WU-Slam competes against national team

| Scene Reporter

On Wednesday, Sept. 15, Washington University’s Edison Theatre will host a heated battle between Washington University’s WU-Slam Performance Crew and the Denver based Slam Nuba team. Six of Wash. U.’s own will compete against the nationally recognized, award-winning slam poetry troupe. This is the first time in WU-Slam’s short history that they have competed against an adult group of this caliber.

Slam Nuba poet Amy Everhart won the 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam competition, making her the best spoken word poet in the world by official standards. Everhart will be performing in Wednesday’s competition, sponsored by The Black Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

“This is going to be a really big competition,” said Jessica Davie, a liaison from The Black Rep. “Slam Nuba is very popular and has won a lot of competitions. But [WU-Slam] is also very talented. It should be a great event, and it would be great to see Wash. U. come out on top.”

The Black Rep contacted WU-Slam in July, requesting its participation in the upcoming competition.

“When they first contacted us, we didn’t know who we’d be performing against,” said senior Gerald Jackson, WU-Slam’s vice president and one of the performers in this Wednesday’s event. “We were told in August who was coming, and we immediately got to work.”

“It’s an honor to go against one of the highest regarded spoken word groups in the country, and I think we’ve been preparing accordingly,” added senior Aaron Samuels, the group’s co-founder.

Slam poetry is often described as a mix of hip-hop and poetry, but WU-Slam’s members see it differently. Senior Naia Ferguson describes the process as page meeting the stage, emphasizing the importance of sound writing.

Ferguson tries not to perform subject matter with which she isn’t personally familiar.

“I want my poetry to be as true to myself as possible. When I really feel what I’m talking about, I think the audience has a better chance of feeling it too.”

During the group’s most recent practice, Samuels commented on his team members’ performances, critiquing everything from their facial expressions and body movements to the speed, volume and intensity of their voices.

“It’s all about the performance,” Samuels said. “The way I see it, when you get up [on stage], you have three minutes to affect people. When I perform, I have just three minutes to say something original, three minutes to change the world. You have a room full of people giving you their complete attention—it’s an amazing opportunity to say something real.”

This week’s show will likely propel WU-Slam further into the national slam poetry spotlight. Two years ago, the group began to build a name for itself through its debut performance at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI), where it were the only team to walk away with three awards. The group has been steadily gaining fame and popularity ever since.

WU-Slam has also won several of Wash. U.’s Excellence in Leadership awards and earned awards for the best piece of the competition and the best overall performance team at this year’s CUPSI tournament in Boston; they came in fifth in the most recent competition.

“If we made a name for ourselves the first year, I think we doubled that this time around,” Samuels said.

While all of the team members expressed some anxiety about their competition on Wednesday, they have confidence in their performance abilities and believe they will be strong contenders.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be asked to do this,” Jackson said. “When I joined [WU-Slam], I never thought I’d be competing against a group like this. I don’t want to say we deserve this because it’s all a blessing, but we did work for it, and it’s very exciting.”

The performance will be Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the Edison Box Office.

$20 for general admission, $10 for students.