Poetry slam set for Friday

05:00 AM, Apr 24, 2013

Poets will grab the microphone at RIT. (Annette Lein/staff photographer)/

Written By David McGroarty-Manley | Staff writer

If you go

What: Unite Rochester/Stand Against Racism Poetry Slam focused on the issue of race.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Friday (April 26).
Where: Carlson Auditorium, Building 76, Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta.
Cost: Free.
For information: RIT.edu/diversity.

A poetry slam on Friday will add another layer to a community conversation on race.

The Democrat and Chronicle will sponsor the poetry slam in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion as part of its Unite Rochester effort. The event also is part of the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism project.

A poetry slam is a friendly competition where people recite their own — or others’ poetry — and either judges or the audience vote on who is best. The slam has gained popularity locally and nationally, with a regular program, for example, at Writers & Books.

The poetry slam is set for 7 p.m. Friday in RIT’s Carlson Auditorium in Building 76 on the college’s Henrietta campus. It will be centered on themes of unity, diversity, inclusion, identity and culture. The winners, determined by a panel of judges, will receive cash prizes.

Henry Padron is one of the judges for Friday’s competition. Padron, who has been judging poetry slams for the past 15 years in New York City and Toronto, believes a poetry slam is an important layer of the race discussion.

I think that poetry presents a creative element to the discussion around race,” explains Padron. “It presents a voice, perhaps, from a population that would, otherwise, not be present of poets.”

Poetry slams started in the mid ’80s and have gained in prominence. In 2010, Brave New Voices champion Josh Bennett performed for President Obama at a White House Poetry Jam.

Alexis Harris (poet pen name: Nala), a sociology and anthropology major with a concentration in African studies at RIT, says poetry slams can draw crowds from 50 to more than 100 when a slam is promoted well.

For the larger more well-known poetry slams such as the Association of College Unions International regionals and nationals, you’ll find larger audiences that could reach over 300 poets alone, not including those who like to simply come,” adds Harris, 21.

Jane Sutter, the Democrat and Chronicle’s editor of community partnerships and niche content, was looking to bring more people into the conversation surrounding race, which ramped up partially because of the “Race: Are We So Different?” exhibit that continues through Sunday at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

Unite Rochester is a Democrat and Chronicle project focused on shedding light on economic disparities among the races in Monroe County,” Sutter says. “As part of the project, we wanted to engage college students. Poetry seemed a natural way for the students to express themselves with regards to racism.”

Jjvon Hardware, a computer engineering technology major at RIT, will be among the participants Friday. An experienced poetry slam competitor, he often thinks no one likes his performance. That is, until he leaves the stage and is met with compliments.

It’s a special feeling that people appreciate your life experiences and thoughts — it gives life meaning,” says Hardware. “That’s why I like slam.”