Poetry slams climate-change issues
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
After spending weeks furiously writing, revising, and revising again, more than 50 students stood alone in front of their peers and an esteemed panel of judges, using voice and gesture to bring their words to life during the first staging of the United States Embassy's Youth Poetry Slam Competition.
This may sound like an English teacher's pipe dream, as these students competed with words and then settled in for discussions of metaphor, assonance, consonance, and allusion. The students, utilising the theme 'Understanding the World around You: The Environment and Climate Change', highlighted important issues affecting the environment and the role that climate plays in the planet's environmental system.
With a rhythmic blend of literature and performance, these students seemingly transformed from reluctant, shy, or diffident learners into passionate artists. They brought to the fore climate-change issues that are affecting people and nature, and the increasing threats that have already put pressure on the environment.
Competing in two categories, ages 10-14 years and 15-19 years, the students were judged based on their written piece and their overall performance. In both categories, the students also highlighted the changes in nature that have serious implications for people and the economy.
For her piece aptly titled 'Changing its Form', 19-year-old Des'ree Riley was the winner of the best poem category in her age group. Riley intertwined imagery and metaphor to highlight the issues of climate change, stating that climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems, including an increase in floods and droughts, less drinking water for people and animals, and severely affecting agriculture and industry.
The trio of Justene Roomes, Savana Bromfield and Shannon
Bailey were adjudged as the best performers in their age group for their piece 'Di Enviranment'. With scientists estimating that up to 20 per cent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation - greater than the combined emissions of every car, truck and plane on the planet - the group implored individuals to solve the climate crisis instead of making the situation worse.
In true theatric style and presentation, 12-year-old Jahzan McLaughlin copped the best performance in her category. Her piece dubbed 'Change Climate Change' spoke to how the Earth is warming, while Victor Mulaa with his piece 'A Companion Like None' took home the best written poem title.
According to Arielle Berney, acting public affairs officer at the United States Embassy, everyone did a phenomenal job focusing on the environment. "We wanted to give the youth an opportunity to speak about issues of importance and to show off their creativity. Based on their performances, the students obviously care a lot about the environment," Berney said.
Winner of the 'Best Performance' and the 'Best Written Piece' from each age group received an iPad and/or tablet, while all entrants received certificates and free lifetime membership to the Embassy Library, The Paul Robeson Information Resource Center.
The judges for the Poetry Slam included literary giant and cultural icon Professor Mervyn Morris, poet extraordinaire Ann-Margaret Lim, and actor and poet Fabian Thomas. The MC for the event was the very talented dub poet Miguel 'Steppa' Williams. The audience was also treated to an open mic session, where young and up-and-coming poets shared their talent on different issues.