Poetry Slam gives students the chance for self-expression

Anna Miesner, Writer

On Dec. 5, SM North freshmen participated in the Slam Poetry event held by Honors English 9 teacher Natalie Johnson-Berry.

The students worked alone or in a group to write a poem, which they performed in front of their English class. Johnson-Berry invited anyone in the North community to come to watch the performances as well, along with guest speakers who shared their own poems. Johnson-Berry believed that poetry was different way for students to express themselves.

“I wanted to make it interesting,” she said. “Give students options because I have seen that a lot of students want to freely express themselves and not be bound by certain constraints that we would do with a typical poetry unit.”

Freshmen Isabel Melchor-Gudiel and I’Asia Byrant read a poem which was based on discrimination they have both faced.

“JB [Johnson-Berry] told me to do something I believe in,” Byrant said. “I believed in people not discriminating and going against you by how you look.”

For Bryant, writing a poem gave her the opportunity to express her feelings more openly.

“I wanted people to know how I felt to be discriminated against,” Bryant said. “I wanted them to get a better understanding of me and that it’s not a good feeling to feel like you’re being judged.”

The poem was read both with similar perspectives, with the two students having faced similar racial problems, with parts of the poem were read in sync. Melchor-Gudiel explains that she did to further impact the audience.

“I really wanted to open up people’s eyes,” Melchor-Gudiel said. “It’s something I really believe down inside.”

To push beyond her own comfort zone, Johnson-Berry herself wrote and performed a rap for the class.

“The point was for me to take something I was really weakest at, which would be something like rap and show that I can take a risk,” Johnson-Berry said. “I’m asking them to be very vulnerable and personal. I can’t rap worth two cents; this allowed my students to know that they can get up and take a risk.”