On the cool, breezy night of November 5th, 2012, I attended the Hundred Dollar Slam Event held at Queen Bee’s Art & Cultural Center in North Park, San Diego. It was my first time witnessing a poetry slam event and I am positive that it will not be my last. For those who don’t know, poetry slams are a competition between poets and are judged by 5 randomly chosen audience members who score each performance on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest. A favorite slam poet of mine, Shihan, once spoke insightfully on slam poetry, stating:
Most people reference poetry as something they were forced to read in an English class. That they were forced to read Walt Whitman, or Henry Miller, or Shakespeare, or whatever…and the thing about reading is, you read in your own voice. So if it’s something you approach as boring or disinteresting, you read it in that boring or disinteresting voice and it doesn’t make you want to invest yourself in it. And so, slams gave people a chance to hear the emotion attached to the voice instead of trying to decipher what emotion was behind [a poet’s] words.”
Anyone who I’ve ever heard speak about slams before all share the same sentiment: they are tons of fun! This couldn’t be more closer to the truth. New and experienced poets arrived at an open invitation for performers to compete for the chance to win $100. Poets spoke on a variety of topics, including politics (an inevitably hot topic before Election Day), family, education, and love, among other social contexts. I was compelled by the emotion put forth by many of the poets. Whether the intent was serious or hilarious, every topic was spoken with such commitment and passion. I was pleasantly surprised by the balance of tone and approach. The slam was hosted by San Diego’s renowned spoken word artist, Rudy Francisco, who has won many poetry slam competitions, including the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion. In addition to witnessing new and skilled poets, it was very entertaining to watch a professional from the scene perform a few of his notable poems between breaks.
Aside from the poems, what really made the Hundred Dollar Poetry Slam stand out was the event organizer, Jaded Girls to Empowered Motivators (JGEM), a local Non-Profit organization which seeks to invest in the lives of young ladies within inner city communities through the encouragement of career development and goal setting, while providing means for educational success and college preparation. JGEM strives to promote peer-to-peer support and self-esteem building through social and self-empowerment workshops with its participants on high school campuses. A portion of the proceeds from Hundred Dollar Slam Event would go directly to JGEM.
By end of the night, a young woman, who coincidentally went by the name “Treasure,” was announced as the winner of the $100 cash prize to an eruption of applause. The event was a complete success. I later asked JGEM Executive Vice President, Nyuget Pham, about how soon she would expect to hold another poetry slam event. She was unsure, yet remained optimistic about remembering to let me know in the future. I’ll definitely be sure to remind her about doing just that.