zayy” Paschall came to the stage as the sacrificial poet. The sacrificial poet is someone who is not competing in the competition but performs a piece that will be scored by the judges to calibrate their scores. The purpose of this is to warm the judges up and also to give the audience a little piece of what they can expect from the poets. Throughout the competition, poets spoke on a wide range of topics from being addicted to Chipotle, to love poems, to deportation, and gender roles and the expectations of society and still that is only a taste of what these poets had to offer. Being as though I am a 17-year-old living in the DMV area, it was really refreshing to hear my peers speaking eloquently on such raw topics.
Lyrikal Storm performing Chipotle Addiction poem
I particularly enjoyed the group piece by Elijah and Antonio from the Friendly team. In their piece, they spoke on what society’s definition of a man was as opposed to the real definition of a man. I also thoroughly enjoyed the feature poet who was none other than Rudy Francisco, a very accomplished poet who has won the 2009 National Underground Poetry Slam, 2010 San Diego Grand Slam, 2010 San Francisco Grand Slam and that’s just to name a few. The feature poet is the equivalent to the halftime show at a football game. Rudy was given 20 minutes to perform his original pieces. I found Rudy very engaging and very authentic. Personally, I think it’s imperative that poets are as real and as genuine as possible and Rudy was both of those things. My favorite poem that he performed was about complainers.
Rudy Francisco featuring at #LTABDMV Grand Slam Finals
I can honestly say that there is no better way I could have spent my Saturday than at LTAB-DMV finals. Listening to the youth’s stories and their opinions about what changes need to be made in the world gave me hope. I am no longer doubtful about the future of our youth because from what I’ve witnessed at LTAB-DMV, our future looks very, very bright. — written by Shayla Johnson, 17-year-old student, Chavez Fellowship Program, Split This Rock