The words and rhymes of 12 high school poets competing in the individual finals of the Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry festival echoed off the marble walls of the Chicago Cultural Center Wednesday night. Jada-Amina Harvey, a member of Kenwood Academy's Epic Sound slam team, was one of the poets whose scores in the semifinal round garnered her the opportunity to perform her poem in front of a packed audience that included Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Her semi-autobiographical poem described a young African-American girl's struggles and successes.
Although she didn't win that night, Harvey was beaming from ear to ear when the competition was over.
"This is my first year and I made it to finals and I just feel really accomplished," she said. "I am really inspired by all the other artists. I loved the experience. At the end of it, it wasn't a competition. I still don't even know how you can judge a poem, but the fact that I was amongst all of those other great poets is amazing."
Epic Sound's entire slam team placed first and second in their first two preliminary bouts and qualified to compete in the semifinal round of this year's LTAB slam poetry competition. Only 17 teams out of the more than 100 that competed made it to the semifinal rounds.
During the semifinal bout at the Victory Gardens Theater, Epic Sound had a few hiccups during their various pieces. The team, made up of kids who had never competed in LTAB before, placed fourth, which meant they would not move on to the final round.
"I am very proud of them," said Slayton Goodman, one of the team's alumni coaches. "They've come along way and this is their first year and they all made it to semifinals, which is a big deal."
Nina Williams, a teacher at Kenwood and one of the team's coaches, also expressed pride in the team and their performance. Next year, she said, she hopes the kids finish the group piece sooner so that they can get started practicing earlier.
In general, the team members expressed slight disappointment for not moving on to the final round, but also spoke of feeling accomplished for having been able to perform their pieces in front of so many people.
"They say the point is not the points, the point is the poetry – and I feel the same way," Omari Ferrell said after Kenwood's second preliminary bout. "People were going up and reading off their papers. It wasn't memorized. They didn't care about the points. They cared about the poem."
The team finals featured groups from Simeon Career Academy, Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, Oak Park and River Forest High School and Kuumba Lynx, a community organization dedicated to the hip hop arts. At the finals on Saturday night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Kuumba Lynx placed first.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times