Last Friday I had the privilege of sitting as one of the guest judges at the final round of the All Girl Poetry Slam. Sponsored by Girlstory, a multi-cultural, multi-generational women’s writing collective (and an organization created out a residency at another important arts organization, Community Word Project), this venue is all about fostering girl power, and the December 14 event determined the poetry slam team on its way to the Brave New Voices Poetry Slam this summer in Washington D.C.
All of the young women were between the ages of 13 and 18, and each stepped up to the mic with poise, setting the house on fire with emotionally charged verse. Their voices were diverse and motivated by the complex world that surrounds them—I heard poems questioning the war, contesting ethnic and gender stereotypes, and expressing the need for agency in a time when the young woman has been disenfranchised by a male-dominated culture.
The whole night was a touching display of deep love and affection for the art of the poetry slam, and for the great service it has provided for young women seeking a venue to build confidence and self-esteem. A few pleasant surprises: poets Aracelis Girmay and Tara Betts came up to “bless the mic,” standing tall as role models for the young contestants.
I was impressed by the energy, the bravado and the passion in the performances, and I felt honored to play a small part in a large vision. Deep gratitude to Michele Kotler, founder of Community Word Project, and to the founders of Girlstory, Lisa Ascalon and Ellen Hagan (who were recently honored at Adelphi University as “Vagina Warriors” for their work with women’s issues—you go, girls!). Hats off to collaborators Menaka Menon, Chastity Seda, Jasmin Morales and Mauricia Mullings.
And much luck and mad respect to the Girlstory Poetry Slam Team!
Rigoberto González was born in Bakersfield, California and raised in Michoacán, Mexico. He is the author of several poetry books, including So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks (1999), a National Poetry Series selection; Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (2006); Black Blossoms (2011); and Unpeopled Eden (2013), winner of a Lambda Literary Award. He...