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At Poetry Slam, Students Find Self-Expression

By Joshua R. McTaggart, Contributing Writer

Standing behind a microphone in Science Center D, Daily Guerrero ’14 delivered a spoken word poem in the style of a hip-hop artist, but rather than taking on many of the themes common to hip-hop, she used the piece to “expose the ugly truth of female sexual objectification and its effects.”

“You are joining the ranks of men that can’t transcend because the physical is all they can comprehend,” she rapped on stage.

Guerrero won first place and $200 in the Black Community and Student Theater (BlackC.A.S.T.) second annual Poetry Slam, which attracted about 50 students on Friday.

The event was organized to bring together a variety of students from across campus who create poetry, rap, or spoken verse.

“Last year we had a really great show, so we decided to make it an annual event,” said Odelia S. Younge ’11, co-president of BlackC.A.S.T. “We wanted to do the event again because there is a big poetry contingent on campus we can cater for.”

This year, 10 performers all competed for the grand prize of $200. BlackC.A.S.T. hoped the event would give a platform to aspiring poets and performers in the Harvard community, with expert judges providing constructive criticism.

“The judges are looking for stage presence, content, and delivery,” said Younge, who said she hoped the event provided a comfortable and positive environment for the students.

Phrases like “Keep it raw, keep it real” and “I do not follow dreams/I lead them,” written on the chalkboard behind performers, were echoed in the self-written works of the students.

Lauren Faye, a high school student who was visiting Harvard, said she found the performances extremely moving.

“It is incredible to see the student’s personal experiences coming out in their poetry,” Faye said, “and the emotions they portray were really genuine.”

The judges said they had a difficult time selecting a winner, but after nine performances, the unanimous decision was to award the prize to Guerrero.

In her performance, Guerrero attempted to turn hip-hop’s negative influence on its head.

Entitled “The Woman Degraded,” Guerrero’s performance was based on a close friend telling her that he was looking for a relationship with no commitment, where he could treat the woman as an object.

Speaking after the event, Guerrero said, “I love poetry because it allows people to turn pain into power, weaknesses into strengths, fear into courage. Spoken word poetry especially draws its power from being raw and real.”

Guerrero said winning was not her motivation for entering the competition.

“Winning the slam just makes me feel really happy to have received recognition for something that I love to do.”

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