Poetry slam lifts voices

Words of love and hair and snarling hounds and scars poured from young poets gathered in a packed room at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA) on a recent Friday.

Led by a slender and energetic Daniel Gray-Kontar, director of Cleveland’s Twelve Literary and Performative Arts Incubator, the poetry slam and workshop gave young writers an opportunity to voice, and discuss, “pain that doesn’t get recognized,” said one CAPA student.

Gray-Kontar brought with him three young Cleveland poets who delivered work that was then judged by a handful of CAPA student volunteers. Much of the spoken work focused on the experiences of those of color. And that’s one of the artform’s unique strengths, said Raja Belle Freeman, one of the Cleveland poets. It lifts the voices of those often ignored, such as members of the LGBTQ community.

Raja Belle Freeman, a member of the Cleveland youth performance poetry ensemble “Six of Twelve,” delivers an original piece. She says poetry allows people to “see things a different way” and gives voice to marginalized communities. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Mary Barrett, also from “Six of Twelve,” says poetry “gives me an opportunity to dissect myself, to understand why I am who I am.” (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Deija Vinson gives and impassioned performance. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Selected as a judge, Javin Lee-Lobel offers his score. Lee-Lobel is a CAPA sophomore. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
Daniel Gray-Kontar calls on students to give scores. He’s director of Cleveland’s Twelve Literary Arts Incubator. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)
CAPA student Isabella Johnson listens. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)