Day 166: LTAB

Tonight, I witnessed some of the best performances and heard some of the most amazing arrangements of words I’ve ever heard. And they didn’t come from professionals. I went to the finals of Louder Than a Bomb, a high school slam poetry competition that takes place every winter.

For the last 13 years, high school teachers all over Chicago have set aside time in February and March to coach their LTAB teams. Over 110 teams competed in bouts leading up to tonights’ event. This Olympic style competition seeks to unite one of the country’s most violent and segregated cities through the power of spoken word.

Four teams compete in the finals. That means three individuals from each team compete solo followed by group performances. Teenagers write their own poems that must follow a few rules; no swearing, no homophobic or gender bias language and no racial slurs.

I find it so hard to express what an impact these young people had on me tonight. Their words and their passion showed a depth of understanding I’m confident I did not possess at their age. They took on the enormous subjects of race, violence, body image, rape, and more. Poets spinning truth for the audience and judges who, if you do not agree with their scoring, you can encourage to “listen to the poem.”

An amazing night filled with intelligent, confident youth devoted to the written and spoken word. Thank you to E for her work as a coach and for encouraging me to attend tonight. This was an experience I will not forget.

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