Student Ryan Johnson wowed the judges with words about love and racism at the Black Student Association’s first poetry slam this year on Feb. 27—held in honor of Black History Month.
“The poetry slam is one of the top events that BSA puts on,” said BSA member Jamal Wise. “We come here to understand who somebody is.”
The winners, Johnson in first place, Jen Garcia in second and Calvin Chatman in third, were chosen by the judges for their excellence in three areas of critique.
“I was shaking, but it went well enough that I want to try it again next time,” said Johnson, a BSA member.
Judges Marketa Teal and Tabitha Raj—both staff administrators at USF St. Petersburg—were looking for a clear relation to black culture from the poems, extraordinary creativity and a clear delivery. Performers were rated on a one to 10 scale.
Poetry readings from group members and special guests came from a selection of original content as well as old time favorite poets such as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelo. Topics ranged from love to inequality, personal struggle to change, religion to genocide.
Special guests from USF Tampa included Stefan Johnson, founder of KK5 Media, and Lennox Williams, a poet and activist.
“It’s a different vibe here at USFSP, a culture that is more engaging as an audience and more relaxed,” said Johnson and Williams, reflecting together. “Tampa is definitely bigger, but that’s not to say the quality isn’t here. The readings were a lot more authentic, they really showed who the person is.”
Laures Knowles, the vice president of BSA, was impressed with the turnout this year, as she noticed an increase in attendance from the last poetry competition.
“The poetry slam brings with it exposure for different people to come out and try something new and have a good time,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know how talented some of the other students are, and I think they like seeing them show it.”
Lena Wray, a second year USFSP student, attended the event for the first time and felt inspired to share possible work of her own in the future.
“So many of them gave me chills,” she said. “I definitely want to do a poem next time.”
Photo by Lexy Parr