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posted 5 May 2017, 06:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 May 2017, 06:29 ]
Andre Moses is an educator and prominent cultural activist; 
former president of the Pan in Schools Co-ordinating Council
The prerogatives of competition can be a catalyst that propels us to strive for excellence, but the flip side is that the focus on one’s competitors can sometimes dilute the integrity of one's inner voice.

The 2017 First Citizens National Poetry Slam was a competition, but as I sat in the audience I tried to enjoy each performance in its own mutually exclusive space.

The poets dealt with a broad spectrum of social issues, including: education, parenting, child abuse, technology, selflessness, artistic integrity and discrimination. Some performances were in the first person, sharing a ‘personal’ experience as a way of vocalising the ‘unsaid’. Others were more philosophical, in the third person, inviting the audience to perceive ‘the familiar’ in ‘unfamiliar ways’. There were also performances that took aim at us, the audience, as a collective, and addressed us directly as the second person in the conversation.

Some thematic presentations were more detailed and more literal than others while others used onomatopoeia and repetition as symbols of patterns that have become so all-pervasive we tend to not ‘see’ them any more.

As a career educator and a bit of an introvert myself, I admired the self-confidence and bravery with which young people were creating a space to express their own voice. It can’t be easy. First, you must have something to say. Then you must decide how you want to communicate your thoughts. Finally you must have the self-confidence to believe you can connect with your audience.

Just thinking deeply about issues is a plus in itself in today’s context, where so many of us have sub-contracted ‘thinking’ to professional opinion leaders, who set our discussion agendas and channel our thoughts into binary, oversimplified options that have much more to do with them than us. So much for our stereotypical generalisations about the shallowness of our young people, the NAPA auditorium was filled to capacity with young people and they were fully engaged.

The Spoken Word is a relatively new voice and I am sure both its form and content will develop as its practitioners themselves grow and develop. In the meantime, for folks like me, it is food for the spirit and the fortification of hope in what is to come.

Congrats to all the competitors. Congrats to those in winners row. Nice to see representation from both genders; that is how it should be! The young lady who forgot some of her lines was a true inspiration. She came to do a job and she did not leave until she had completed it. Forgive me but I can’t help but feel a special pride for Michael Logie and Idrees Saleem. It’s a Gustine (St. Augustine Secondary) thing ‘eh Ziggy?’ The Bocas Lit Fair, First Citizens Bank, the 2 Cents Movement, De MAD Company, Freetown Collective (inspiring opening set!) and all the Spoken Word groups, practitioners and supporters, take a bow!