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Reflections On My First Slam Poetry Performance


March 22, 2012, marked my debut as a spoken word artist. The late Dr. Maurice Martinez, Professor Emeritus at UNCW, introduced me to the stage of the spring 2012 semester by inviting me to participate in UNCW’s Spring Poetry Slam. After that first performance, my soul was lit on fire for spoken word as I learned the power of my voice.

Prior to meeting Dr. Martinez and even prior to enrolling at UNCW in the fall of 2010, my goal was never to become a spoken word artist. I had been writing poetry for a little over a year after a series of emotional events—including the death of Michael Jackson—prompted me to go deeper into my heart space. Although I come from a family of writers and poets, that gift was not revealed to me until the summer of 2009. During the next couple of years, I desired to publish my own poetry collection one day, like my older brother, Johnny, did while in college. Johnny printed a few unofficial poetry books for me that for years, I only shared with him and our mother.

During my freshman and sophomore years at UNCW, the only spoken word events that I witnessed on campus were performances by The Sacrificial Poets, North Carolina’s premier youth slam poetry team and non-profit organization. After meeting Dr. Martinez in the spring of 2012, after he MCed the Sac Poets’ performance on campus, he invited me to a screening on campus of his latest documentary film, Black Fraϋlein. Dr. Martinez told me about an upcoming poetry slam in March 2012: “The winner will receive a cash prize.”

Afraid to speak my poems publicly, I visited Dr. Martinez’s office at the Watson College of Education to recite a couple of poems that I planned to perform. I remember when I finished and looked up at him, he looked slightly surprised. I do not know if it was the content of my poems or the tone of my voice that changed (I have been told many times by various people that my personality seems to come out onstage).

The night prior to UNCW’s spring poetry slam, March 21, 2012, my mom watched me rehearse in Cameron Hall auditorium, the site of the poetry slam, during my last day of spring break. Although Mom had to travel back to work the next day during the poetry slam, March 22—which also was her birthday—she was proud and supported me throughout my spoken word journey in college.

On the day of the poetry slam, I was so nervous and afraid of judgment from friends and people who knew me to see me in a different light—speaking boldly onstage—that I only told two people on campus that I was performing. Once I started speaking, my nerves left me, and I recognized at that moment how powerful it was to command a room full of people to silence. Performing poetry does that, and having witnessed its transforming power through young adults, poetry heals people, too.

Reflections, My First Slam, Poetry Performance


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