It all comes down to this. From one hundred and fifty auditions to forty semi-finalists, fifteen finalists and one defending champion to a new face of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam!
On April 29th, the official closing event of the NGC Bocus Lit Fest, the 2 Cents Movement hosted the seventh annual National Poetry Slam. In its inception, the competition was known as verses. It is now known as the First Citizens National Poetry Slam (FCNPS), the regions largest Spoken Word/Poetry event.
This night’s event began with a performance by UWI African Dance Society, featuring a Spoken Word piece by Derron Sandy, the event’s Artistic Director and host of his own web series The Slam Review. Following this, the contestants addressed the National Academy for the Performing Arts stage to introduce themselves to the audience. The competition’s masters of ceremony, Vin & Thaddy Boom then formally introduced the audience to the event. They also introduced the judges, Jessie-May Ventour, Sharla Patasar, Mervin Taylor, Anthony Joseph, Paul Keens-Douglas and Raymond Antrobus.
The first poet on stage, Michael Logie, did not make it to the finals this year but he was asked to be the night’s sacrificial poet. His piece spoke heavily on corruption specifically in the licensing offices in our country.
Competitor #1 – Shenique Saunders
Saunders speaks on a dance shared between “Mr. Minister” and herself. Her piece included a conversation surrounding the main topic, the country’s newly passed buggery law.
Competitor #2 – Alexandra Stewart
“I’ll be using your poet tonight”, said the Earth through the mouthpiece of young Trinbagonian poet, Alexandra Stewart. She tells her story and focuses heavily on the pain she is facing, our Earth is hurting.
Competitor #3 – Davon Musgrave
Musgrave has a bone to pick with “Mr. Three Minutes”. Poets that have participated in the FCNPS previously know of and are accustomed to a five minute limit. This poet explains that while the new three minute limit is difficult to get accustomed to, it causes poets to think and challenge themselves.
Competitor #4 – Jillian Smith
“On this week’s episode of Trinidad Is Not A Real Place”, Smith speaks on the generation of children who have been taught to replace hopscotch, moral and playing with hula hoops for likes, retweets and double tapping, referring to them as first world privileges.
Competitor #5 – Deneka Thomas
How difficult it is to be a “closet”? Thomas spoke on what members of LGBTQ+ community feel on a regular basis. During her poem she also made reference to the recently passed buggery law.
Competitor #6 – Idrees Saleem
Saleem named his poem, “Men: A Note To Self”. He says that it is far past the time for men to understand that no means no. This poem speaks directly to the importance of being given consent before joining someone else in a sexual act or otherwise.
Competitor #7 – Marcus Abraham
Abraham communicates to the audience that there needs to be more focus on teaching young men to respect women and teaching women to respect themselves. He also explains that even though we may treat it like it is, he believes that marijuana is not the root of our problems.
Competitor #8 – Brendon O’Brien
In his piece, O’Brien targets persons who openly choose not to practice what they preach; those who say one thing and do another. The people who you may come across that are always quick to quote the Bible to comment on another’s life choices but seldom take a look at themselves to see whether their own life needs some changing for the better.
Competitor #9 – Marcus Millette
“My life is a routine of repetition. Wake up, thank Jah, watch the pushaman roll a weed on the corner.” Marcus Millette speaks on living a life where he’s constantly faced with seeing the same things over and over on a daily basis. This repetitious lifestyle with a perceived lack of progress, the poet feels feels may lead him to a suicidal state.
Competitor #10 – Carlon George
From criminal barbers who want to, “recede men hairline” to people who can’t seem to find some sort of decency within themselves to simply reply quickly. The crowd’s response proved that Carlon George started a movement instantaneously, “Reply QUICKLY”.
Competitor #11 – Deja Lewis
Once again reminded that Trinidad is not a real place. Lewis had a lot to speak about. One of the topics which seemed to hit hard was the fact that KFC raised their prices and we’re still buying but Massy Stores tries to reduce plastic waste and all of a sudden we, the consumers, want to commit crimes.
Competitor #12 – Dellon Matthison
Matthison paints an image of a scene in local parliament. In his pitch to the speaker of the house, he mentions international great blacks such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. He channeled his ability to interpret different voices of persons mentioned to add another dimension to the delivery of his piece.
Competitor #13 – Camryn Bruno (Defending Champion)
Camryn Bruno speaks out against human indecency being practiced to the point where we are told to treat animals humanely but we seldom ever realise that we should practice the same with our own species. Almost on a daily basis we hear about inhumane murders that occur within our own country and furthermore around the world.
Competitor #14 – Akeel Wallace
Akeel Wallace urges police officers and enforcers of the law to stop focusing so heavily on the citizens in this country that are committing petty crimes. He believes that these law enforcers should try harder to seek out more dangerous criminals in this country and give them their fair share of justice.
Competitor #15 – Kyle Hernandez
Hernandez posed himself as Jesus mounted on the cross for the purpose of delivering his piece. He reminds the audience that Jesus died for love and uses this to defend the position he shares with many other Trinidadians on their personal stance on what seems to be the general consensus of the buggery law. He asks those who disagree with him “How many times have you googled “Leviticus” in the past month?”
Competitor #16 – Ahmad Muhammad
“‘I am’ a hopeful hypocrite”. Ahmad Muhammad asked the audience to say “I am” every time he raises his hand during his piece. From the beginning of his piece all the way to the end, the crowd response that he received was powerful and endearing.
After a fifteen minute intermission there were group performances by ModSec & IACT. Derron Sandy was then invited on stage by Thaddy Boom for a short Q&A while the final results were being tabulated.
Jason Julian, Deputy CEO at First Citizens asked for a round of applause for the talent showcased tonight and shared a few words of encouragement and gratitude for the artists, some of whom have dedicated their life to their craft.
The founder of the 2 Cents Movement, Jean Claude Cournand, presented a vote of thanks. He specially thanked the manager of the night – Mickel Alexander. Added to that list of special thanks were Atiya Douglas, Derron Sandy, Vincent O’Neal, Isaiah, Rhonda, Kervyn, Ali, Dominique, and the 2 Cents Movement’s basic committee members.
Cournand also spoke on Curtis Henry, the official photographer for the event and his importance to advertising. He also teases the idea for a documentary on the FCNPS and reminded the audience that the top three finalists will be headlining the next rendition of True Talk No Lie on May 23rd.
The finalists came on stage along with the head judge – Paul Keens-Douglas on last time for the announcement of the winners. Keens-Douglas expresses his gratitude for being invited to experience the night’s competition. He then thanks the audience for their energy which matched that of the poets’.
The judges had some remarks that they wanted to be made. They were proud of the topics that were chosen to speak on, the imagery that was shown during performance, literary devices and recovery from mistakes made, but they also felt that there wasn’t enough humor.
The second runner-up of the competition, collecting $10,000 was Idrees Saleem. The first runner-up, collecting $20,000 was Kyle Hernandez and the winner of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam 2018 is Deneka Thomas, leaving with the grand prize of $50,000.
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