Fourteen poets competed at this year’s Urban Word Poetry Slam Semifinals at The Point CDC on April 4, for a chance to advance to the NYC Teen Poetry Grand Slam at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Poets “spit” their verse, commenting on topical themes such as race, gender, sexism, LGBT issues, homophobia, bullying, rape, domestic violence, foster care, minimum wage, stop & frisk, and slavery.
“Until you sit down at a slam you won’t truly feel the meaning behind words,” said Naomi Peters, one of the four semifinalists chosen to advance to the Apollo. “Each person that gets up and spits their slam, you feel it in your heart,” she said.
Sergio Jimenez was the evening’s sacrificial poet, the performer who spits first and can make or break the mood of the evening. Anyone can be a spoken word poet, as long as they’re willing to get up on a stage and tell their story, said Jimenez. Because most people are afraid or unwilling to spit their stories publicly, poets “share the stories they can’t share, and you’re being their hero whether you know it or not.”
As talented as the poets who perform at the slams are, “the real work is done by people in the community,” said Urban Word executive director Michael Cirelli.