South High brings the beat
December 12th, 2011
Omaha, NE – As Omaha prepares for its own city-wide slam poetry contest next year, Omaha South High School students competed for a spot in the final round, sharing stories of their lives, loves and frustrations.
A loud and boisterous crowd of a couple hundred students filled the auditorium at Omaha South High School on Friday, whistling and applauding as their peers, and friends, performed their poetry on stage. Standing before a microphone, the poets stepped up one by one to read, rap, and holler their words.
â€œMurdering your brothersâ€¦
Fighting for something that doesnâ€™t even belong to youâ€¦
Hoods, property, landâ€¦
Ancestors being ignored, history forgottenâ€¦
Dead bodies lying on the floor, rotting in front of their own kids.â€
Thatâ€™s a piece of a poem, performed by Daylonika Hudson, a senior at South High. Hudson looked comfortable on stage, and said sheâ€™s been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. â€œItâ€™s my life,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve always been unheard, and I feel like people can hear me when I write.â€
Hudson said her poem was about the frustration of watching kids her own age fall to gangs, shootings and violence. It was also about dealing with problems at home, she said, including watching her mother, whoâ€™s been sick. Writing about it, she said, helps her find solace.
â€œIâ€™ve been through a lot,â€ Hudson said. â€œAnd a lot of people donâ€™t understand me, and they may not want to listen to me. So when I write, I feel like all I have is paper sometimes. And thatâ€™s the only thing that can understand me is my notebook.â€
After the contest, the students headed back to class, where their English teacher, Carol Kloss McClellan, greeted them with praise. â€œYou made me proud, thank you so much,â€ she said. â€œYou got up there and performed.â€
McClellan helped organize the slam with the help of the Nebraska Writerâ€™s Collectiveâ€™s guru of slam poetry: Matt Mason. The contest will culminate in a city-wide poetry slam modeled after the Chicago-based competition documented in the film Louder than a Bomb.
â€œSo next thing you know weâ€™re doing this slam,â€ McClellan said. â€œAnd these kids are coming up with all this incredibly creative stuff, and their performances are just fantastic.â€
McClellan said sheâ€™s been working with her students since August, and theyâ€™ve been writing every day.
â€œThey have lived some lives,â€ she said. â€œI mean more than most adults have lived before, so it all comes out. And it seems like itâ€™s a good process, you know sometimes thereâ€™s some tears shedâ€¦ It seems like a very cleansing, healthy thing for them to be doing.â€
The students were judged â€“ in typical slam style – by randomly selected people in the audience. The three highest scorers will advance to the next round, as they make their way to the city-wide slam thatâ€™s planned for the spring.