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Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Student poetry slams the issues

By Bill Turque

Dallas Otigba wasn't daunted by the boisterous, standing-room-only audience that packed Kelly Miller School auditorium Thursday night for the 13th annual D.C. Scores Poetry Slam! Like many of the students in the two-night citywide spoken word competition, the maroon-and-khaki-clad fifth grader from Arts and Technology Public Charter School conveyed a message of hope, despair and perseverence:

I have the potential to be the BEST
But all you see are results on a test

The DC-CAS doesn't assess my true abilities
Provide me with a quality education and I'll achieve proficiency

I'm tired of teachers teaching to a test
Then we leave school and still don't measure up against the rest!

Twenty-five public and public charter schools (18 elementary and seven middle)competed in the event organized by DC Scores, the non-profit that parlays soccer and poetry into an afterschool program for about 800 students The competition,divided into eastside and westside schools, included both individual and group entries. Arts and Technology took first place in the east side elementary contest. Cesar Chavez Parkside Campus took the top middle school honors.

The words lose something when they're disembodied from the performance, but they remain vivid windows into hearts and minds of D.C. school kids. Here is Lanayia Stubbs of C.W. Harris Elementary in Ward 7:

I am a free woman! As you can see!
No other woman is as free as me!
People say that I'm sour as a pickle, but I think I'm sweet as ice cream
I'm bursting with flavor.
Some people believe I'm as mean as the green Grinch on Christmas Day
But honey!
You don't know me yet, because I'm actually meaner than a bull!
But I say, no need to hate, because we're all beautiful!
& really, I'm a cheetah --fast talking, fast walking & a fast writing girl.
I am free.

Beers Elementary in Ward 7 tied for third place with a series of pieces that included "I'm Tired:"

I'm tired
I'm tired of Reading
I'm tired of substitutes
I'm tired of lying parents, teachers, preachers and friends
I'm tired of following directions again and again

I'm tired of others cheating off my papers
I'm tired of picking up trash
I'm tired of people yelling at me
I'm tired of my teacher putting my mistakes on full blast

I'm tired of the noise so I can't think
I'm tired to dirty bathrooms, they stink
I'm tired of hate and people being mean
I'm tired of hearing "wash up you're not clean"

Well I'm not tired of love, peace and happiness
Can I get more of that?
I'm not tired of fun,laughter and good times
Can I trade you what I'm tired of to get a little bit of that?

For a complete list of the winners and other details, go to the DC Scores blog.

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By Bill Turque  | December 3, 2010; 12:37 PM ET
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Dallas Otigba better watch his back. Arne Duncan and the other friends of test scores may stick a knife in his back, even though he is only 13 years old.

Thank heavens Michelle Rhee wasn't present.

Posted by: jlp19 | December 5, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I attended both nights of the DC SCORES Poetry Slam! I was amazed by the level of participation of the greater community. At Kelly Miller, a standing room only crowd of supporters, parents, and family members responded with the kind of overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm I've seen reserved only for sporting events. To see this kind of support & cheer for literacy and poetry brought tears to my eyes. It was an amazing example of what hardworking, creative, teachers and students, and supportive families in DC can do together.

Posted by: cchimka | December 6, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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