The teens of Split This Rock’s DC Youth Slam Team (DCYST) are the 2014 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival champions.
Gathering over 500 youth poets ages 13-19, the 2014 Brave New Voices (BNV) festival was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from July 16 to 19. Youth attendees participated in poetry writing and performance workshops, town hall discussions, open mics, service learning and a series of poetry slam bouts. In each slam bout, team members recited 4-5 rounds of original poems individually or as a group that were then scored by a panel of judges. The scores from the bouts then determined which four teams of more than 50 would compete at the Grand Slam Finals on Saturday, July 19.
The DCYST advanced to the Grand Slam after winning first place in all of its preceding bouts. This year’s Grand Slam also included Los Angeles, California; Cape Town, South Africa; and Denver, Colorado, the two time reigning champion.
In 2013, the DCYST placed 2nd at Brave New Voices. One of the team’s performances at last year’s Grand Slam has now been viewed over 1.5 million times on Youtube.
Currently comprised of 12 members, the DCYST was represented at BNV this year by Morgan Butler (17), a 2014 graduate of Woodrow Wilson Senior High School (DC); Malachi Byrd (17), a 2014 graduate of Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy (DC); Thomas Hill (17), a rising senior at Magruder High School (MD); and Chyna McCombs (17), a 2014 graduate of Friendly High School (MD).
The DC Youth Slam Team (DCYST) is a program of Split This Rock, a DC-based non-profit that calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. As part of Split This Rock, the team receives year-round arts immersion and is coached on writing and performing poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes change. In addition to Split This Rock’s Youth Programs Coordinator Jonathan B. Tucker, the team is coached by Pages Matam and Elizabeth Acevedo, both award winning slam poets and teaching artists at Split This Rock.
Brave New Voices is sponsored by Youth Speaks Inc., a San Francisco based non-profit dedicated to creating safe spaces to empower the next generation of leaders, self-defined artists, and visionary activists through written and oral literacies. Featured on HBO, Brave New Voices is described as “the largest and most diverse ongoing spoken word event in the world.”
One of the DCYST’s first performances in DC since winning the title is Saturday, July 26 as part of the Summer Voices free open mic from 5-8pm at THEARC, located at 1901 Mississippi Ave, SE in DC.