The Burlington High School slam team recently competed in the 2017 Massachusetts Louder Than a Bomb teen poetry festival organized by MassLEAP, a Boston-based group of education and youth voice activists. This annual poetry slam festival has been the highlight of the year for Poetic Ramblings poets since we started participating three years ago. The theme for this year’s festival was “Raise Your Voice,” which pretty much embodies all that our poets love about LTAB.
The competitive part of the festival includes two days of preliminary bouts, which took place this year at the Sheraton Boston, one night of semifinals, which was hosted by the Edward Kennedy Center, and the final slam, which happened last Saturday night at the Strand Theater in Dorchester. While the BHS slam team scored well and made it as far as the semifinals in this year’s competition, as the MassLEAP mantra goes, “The point is not the points. The point is the poetry.” This series of events provides students with an opportunity to share their thoughts on everything that is important to them, and to have those thoughts and feelings validated by a community of young scholar artists who really value inclusivity. The students involved in this festival authentically support each other, which is essential. As BHS junior Laura Prendergast stated, “It’s really important to feel like you belong, and this event really covers that. There is always something you can relate to whether it be the poetry or the people. LTAB is important because people get to break out of their shell to share what truly means the most to them in their most creative way.” Senior Laura Frustaci described her experience as a first-time LTAB participant by focusing on the “communal feel” of the event. She added, “It allowed me to work with a diverse group of people. I got to see their passions, some of which were my passions as well. We converged, shared experiences, and ideas. I learned from them. I became part of this big, welcoming community.”
The community aspect of this series is inspiring to say the least, but another important component of the festival is its diversity. Students from all over Massachusetts, from all different backgrounds and experiences, share a stage, and the crowd’s response to each and every poet’s performance is evidence that everyone in the room values each individual’s story. Aysha Afzal, senior and three-time LTAB performer, stated, “What I really like about the event is that it exposes me to a lot of people from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds that I don’t see that much of in Burlington High School. I think it’s a very important event because it sets an example of what social emotional learning can do; it turns a group of people of completely different backgrounds into a family in a matter of 2 hours. Every time I go to LTAB, I feel empowered to use my voice as a tool for change, and when I see other people’s performances, it prompts me to push my poetic boundaries and become a stronger poet.”
We can’t thank MassLEAP enough for organizing and running this annual event. From the opening ceremony at the ICA to the Rethinking High School event at the Sheraton, they showed our students the importance of youth voice and gave them a space to share it.
Take a moment to check out the BHS Poetic Ramblers’ festival poems below.
Aysha Afzal: Unnecessary Background (filmed at Burlington Cable Access TV)
Julianna Grossman: Puzzling (filmed at Burlington Cable Access TV)
Laura Frustaci: The Only Way to Stay Safe (filmed at Burlington Cable Access TV)
Group Poem: America Must Reckon (filmed at Burlington Cable Access TV)
NOTE: The title and choral line from this poem was inspired by President Obama’s Statement on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
All members of the poetry club worked to compose the group piece and four students (Aysha Afzal, senior; Jessie Goober, sophomore; Laura Frustaci, senior; Sasha Festi, sophomore) performed it.
Here’s footage of one of BHS’s most prolific poets performing at the event:
Sidra Afzal: One Body, Three Struggles (filmed at LTAB MA Preliminaries 2017)
To catch a glimpse of the energy, passion, and love involved in LTAB MA, head to Twitter and Instagram (#LTABMA2017), or check out MassLEAP’s social media pages: Twitter @MassLeap, Instagram massleap, Facebook @massleap.