We never know where an interview is going to go when we sit down with someone. For instance, when we sat down with Emanuelee Outspoken Bean, we talked about him, but he also talked about how he coaches the poetry slam team, Meta-four. As he talked about these kids, we realized that we had to meet them. We needed to know these extraordinary individuals that were so young, but had achieved so much. These kids that come from some such diverse backgrounds and work together as a team to be one of the best poetry slam groups in the country. We wanted to know what drove them to poetry and what motivated them outside of poetry. These are kids that will change the world, and although their voices are heard during the Slams they attend and work so hard for, they also work so hard in their everyday lives and we wanted to find out how they meshed these two very different worlds together.
Meta-Four Houston is one of the top slam poetry teams in Texas and is ranked #10 internationally. Comprised of 5 talented young performance poets, ages 14 – 20, they have competed in poetry slams to become part of this prestigious team, but once part of this team, that’s when the hard work begins. This is a group of kids that don’t know each other when they first meet and then must learn to work together and critique each other. They develop into a family, a community of support, friendship and commonality, despite their different backgrounds.
We met with these young men and women on a Saturday after they had finished practicing for the big Poetry Slam that took place this year in Atlanta, Brave New Voices, where they competed with the best of the best. We met with 5 of the 6 members of the team and it was one of the most enjoyable interviews we have experienced. We are sorry that Lilly wasn’t there, but she was in spirit!
Rukmini – 14 Years Old, Carnegie Vanguard High School
Rukmini is a debater by nature and she learned through debate in middle school not only the power of speech but that she likes to win. She is the youngest on the team and she stumbled across the competition and decided to go for it. The first time she went to a slam and performed, she came in last, but she didn’t give up and decided that the next time she performed she was going to win, and she did. She has always written short stories, but for her, she realized that she gets a rush out of performing, it gives her validation and power that she otherwise wouldn’t feel she had. What she has loved about being on this team, is that she has learned to not judge people. She admits that most of the team members are not people she would normally connect with, but now she is very close to. What has she learned in her first year on Meta-Four?
Respect for poetry, words and people.
Marcus – 18 Years Old, Humble High School Graduate
Marcus was jaded about school until he got into theatre as a junior in High School. He had seen one of his fellow Meta-Four teammates perform and decided to join the poetry club. He liked the idea of intertwining theatre and poetry. After joining the poetry club, he started to do competitions and wanted to win, not so he could claim he won, but so he could continue to perform. Marcus likes to have fun and entertain when he is performing. He calls himself a ‘theatrical poet’. What he enjoys about writing poetry is that he can write about things that don’t exist. When he graduates from Lone Star College he wants to be an English teacher and inspire kids.
Carl – 18 Years Old, Humble High School Graduate
Carl is an All American High School Football player and has a full scholarship for football to the University of Missouri. He began his journey writing rap music and figured he could use his rap as poetry, just saying it in a slower fashion. But, realized that he had to reinvent the way that he was using the poetry and music and also realized that once he did that, he loved poetry. His poetry style is aggressive, much like he is on the football field. What he faced inside the locker room when his teammates found out he was competing in Poetry Slam competitions was jokes and confusion… until they went to hear him. Then several of his team members actually started to write poetry as well. Carl has learned to manage his time between practicing with the Meta-Four team and with his football team. He has learned that the competition between each is very similar and he is always thinking about how he can be the best in both worlds. He also loves them both for what they are. We asked Carl what he has learned from being on two very different types of teams;
I have learned to not be afraid of who I am and to not be in a generalized box. I can be my own person and that self-expression is therapeutic. I have learned that I can love more than one thing at a time.
Sara – 19 Years Old, HSPVA Graduate
We have met Sara as one of our #VibingKids and also as the founder and creator of Compassion is Action. She is a performer and an activist and her way of spreading the message is through her words. Sara has been competing on the team the longest and although it is all in a days work for her, she still loves the competition and the team experience. She has learned that everyone is different and acceptance of peoples differences is the greatest gift you can offer to yourself and to the world, and that is the message that she is trying to spread through her poetry and in her life.
Tiffany – Intern and Past Meta-Four Team Member, University of Wisconsin
Tiffany is on a poetry scholarship to the University of Wisconsin through a program called First Wave. She applied and got it and she still can’t believe that she gets to go to college for free all because of poetry. She started to write poetry and compete in 8th grade and her poems are physical, because she is also an athlete. She is a basketball player and runs track. She likes having two different worlds and two different sides to her life, the poetry and the sports, and she says the adrenaline that she got from being on stage when she started was much like what she got from doing sports. Her goal is to go to medical school and she truly is inspirational as to where poetry can take you in life. As Tiffany says,
Who I met through poetry changed my life. I have been able to go to places and had opportunities that I never would have had without it.
If you want to have an idea of what these teens come up against, check out this video by Brave New World that has each time doing a chant….pretty awesome!!
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