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Passing the Mic’s poetry slam on Saturday night concluded the third and final event of the Spoken Word Series put on by the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival.
After the Festival’s Just Bust Spoken Word and Encyclopedia Show Thursday and Friday nights, the seventh annual Passing the Mic event at the Overture Center brought newcomers in the poetry world and heavy-hitters like well-known word artists Sonia Sanchez and Danny Simmons to the stage.
Emphasizing the title of the poetry performance, the show was a delivery of the microphone through many generations of poets. Beginning with high school teens from across the Midwest to University of Wisconsin students, the night concluded with a showcase of professional poets.
“[It’s] really exciting,” said Office of Multicultural Arts Initiative Executive Director Willie Ney. “[This] is one of the truest of our multigenerational spoken word events.”
High school Midwest Youth Poetry Slam All-Stars from Detroit, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities and Chicago were selected to perform with other artists.
After several teens delivered their poems, the mic was passed to UW’s First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble.
Founded in 2007, the group is unique nationally as the “first four-year scholarship for spoken word hip hop [artists],” according to Ney. A select group of only fifteen become each year’s “cohort” and are personally taught and trained by Director Chris Walker on performance in several different genres.
Ney, who also founded First Wave, said programs like this are instrumental because they bring in an educational aspect ignored in the classroom.
“[First Wave] continues their own authentic stories and identities in their work, where many traditional programs wouldn’t,” he said.
The First Wave performers Saturday epitomized this individualized attention with the impressions they sought to leave on audience members, both through style and subject matter, Ney said.
Def Poetry on Broadway stars Black Ice and Mayda del Valle took the stage following the high schoolers.
Their poetry reflected on the marginalized groups in society and the marginalized portions within each individual in society. Well-known poet and playwright Jessica Care-Moore also performed some of her own poetry on the struggles of her home city, Detroit.
Simmons and Sanchez gave keynote addresses at the end of the evening. Both are published authors with their own different personalities.
Simmons preceded Sanchez with a few poems, stating he was going to read his works and let, “a real poet get up here [on stage].”
Sanchez’s performance was the opposite. She flew through poems characterizing her spoken word style with works containing “scat” jazz riffs and repetitions of her design.
The evening’s performances were a collaboration between the Wisconsin Book Festival and Just Bust Spoken Word & Hip Hop Open Mic. The program involves UW students performing their own slam poetry series and occurs on the first Friday of every month.
Ney emphasized how the unique multicultural programming on campus mirrors society at large.
“It’s a reflection of our world, we live in a multilingual, multiracial, multi-religious world. Here we represent all voices,” Ney said.