First Citizens National Poetry Slam

Winner of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam 2017 Finals
Winner of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam 2017 Finals collecting the grand $50,000 prize
Photography by Jace Joseph

On Sunday 30th, April, NGS Bocas Lit Fest, First Citizens and The 2Cents Movement hosted the First Citizens National Poetry Slam 2017 Finals (FCNPS2017 Finals) at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.

The evening’s event began with a performance from Freetown Collective. The group performed a few of their own songs, accompanied by their two back up singers Shanna and Tishanna. A couple of the songs that they performed were Normal and Good Swimma.

The masters of ceremony for the evening, Vin and Boom are very familiar with the Spoken Word fans in this country. They spoke shortly on the late Caribbean literature legend, Derek Walcott, then they invited Wendell Manwarren to speak about him and his experiences with Walcott, as an actor. After this the judges were introduced to the crowd and it was time for poetry.

The first spoken word artist to grace the stage was the sacrificial poet, Omavi Langevine. His piece speaks on tabanca, which he defines as depression that comes from the loss off someone close to you. He spoke from the point of view of a man who feels as though he isn’t allowed to show emotions because it isn’t a societal norm. After this performance the competition began. 

 

Michael Logie was the first poet to perform. His piece spoke from the perspective of a murderer who was in a court of law explaining why he had committed a crime. Firstly, as an unwanted child, who then became a rape victim for ten of his childhood years, eventually becoming a rapist himself and in addition to that, the murderer of his rape victim.

Kyle Hernandez, the first runner up from last year’s peotry slam, performed his piece next. In this piece, Kyle presents himself as the director of a play. The play’s main characters seem to be himself and his mother. He visits his mother who’s currently a patient at a hospital, things aren’t looking too great. He tells the story of how his mother survived but she had to give up her leg to do so. His mother continuously preached the word “faith” to him in attempt to get him to believe that he can perform at the finals and even win once he had faith.

Brendon O’Brien said in his piece that the beauty of storytelling is within the story but not necessarily within the truth. His piece targeted a poet, who was possibly one in the competition. Eventually he mentioned that the poet had lied about their poetic justice league. One can assume from this that the piece was directed towards Idrees Saleem.

 

Alexandra Stewart’s piece began by calling the performances before her’s a warm up leading towards her piece. Her piece then went on to tell the beauty within the power of a poet and the stories that one has the ability to tell. Furthermore, the amount of ways that one can be poetic. She closed her poem by saying that when a poet doesn’t speak, there is nothing left to be said. 

Derron Sandy began his performance by saying, “Today I goin’ an’ do a poem about my greatness”, he did just that. From his perspective, as a poet, he spoke to the stage, explaining to it that it should be grateful for him choosing to ever grace it. A battle brewed between himself and the stage, as he spoke of the stage shaking while he was performing, his mic dying off during his performances and eventually him falling (literally) into the hands of the stage. The sudden realization that all praise goes to the supporters caused his to apologize to the stage for his arrogance. 

Marcus Millette told a story of a boy who was called a soldier by his mother. The boy found out at a young age that all children have fathers but he grew up without one. As he grew older he visited his father and his father’s side of the family and he learned things about his father that he had never known. He recalls a moment when his father’s mother said to him that the boy’s father was always his favourite and she always wished him well.

 

Camryn Bruno targeted the NLCB and those who take chances to participate for a one in a million chance to win. She performed her piece in character as a robot, one can assume to show that those who continuously spend their money on these games are enslaved by the idea of winning. She also called out the names of different local lottery type games such as Play Whe, Pick2 and Pick 4 and even sang some of the very familiar radio jingles that we all hear on a regular basis.   

Deja Lewis “I think God chose the worst time for me to be deaf”. Deja wears two hearing aids and her piece spoke on just that. She compared how she felt while slowly losing her hearing to a near fatal car crash. She referred to the silencing sound of the cars windows shattering upon collision.  

Emmanuel Villafana targeted institutionalized education. Those that create spaces in which their students aren’t allowed to express themselves through what they wear because they must follow a dress code and set rules. He also brought up the fact that students preparing for CSEC examinations choose at least seven subjects but Mathematics and English are compulsory, leading some students to believe that they’re nothing special without a pass in those subjects.

 

Idrees Saleem “How the hell yuh does write a $50,000 piece”. His first piece of advice was to let people know that you would need a pen and a piece of paper. From there he went on to say that a poet’s honesty should be the next ingredient and the ability to swoon the crowd with all of what you have to give.

D’Izrael Billy spoke about how she’s seen Chinese persons and persons of Chinese descent being disrespected on a regular basis. She referenced our national anthem “every creed and race find an equal place”. She made reference to the very venue of the event and the stage that she performed on because it too had been built by Chinese people. 

Seth Sylvester linked the old and well known tune of Georgie Porgie and linked it to the international Life In Leggings movement. He called Georgie a wetman that would kiss girls and run away as the nursery rhyme states. Linking it to men these days who pursue relationships with women for the sole purpose of being with her for sexual purposes only.

 

Shenique Saunders “I rel like to sing”, this quote is how she chose to begin her piece. She spoke of a young girl growing up in church being told that those who memorized their bible verses would have a one way ticket to heaven. As time passed by she learned more and more about what was going on around her. One day she decided to finish the song she continuously sang with a razor as her bow and her wrist as her violin. 

Before receiving the results of the competition, two local soca artistes surprised the audience and came out to perform. The first being Sekon Sta who performed his most popular release for Carnival 2017, “Kings and Queens”, along with some of his older songs. Sekon Sta then welcomed Orlando Octave onto the stage who performed his hit “Single”. He then went on to gift the crowd with a freestyle on the same track, encouraging persons to stand up for our women everyday. 

Jean Claude Cournand, the CEO/Founder of The 2 Cents Movement spoke shortly. He took his time to thank all the supporters who came out and he mentioned that the goal is not only for the FCNPS to grow continuously but through working with the Minstry of Education, they want to see Spoken Word somehow becoming part of a school’s curriculum. The director of the Bocas Lit Fest, Maria Salandy-Brown gave a short vote of thanks, thanking the poets for all their hard work and the supporters for coming out. Lastly, we heard from the head judge, Anthony Joseph, who had some comments to make on how the judges made their final decision. He reminded those present that the performances were to be no longer than five minutes and that points would be deducted if a poet’s performance went over the time allotted to each performance. 

 

After hearing from the representatives of the groups involved in hosting this event and the head judge, the poets were called back on stage to announce the prize winners. The second runner-up of the competition, collecting $10,000 was Idrees Saleem. The first runner-up, collecting $20,000 was Alexandra Stewart and the winner of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam 2017 was Camryn Bruno, leaving with the grand prize of $50,000.

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