When Rachel Smith's older sister was a second-semester high school senior, she and her classmates started to "senior slide." They had been going to school for 13 years, graduation was on its way, and heck, it was warm outside. So when one of her teachers found her students unprepared for class, and announced: "I know everyone has been giving up on you for your entire life, but Iâ€™m not going to give up on you," the students in the class were offended.
They were being lazy; not hopeless.
According to Rachel, who is the chief poet at Kenwood Academy's Epic Sound slam poetry team, that kind of thing happens a lot when privileged young people come to teach in what she calls "inner city" schools. So Rachel decided to write a poem about it.
It's not every week that we feature a poet on Youthcast, but this week it seems appropriate. First of all, an incredible collection of young peoples' slam poetry performances has just been uploaded to PRX. It includes all of the finalists from this year's Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) competition. Louder Than a Bomb is an annual teen poetry festival and competition that began in 2001. Last year, a feature-length documentary came out about the competition. The trailer is below, along with a link to Generation PRX's profile of the film and words from LTAB's founder, Kevin Coval.
Chicago Public Radio's Robin Amer describes the festival as "competitive, raw, and onstage, itâ€™s a medium that has helped thousands of teenagers channel their budding identities, intense personal feelings and emerging political world views in recited verse." Rachel Smith is one of those teenagers — she says that participating in LTAB helped build her confidence in herself and in her community. Rachel says LTAB "gives teens an opportunity to speak on politics, and a lot of time grownups who wouldnâ€™t listen to teenagers, and it would be put off as something that the youth are complaining about, but now we have a real voice."
Watch the documentary trailer, and read about it on Signal, Generation PRX's newsletter.