LTAB Makes it to Semi-Finals!
By Sasha Aristizabal
It was a chilly March night when I hopped out of my Uber in Wrigleyville where I walked into Metro Chicago. The Metro, a well known Chicago venue where different events are hosted such as indie bands, was hosting the Louder Than A Bomb Semi-Finals. As I walked in and paid for a wristband, I could tell that this would not be what I had envisioned slam poetry competitions to be like. I thought it would be very quiet and respectful; granted, while everyone was respectful, it was far from quiet. All the way from the first floor, I could hear the DJ blasting music and people laughing and having fun. I found a seat in the back and sat back to see the emcees and performers getting settled. There was a high amount of energy all around and everyone was excited.
The emcees introduced themselves and got the crowd hyped while also explaining the competition’s rules. They cracked a couple of jokes, but they also announced that all phones were to be on silent as a way of being respectful to the performers. They laid down some basic rules, including that everyone has three minutes to recite their poem, but before speakers began their poem they had to state their name, their team’s name, the title of the poem, and any chant the team might have prepared beforehand. There were four schools competing: Northside, Whitney Young, Crane, and Butler. These four schools had four individual performers who went during rounds one through four and all ended with a group performance, which was round five. The first round started off with Butler, Crane, Northside, and then Whitney Young. The following round started off with Crane, then Northside, Whitney Young, and finished up with Butler. This rotation continued until the fifth round began just like the first one.
The four independent (indie) poets from Northside were Abigail Morales, Adv. 100, Sadia Haidari, Adv. 206, Co-Captain Emily Schultz, Adv. 909, and Llorenz Meliton, Adv. 903. The artists used their own personal experience to create beautiful three-minute poetry. Morales spoke about how America does not necessarily feel like her home and described in-depth how by the seemingly most insignificant things about Mexico are what make it “home.” Haidari’s poem was about the American dream, but also about how 9/11 affects Middle Eastern Americans and makes the American dream almost impossible for them. Schultz talked about how she sees herself as a five -- whether on a personal scale or what she always gets on her AP exams, a five. The last indie poet, Meliton, talked about his name and how he would use a fake one, Joe, instead. However, after noticing how people can get the name “Joe” wrong, he realized using his real name was better and he would not have to pretend to be “Joe” any longer. The indie artists shared something special and unique to them and crafted something that no one else could have.
After Meliton performed, the fifth round began, meaning all teams would go again but with a group of four people. They would all perform one poem together, whether it was everyone at once or one at a time, with each poet stating their own lines. The three other competing schools had their first four indie poets come together for the group round but Northside did the complete opposite. With Schultz, the other three performers for the group round were Co-Captain Lexy Chilson, Adv. 908, Tyler O'Brien, Adv. 909, and Dhuha Wasfie, Adv. 102. Their poem talked about the labels they have been given as a member of the LGBT community and how it affects their everyday lives. Their performance was very powerful and in three minutes, showed how passionate each individual was about their poem and their identity.
In order to have qualified for the way to semi-finals, the team had to place in at least second place in two previous bouts where they then got moved on to quarterfinals. In the next competition, the team placed second, which advanced them to semi-finals. Although each poem performed by a Northside student was very powerful and moving, the team placed fourth and did not advance to finals. When asked about her overall feeling post-competition, Chilson said, “I am so proud of everyone and everything my slam poets have done this year. My co-captain, Emily Schultz, and I have been super busy this year and with the help of our coach, Ms. Isaly Vania, Special Education department, this is our most successful year I've seen since being a part of slam. We have a lot of underclassman on the team, but their poems were beautiful and personal and this year was our best.” When asked about what it was like performing at the Metro, Chilson said “It was super scary! It’s such an iconic Chicago venue, but I wanted to make sure our team knew we didn’t come there to win and advance but to have an audience hear our stories in an authentic and powerful way. We knew it was a great opportunity to have people listen, so we made homes out of that stage.”
Congratulations to the LTAB team for making it to the Semi-Finals and for allowing their diverse voices to be heard.