by: Annah Rah
On May 10, Northside’s writers and poets gathered during Y-Block for the third annual end-of-the-year open mic, hosted by Ms. Nora Flanagan, English Department, and guest teaching artist Britteney BlackRose Kapri. These annual open mics are the culmination of a year’s long partnership between Northside College Prep and Young Chicago Authors, the nonprofit writing organization that is responsible for hosting the Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) poetry slam each year. Kapri, in addition to hosting these open mics, also works with Ms. Flanagan to coach Northside’s slam team and works with Northside’s Creative Writing class. These annual open mics hosted by Ms. Flanagan and Kapri are a commemoration and celebration of the creativity and writing of students around Northside.
In addition to being an exciting time of sharing and appreciating different writers and minds at Northside, the annual open mics serve another special purpose. “We provide information about summer opportunities at the event, and we mention all the possible ways writers can participate here at Northside,” Flanagan said. However, these benefits are not limited to those who share their works at the open mic; Flanagan also reaches out to audience members to provide them with information about writing-centered events. “I also hang onto the names of people who attend, so that I can invite them to our fall writing events and hopefully encourage them to try out for our poetry slam team or join the editorial staff of Verve,” she says.
At this open mic, eleven students delivered their own personal, powerful works of writing, ranging from poems to short stories. Eve Houser, Adv. 708, began the Y Block and was followed by Jacob Davila, Adv. 906 with two food-focused poems. Rae’Vonne Barnes, Adv. 706 and Hunter Ellis, Adv. 703 each gave moving poems, followed by Emily Schultz, Adv. 909, who delivered a poem about squirrels. Priscilla Calderon, Adv. 706, confessed to the audience before reading her poem that she wanted to join the LTAB team this year, but was too shy to try out for the team itself. After a beautiful better-than-Emily-Dickinson poem, Kapri encouraged Calderon to try out for or create a slam team at Calderon’s future college. When reflecting upon these events, Flanagan said, “My only regret is when a senior performs who never joined any of our writing groups, as happened this year and every year. It makes me want to reach out to our student writers sooner.” After Calderon, Mikaela Powell, Adv. 808, shared a powerful short story she wrote. Then, Amanda Gomez, Adv. 809, wowed the audience with her poem, recited from memory, as she declared, “I am not regrettable.” Danielle Jean-Baptiste, Adv. 706, shared two Mother’s Day themed poems with two drastically different but equally amazing auras. Tyler O’Brien, Adv. 909, moved the audience to tears with his heart wrenching poem about love. Carlie Hansen, Adv. 705, shared a gory, spooky Halloween short story that terrified her audience, leaving them frozen in anticipation. Finally, Molly Furlong’s, Adv. 906, open and beautiful poem, centered around the theme of an eating disorder, ended the event on a strong note. Ms. Flanagan, in response to Furlong’s writing, said, “Molly Furlong is a very talented writer who has worked with our slam team in the past, but it was great to see her back on the microphone. I hope she continues writing because her piece was among the most powerful we heard.”
As the open mic came to a conclusion, pizza was provided for the performers and the audience while students mingled and received fliers for summer writing camps and opportunities from Kapri. Following the event, Ms. Flanagan told the Hoofbeat, “I thought the event went really well. We had performers and audience members from throughout our school community. I thought the pieces performed were fantastic.” After this year’s open mic was such a grand success, it is exciting think of what is in store for the writers within Northside’s diverse community.