Back in 2001, Louder Than a Bomb was founded through the Young Chicago Authors, by Kevin Coval (YCA Artistic Director) and Anna West to give middle and high school youth a place to express themselves in ways that the world had never seen before.
Then in 2013, in conjunction with Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network, the Jason Taylor Foundation decided to throw their hats into the ring and start the Louder Than a Bomb Florida competition, giving the students of Broward County an opportunity to express themselves with the spoken word in a safe and comfortable environment.
"We met and spoke with the folks from Young Chicago Authors; with their blessing we brought the format to South Florida." said Vice President of Operations for the Jason Taylor Foundation, Sean Todd. "It's very rewarding to see the poets have the platform, and it's an honor for us to provide that platform to them where they can speak their truth."
39 schools across at least ten different locations competed in the preliminary bouts which spanned over two days, and the highlighted bout for this story took place at the Miramar Amphitheater, where this writer was honored with the privilege to be one of the judges for the second year in a row.
Student after student came out and gave it their all on stage, letting out what was in their hearts for the world to hear. For some, it was a simple poem, for others it was a way to vent feelings that have been bottled up for years. This was the case for one student from Charles W. Flanagan High School by the name of Isaac Bright, whose poem about a flower garden was filled with raw power, driven by his own personal life experiences.
"Mainly ... kinda family problems, but also because I really love flowers. Funny story, I actually wrote this while being socially anxious in an Applebee's." said Bright. "But, it's just when I start thinking of plants, my mind just tries to go somewhere. I don't normally do regular poetry, it's more just storytelling with fancy words.
"It took a lot of erasing, and a lot of trial and error, picking which went in and which couldn't. But really, one of my strategies is start from the end, and try to fill the points around it, that way the entire story flows together. How did we get to this point?"
Clearly the strategy worked, as Bright - along with his fellow "Writers Ink" teammates - took first place in the preliminary bout, giving them a trip to the next round, much to the pride of their coach, Kristy Modia, who is an English teacher at Flanagan High School.
"We worked hard to get here, we've been practicing ever since the beginning of the school year," she said. "So yeah, very proud."
This is just the beginning for this year's Louder Than a Bomb Florida, and it's easy to understand why the Jason Taylor Foundation puts so much effort into making this happen year after year. This empowers the youth of South Florida, lets their voices be heard and their passions put on display on a stage larger than any other. If the youth of today is the future, then maybe it's good we hear what they're thinking in the present.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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