Taking back freedom of speech: slam poetry


Rhaya Truman

Slam poetry is poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation.

During my junior year, I decided to join DGS speech.

I was searching for a place to tell my story openly. Speech taught me the art of writing, speaking and mostly the art of poetry. But even with the “open” platform of DGS speech, my voice was still silenced in certain areas.

I couldn’t use certain poems in my program because, as a black girl, I would come off as too “mad.” I couldn’t include certain pieces because I ran the risk of making the white judges feel guilty.

I felt as if my voice was being silenced by an institution that values poetry of hope instead of poetry that shows reality. In other words, I wasn’t clean cut enough for speech poetry because people did not want to hear about raw racial injustices in our society.

I had always thought speech poetry was an outlet for people of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexualities to share their stories. I was disappointed to find that it was more censored than I perceived it to be.

So in my search of uncensored performance, I found slam poetry.

Slam poetry is poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation.

Since I did not have the platform to share my story through speech, I decided to indulge in watching other people perform their poems unapologetically. I would spend hours on Youtube watching poets share their message with no regret and without any censorship.

With the recent uprise of conversations about politics, race and immigration in America, people have began to gravitate towards slam poetry to be able to express their opinions about issues in our country.

So with the help of a video camera and social media, we now have unlimited access to videos of people using poetry to enact change. Now, all you need is a phone and a voice and there is no stopping what you have to say and that is a powerful tool.

Furthermore, slam poetry allows you to perform how you want.

You can be happy.

You can be sad.

You can be hopeful.

You can be a proud angry black girl, unapologetically.

Speech poetry taught me how to listen, but slam poetry taught me how to speak.

I believe we should all go through life like a slam poet.

We should all challenge what society expects. We should stop sugarcoating realities to make people feel comfortable. You don’t have to be a slam poet to have the confidence required to speak your truth.

We should all go through life like slam poets because at the end of the day, our words are what we are remembered for.

Be remembered for saying something worth listening to.