On Saturday April 20th, 2013 the HYRP held its Peninsula Qualifying Slam at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News. Seven poets between the ages of 13-19 competed in three rounds until three poets were left standing. The evening began with a few inspiring words by TWP’s Executive Director Deidre Love followed by the “Sacrificial Lamb” Jared Frazier’s poetry performance. As the “Sacrificial Lamb”, Frazier performed prior to the slam poets in order to warm up the audience and judges, and generate excitement in the room. The judges’ panel of five was filled by a highly qualified and impressive mix of authors, poets, speakers, and musical artists.
|Quayshaun Moore and GodChild The Omen, Hosts|
Each poet was given three minutes to perform, with the judges scoring each reading and dropping the poets with the lowest scores. In the first round all seven competing poets performed. Topics ranged from familiar problems to American society. Ashaunti Horton (13) the youngest poet to perform delivered a piece on the avoidance of becoming a statistic. Unfortunately, she did not continue, but her execution was great and her message inspiring. After the first round two poets were eliminated.
After the first round, HYRP Slam Coach Nathanial Lovell recited a piece that had audience members crying out in agreement and standing out of their chairs. Lovell’s message was about women knowing their worth and not allowing others to take them for granted. The second round proceeded with the remaining five poets competing to move into the final round. Emeka “S.o.u.l” Onyirimba’s (19) dark yet beautiful performance was welcomed by a large round of applause, and admittance into the final round of the slam. Slam poet Jaida Everett (15) gave a powerful message on always having passion even when the world gives us false hope. Although she did not progress to the final round, Everett plans on competing at the next qualifying slam on May 11th.
|Emeka ‘S.O.U.L’ Onyirimba, 2nd Place|
|Matthew ‘Levi’ St. Clair, 1st Place|
In the final round Jeanette Lam (16) was the last slam poet to be eliminated. Although she stumbled during the first round her positive attitude propelled her into the second and final round. The Peninsula Qualifying Slam was Lam’s first recital at a HYRP event, and she did such a great job. Her positive themes of never giving up and always pushing forward made for an endearing three rounds. Lam says she will probably attend the next qualifying slam. The stand out moment of Saturday evening’s event was Matthew “Levi” St. Clair’s final round recitation. St. Clair spoke of his disability and how he beat the medical and social odds in his community. A proud college student St. Clair has never viewed his medical condition as a disability and he ended his poem with “Impossibility is an impossibility.” His final words brought the audience to its feet with everyone chanting “Levi, Levi Levi!” Needless to say St. Clair was one of our qualifiers for the night.
Here’s to hoping that we see Jeanette Lam, Jaida Everett, and our other competing poets at our next event on May 11th at the Norfolk Qualifying Slam at the TCC The Roper Performing Arts Center! And congratulations to Emeka “S.O.U.L.”, and Matthew “Levi” for moving on to the Grand Slam.
– Danielle Ruiz
Photos courtesy of Em-Agery Photography