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The night started with a resounding, ear-splitting “I LOVE DC SCORES” from a packed auditorium of DC kids and their families. During the following three hours, 23 teams of poets took the stage.
The poems varied widely, but a central message emerged, and then re-emerged, throughout the first night of the 20th Annual DC SCORES Poetry Slam! – we are special, we are diverse, and collectively, we are powerful.
“We’re about to blow your minds,” crowed the Seaton Stingers just minutes in the show. And that they would, as their name was called last some three hours later as the elementary school Golden Mic champion. Seaton rushed the stage for their photo with D.C. United coach Ben Olsen. That was the night’s end.
But back to the beginning…
Your team should always give power
No matter what
This is what DC Scores means
Seaton’s Diamond G. finished her riveting, pulsating, auditorium-shaking poem “Soccer’s my thing” with those lines, and the theme carried for 21 more performances.
Power was given. From one poet to the next. From one team dressed in their matching DC SCORES jerseys to the next.
When the 2016 Poetry Slam! took place on Nov. 16 of last year, kids in DC SCORES and their families were just starting to feel the reverberations of possible changes in our country. Now, many of them have felt the effects of the past year. Many have been directly affected by changes around them.
On Wednesday, they let their voices be heard while celebrating their diversity and communities and shutting down stereotypes.
There were LaSalle-Backus’ kids, 8-10 years old, speaking about guns and the Las Vegas tragedy. One kid after another stepped to the mic to tell the crowd why they hated guns. “Guns changed my life when my uncle got killed,” a boy said. “He was only 20. A young life wasted.”
KIPP WILL took the stage next and to the beat of their song, started…
Tamir Rice - why did this happen
Sandra Bland - she didn’t get justice
Michael Brown - he was going to college
Philando Castile - his child saw him die
Eric Garner - he was minding his own business
Tayvon Martin - he was only a child
“That’s what Martin Luther King taught us,” the middle schoolers concluded. “(That) we will stand to fight, with all our might/Fighting for our rights tonight.”
There was Chavez Prep, a mostly Hispanic school, proudly letting anyone with preconceived notions know that “Just because we are hispanic…”
“Doesn’t mean (insert stereotype).”
And there was H.D. Cooke – featured earlier in the day by WUSA-9 – reminding us all that love always wins. Marie Reed chimed in too with a poignant ode to Moms that must have catalyzed tears throughout the auditorium, if not phone calls to Moms everywhere after.
If hate has spread during the last year, it was nowhere to be found inside Roosevelt’s walls Wednesday night.
Rather, diversity was celebrated. Nearly every 5-minute performance began with a kid introducing the poem titles in English and Spanish. Many poems were performed in both languages. Kids proudly held up flags of their native countries. As always, ethnic favorite foods were celebrated, eliciting joyous laughter from the audience.
Bilingual school Bancroft spoke of the immigrant struggle:
In the USA, looking for opportunities
Like work and school to build up our community
We come prepared to do the hard work
So that the children can do their homework
Teachers show students how to read, write, and dream
Using these things to live the American dream
Powell Bilingual Elementary, dressed in their orange soccer jerseys, was next and came with a unifying message:
Make the world a better place
Understand how other people feel
Notice how they’re being treated
Inequality has to stop
Treat people the way you want to be treated
You can change the world
And change the world, these kids will do. Because if they can stand up in front of 500 people at such a young age and express their innermost thoughts, fears and hopes, they can do anything.
Earlier in the day, WUSA-9’s segment started like this: “DC SCORES is perhaps most well-known for offering soccer programs.” The nightcap illustrated that the passion kids have for soccer – as Diamond punctuated with her award-winning poem – translates to the stage.
Poetry is just as important. And probably even more powerful.
1st place – Seaton Elementary School
2nd place – Tubman Elementary School
3rd place – H.D. Cooke Elementary School
Spirit Award – Powell Elementary School
Shine Award – Diamond G., Seaton Elementary School
1st place – Truesdell Education Campus
2nd place – Brightwood Education Campus
3rd place – Cesar Chavez Prep
Spirit Award – LaSalle-Backus Education Campus
Shine Award – Ja’Quan L., KIPP WILL