Sunday, March 29, 2015

day 29: power to the people! Write on!

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A few days ago I was texting with friends, trying to figure out what we were going to do this weekend:

They laugh at me but have no idea about the event I attended yesterday. Said poetry slam was Louder Than a Bomb, presented by Young Chicago Authors. LTAB is a poetry festival, this year, celebrating it's 15th year. I came to find out about it last year when I came across this video on Twitter:

LTAB is a poetry competition, but the point is not the points, the point is the poetry! All of March, the teams and individuals attend bouts until they are narrowed down to four teams to compete at the finals. This year, finals were held at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place. LTAB is actually the largest youth poetry festival in the awesome is that?

I went with one of my favorite work friends, Alexa. Neither of us had been before. When we arrived, we found seats, and the DJ was playing music and all the kids were dancing on stage....tons of kids from all over Chicago and a few suburbs. "This is what the city of Chicago looks like."

Eventually the competition got underway. Each team was to have three individual performances and then one group performance. Kids were encouraged to "Step up to the microphone and dream." They were told to share their stories. This festival came about to give a voice to marginalized groups across the city.

The kids spoke poems about all kinds of topics - some I have no idea about, but many included themes of police treatment of black boys. Being such a traumatic event, what happened in Ferguson was woven through many of the pieces. Kids discussed politics in Chicago, wars happening in our city and around the world, their experiences being different than the "Barbie Army" applying their red lipstick in the bathroom mirrors as the different girl hides in a bathroom stall. One girl spoke about an act of violence she endured. All poems were just that - laced in metaphor, plagued with sounds that make the poetry come alive as it was performed for us.

The best thing? There was a theater full of kids who LOVE writing. One of the co-founders talked about how these kids who participate in LTAB walk around their high schools as popular as the star football players, but instead of catching a pass and winning Friday night's game, they are "hyper literate nerd word" kids, looked up to by their peers. LTAB gave them art, poetry, and a space to find themselves, and that's exactly what they did.

As a presenter at the end gave out the literary award, he shared a quote (I didn't catch who said it) but it was, "The world may be in bad shape, but you can't blame the youth." So true. Last night was exhilarating. I am definitely not done with classroom teaching. I totally want to teach high school. Think of all I could learn from the youth that sits before me if I was ever able to have that awesome opportunity?

Check out archives of LTAB here.


  1. This sounds AMAZING. I love how you set it up with the text from your friends, too. I will look into this event since I'm a Chicago suburbian myself. Thanks for sharing your experience - sounds amazing.

  2. Next would be awesome if we could get a group of us to go...
    I wonder if the take 50 somethings in? xo

  3. Love the line: Step up to the microphone and dream. Such an opening, an invitation.

  4. What a fun, inspiring experience to share with Alexa!

  5. wow! such an amazing experience for everyone involved. I'm glad you and Alexa got to go. I can't wait to hear more about it tomorrow!

  6. Sounds fun! I never appreciated poetry until I started teaching it. I went to a conference where Marc Smith, the guy who started poetry slams (in Chicago, I should add), taught us how to teach our students the difference between reading and performing poetry. It was SO MUCH FUN! I took all his lessons back to my students the next week!

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