Louder Than A Bomb liberates, inspires

Cassidy Jackson, senior editor

“After each performance, I’m gonna need you guys to cheer as loud as you would if Donald Trump happened to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle!”

When Britteney “Black Rose” Kapri, renowned poet and co-host of Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB), spoke those words into the mic, I knew I was in for a wild night of politically geared poetry at Louder Than a Bomb’s team finals.

Louder Than a Bomb, the world’s largest youth slam-poetry festival, is a five week long event running from the end of February to the end of March. The five weeks are packed with judged poetry rounds all leading to the crowning of the individual finals champ and the team finals champ.

Before going to Louder Than a Bomb, my only dose of poetry came from my AP Literature poetry packets, a combination of Shakespeare’s infamous poems mixed with John Donne’s sonnets. During class, whenever my teacher announced, “Get your poetry packets out,” I cringed on the inside, because analyzing stanza structure and scanning poems for literary devices was not up my alley. Also, the poem’s topics were often religious ormythological and simply unrelatable. Due to my lack of connection to the topics and blatant lack of enjoyment dissecting every inch of the poems, I honestly viewed poetry more like a chore than an art form.

But as I left LTAB with goosebumps and my mouth gaped open, I gained a new appreciation for poetry. Although I may never understand “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake, I appreciate poetry’s ability to articulate each time’s issues in a rhythmic art. Poetry has the ability to build community, express and evoke a range of emotions, and give you a peek into the poet’s life and often your own.  

LTAB’s poetry touched on current issues that hit home, ranging from our country’s political state, sexual assault, Black Lives Matter, racism and self-worth. Sitting through these masterpieces, a few specific lines captured my attention and pushed me to realize poetry’s beauty.  

“You can’t let these people know that we grievin’.”

A known rap genius at his high school, but depressed kid behind closed doors said this line into the mic, and the goosebumps raised. Despite being labeled as “talented” by his peers and loved for his art, the high schooler went through a dark period where he “lost [his] smile [and] lost [his] laughter.” Later in his poem, he asked the chilling question:

“Do you know what it’s like to look in the mirror & only see the space around you?”

His focus on personas shook me; how we present ourselves versus how we actually feel contrast sharply sometimes, even in our day to day interactions. Everyday, we ask people, “How are you?” and about 99% of the time we get a two word response like “I’m fine” or “I’m good” in return, but I wonder how many people lie in response to that question every single day. Honestly, I can’t even guess how many times I’ve lied in response to that question, or plastered a smile on my face when all I really wanted to do was cry.

“Ode to my hair, which has always been the wrong religion”

That line. That line, to me, summed up the dark truth of ethnic hair. The black girl world of hot combs, weaves, extensions, straighteners and relaxers was explained in a total of 10 words. In a world where ethnic hair, my hair included, is constantly met with questions and unwarranted comments like:

“Is that your real hair”

or “Your hair is interesting.

or “Can I touch your hair?”

The comparison of ethnic hair to the “wrong religion” is completely accurate and hit home for me. Hearing the choir of snaps that erupted after that line validated my feelings even more. As I sat there, I felt a whirlwind of different emotions: anger, sadness and even empowerment, because despite ethnic hair being the “wrong religion,” the poet still had the strength to make her poem an “ode” to it. I began to feel the strength to make my life an ode to it as well.

Watching these poems in the Auditorium Theatre, there was a clear sense of community. Scanning the people around me, there was an interracial couple sitting directly next to me, a black family seated in front of me, and a white family seated directly next to them. All of us were snapping at the same lines. All of us were blown away by these kids poems. All of us were looking to strangers directly next to us to exchange the shock. It was a night of cultural liberation that left all of us with goosebumps as we left.