WordPlay is excited to announce that it’s taking part in co-organizing and bringing the Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) youth poetry slam to Cincinnati in 2015. During the course of the 2014/15 school year, WordPlay will be working alongside the Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati, Elementz, Women Writing or a Change, and the Mayerson High School Service-Learning program, among other collaborating organizations. Semi-finals will be held this coming March, closely followed by the finals, which will be held in Over the Rhine in April, which is National Poetry Month.
LTAB is a youth poetry festival designed by the Young Chicago Authors (YCA) in 2001 to be a platform that not only gives the youth a voice, but to give them a chance to share their stories. Since then, it has become the largest youth poetry festival in the world.
This year LTAB is aiming to have 12 schools participate in the competition, and is expecting roughly 400 kids to participate. The competition will have 2 separate parts: an individual competition and a team competition. The teams would consist of 4-8 kids with 2 alternates. WordPlay will be coordinating 5 of the 12 high schools, and will be helping coach both individual participants and teams, said Libby Hunter, co-founder and Executive Director of WordPlay.
As part of preparing for the festival, WordPlay is looking to initiate an after-school program for the schools involved, which will be taught by teaching artist Desirae Hosley. Hosley goes by the name Silent Poet and has been a spoken word artist for 10 years. She’s involved in many slam poetry societies and had her own Poetry Slam Team for the University of Cincinnati SlamCats in 2008. She’s also been involved with AmeriCorps since 2009.
“Poetry is my heart and soul and I love the passion that floats through words,” said Hosley.
WordPlay's LTAB teams will begin in September, and will include bi-monthly events leading up to the semi-finals and finals where the schools will come together and get to know each other and hone their skills. This would be in the form of an informal open mic night or reading.
To promote the community-building aspect of LTAB, WordPlay will facilitate a story exchange between the students they coach, pairing the teens with students in other schools and simply share their stories, eventually meeting in person and getting to know one another through shared experiences. LTAB was founded to be a public forum for teens to share their personal stories, find the power of their own voice and form bridges across social divides, and Hunter says that those goals are very closely aligned with that of WordPlay Cincy.
“I think LTAB Cincinnati has tremendous potential to bring our youth together at a time when they have experienced a great deal of trauma—gun violence, gang activity, rising childhood poverty rates, you name it,” said Hunter. “Giving our teens common ground to learn about each other, embrace differences, dissipate stereotypes, and move forward into their lives as young adults with a stronger sense of acceptance and a more opened mind is one of the most important things we can possibly do. “
Hunter also says that WordPlay is looking forward to making LTAB an ongoing experience in Cincinnati, and plans to grow their after-school spoken word program and to continue building relationships among students who wouldn’t normally have the chance to interact. WordPlay's will have an LTAB team open to teens age 13 - 19 from any school. For more information, contact Libby Hunter at 513-260-9632, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author bio (optional): Matt Evans is WordPlay’s journalism intern for the summer from the University of Cincinnati.