On April 28, I wrote a blog titled “I Will Never Be a Slam Poet.”
Here was some of the “rationale” behind that argument.
“I ‘bleed’ too much, feel too much, think too much.”
Last night I was watching Brave New Voices, and it solidified for me what I should have never forgotten. It’s not that I bleed too much, I was just doing it the wrong way. That’s what expression consists of: thoughts, feelings, and blood.
Then, I said, “I used to want to be a slam poet more than anything in the world, but I can't. I was meant to be different. Meant to write, not to perform. Meant to speak, not to recite. Meant to teach, not to compete.”
I said, “I am not saying that slam is shallow (although I know some think it is). Yes, it is a game...but I believe that games and competitions show people's character.“
In response to what I wrote, my friend Lauren Zuniga said, “Slam is just something we do. A game we play so that the Ego can have a good time and give the Spirit permission to write.”
Brave New Voices changed my opinion of all that. Team Philadelphia consisted of Hasan Malik Babb, Josh Bennett, Aysha El Shamayleh, Noel Scales, Chloe Wayne, and Alysia Harris. On the season finale during the final round of the grand slam, the whole team went onstage holding hands and crying. They told the audience that they had not been behaving like a team over the course of the competition. They said the scores and the desire to win had distracted them. Because of this, they made the decision to forfeit the final round as a team. All six of them together chose to say it’s not about the competition but about the poetry, about the difference that words can make. And to top it off, they still performed. They blessed us with their words and refused to be scored. In my opinion, if they hadn’t forfeited, they would have won. I think perhaps they knew that and felt they didn’t deserve to win if the win would mean more than the words. Damn.
Slam is just a game. Prior to watching this episode of this show, I wasn’t sure if there was a right way to play it. But those six kids put the entity of slam poetry to shame. They showed me and the world that the warrior generation really is fighting for something more than titles and recognition.
When the grand slam was over and the rest of the qualifying teams had been scored, they were all brought on stage to announce the winners from low to high. When the announcements were made, the teams were asked to stand in ranked order by their teammates. They all refused. They said they wouldn’t split up that way because they were all one team and it was all one prize. They started shouting, “One Team! One Team! One Team!” And the show’s host threw up his hands, went offstage, sat down and let them do their thing. Their voices were heard. The show ended with all the teams on stage intermingled, hugging each other, congratulating each other, chanting, “BNV ain’t nothin’ to fuck with!” That’s the truth if I’ve ever heard it.
Here are some of the things I texted to Kosher when I was watching this on TV.
“Now, I want to master slam, not to ever win any kind of title but so that I can teach kids how to save their own lives through words and performance.”
“They are so beautiful. That is why I want to teach so that I can help bring that out in them.”
“Those kids have already learned to self-actualize in a way that makes sure nothing can ever be too hard for them.”
The only time I ever cry like I did while I was watching that show is when something intense happens in church. That’s how I know this is holy. Somebody is going to watch that and get saved. Now I know where else to point when the church house isn’t helping.
Those kids have given me direction and desire. They lit a fire in my soul that I thought would never burn outside the four walls of an evangelical church (this thought turned into three poems, especially the one titled “Wise Words”). But now I know: Holy are the beautiful things, peace, humanity, sincerity. And they are holy no matter where they are seen.
Here are some of Kosher’s comments during our conversation.
“You can do it, if you’re ready for holding their bleeding wounds.”
My prayer over the next year is to become ready – through inspiration and meditation on the goal.
“If I would die today, I would be glad knowing that the world will be in good hands. I thank G-D for them.” - Kosher
I cried harder when I read this statement, because the competitor in me, the attention whore in me, doesn’t want to die without leaving a mark. That part of me doesn’t want to die today, because then those kids would get all the credit for their bravery and conviction and I would have no legacy to leave. I cried because I knew my feelings were selfish. It doesn’t matter who evokes the change as long as it happens. Fuck my competitive drive. Blessed are the brave hearts for they will be remembered. Humbled are the timid hearts for they will always strive to be remembered.
“It is possible to be saved by the blood of Jesus, but only if Jesus wept from hearing them. They are the living gospel.” - Kosher
That needs to be a line in a poem.
Today, I opened a vein, mixed blood with ink, and it poured out looking like poetry.