Finger snaps, claps, raps and other forms of spoken verse filled the normally quiet Kingsbridge Library on May 15 during Community Board (CB) 8’s second annual Bronx Youth Poetry Slam.
“I know some people want to be polite and quiet, but we are in the Bronx,” said Kingsbridge poet and host Erik “Advocate of Wordz” Maldonado, who organized the event along with CB 8 Youth Committee Chairman Lamont Parker.
“The more energy the audience gives the poets, the more energy the poet will give the audience,” he said.
Nine students performed their works in front of a panel of five judges, which included Kevin “Special K” Keaton, a member of 70s hip hop group the Treacherous Three. Judges awarded participants scores from zero to 10, though the talented group of artists’ scores hovered in the seven to 10 range.
High school senior Natasha Estevez, who frequents Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) after school, placed first after two rounds of competition. The 18-year-old student from Mother Cabrini High School in Manhattan moved through the slam’s two rounds with poems focusing on identity, aspirations and breaking down stereotypes.
“Who I am, what I’ll be, still remains a mystery / I will live life until there’s no more left of me,” she said in her first poem. “This flesh that I live in, so thirsty for sin / this mind that I live in, so eager to win,” she recited in her second work, which drew affirmations from the crowd gathered in the library’s main room.
Natasha, who plans to attend the Art Institute of Chicago this fall, said slam poetry has given her a chance to express myself.
“When I write, that’s when I state my opinion,” said the senior, whose writing career picked up during her time at KHCC. The confidence she exuded while performing belied her nervousness, she said.
“I was shocked when they announced [the winners],” said Natasha, who participated in last year’s event but did not place. “I mean, these are great poets.”