DC SCORES Poet-Athletes Take On DC’s Most Pressing Issues in Powerful Elementary School Slams Performances

2-79b28f.png Poet-athletes stepped up to the mic to deliver a range of messages, from advocating for the environment to ending gun violence. Photo: Cody Cervenka

On November 29 and 30, 2023, DC SCORES hosted the District’s largest youth spoken word events when more than 1,300 kids from 43 public and charter schools participated in the non-profit’s annual elementary school poetry slams.

Held across two nights in auditoriums at Cardozo Education Campus (Westside Slam) and Ballou High School (Eastside Slam), the slams represented the culmination of the non-profit’s fall season afterschool programming, in which participants – known as poet-athletes — play soccer and write original poems with their teammates.

The teams’ poems reflected a range of issues close to the hearts of the District’s young people and will form the basis of poet-athletes’ community service projects in the DC SCORES spring season. From eliminating bullying to the impact of inflation, the themes addressed in the well-rehearsed performances highlighted the challenges DC’s young people face and their solutions to tackling the issues they have inherited from older generations.

3-7f9f99.png Eastside Slam winners Moten Elementary School delivered three powerful poems focusing on the impact of gun violence on their communities. Photo: Cody Cervenka

A recurring topic in poet-athletes’ work was the impact of gun violence in DC, a city that — by some measures — has the highest rate of gun homicides in the United States. Poet-athletes from both sides of the river stepped up to the mic to demand an end to the trauma gun violence has inflicted on their neighborhoods.

Many students spoke from personal experience, including the poet-athletes at Raymond Elementary, who dedicated a poem to Jefferson “JP” Luna-Perez, a beloved alumnus of the DC SCORES program at Raymond who died in a shooting earlier this year and is deeply missed within the DC SCORES community.

Other teams took on similarly pressing issues. Poet-athletes at Van Ness Elementary School and Thomas Elementary School dedicated their time on stage to advocate for water justice. Through DC SCORES, both teams participated in the Water Heroes Academy, an initiative from Manchester City FC and Xylem to spotlight inspiring young leaders tackling water issues in communities around the world.

3-4f2f76.png The Seaton Elementary School team celebrates winning second place at Westside Slam. Photo: Cody Cervenka.

After a series of stellar performances and a long deliberation period from judges, the slam winners were crowned, with LaSalle-Backus Elementary School taking the top spot at Westside Slam and Moten Elementary School bringing home the trophy from Eastside Slam.

“While only a few schools picked up silverware at this week’s events, the real winner is the city of DC,” said Katrina Owens, DC SCORES Executive Director. “Our poet-athletes have so many important things to say and so many ideas for the future of the neighborhoods and city they love. They will be the leaders shaping DC someday, and anybody who joined us for slams will know that our future is in great hands!”

8-b9912e.png LaSalle-Backus Elementary School won the Westside Poetry Slam. Photo: Cody Cervenka

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