When Words Send Shockwaves: Louder Than a Bomb

Walnut Hills H.S. junior Kaylaa Betts performs in the Louder Than a Bomb Cincy finals on April 16, winning second place in the poetry slam competition.
“Do you remember? I remember!” Walnut Hills H.S. junior Kaylaa Betts performs in the Louder Than a Bomb Cincy finals on April 16, taking second place in the poetry slam competition.

By Jordan Polk, Democracy & Me Intern

Last Friday, April 16, talented high school students from across Greater Cincinnati met at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to throw down their best, in the annual Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam competition. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, LTAB Cincy had to limit the number of in-person guests; however, Elementz live-streamed the event and also saved a recording to their Facebook page, @ElementzHipHop.

I highly recommend watching that video, because it features some absolutely astounding poetry from brilliant young minds. (If you want to skip the preliminaries and get straight to the performances, you can scroll ahead to the 42-minute mark.) These high school students are extremely advanced thinkers and artists, tackling complicated and complex topics: racism, sexism, mental health challenges, and so much more. By digging deep, sharing their truths, and fearlessly delivering their pieces, these poets send shockwaves of energy — the good kind — through the hearts of every listener, and out into our community.

In fact, personally, I was so moved and creatively stimulated by the event, I immediately sat down and wrote a poem of my own, centered around the dominant theme from LTAB Cincy 2021: racial inequity. You’ll find it below.

All these young writers killed it, but top honors last week went to:

Third place ($150) –  Nola Stowe, grade 9, Walnut Hills H.S.

Second place ($250) – Kaylaa Betts, grade 11 Walnut Hills H.S.

First place winner ($400) – Claire Hammond, grade 11, Clark Montessori H.S.

Top scorers in the LTAB Cincy 2021 finals were, from left, Nola Stowe (first place), Kaylaa Betts (second place), and Claire Hammond (first place). Photo courtesy of Elementz

Kimberly “DuWaup” Bolden coordinated the production for Elementz, with Laurent Che as emcee, Alex “Stallitix” Stallings as DJ, and a featured performance by Noah Hawes. Judging the competition were Florence “Floetic Flo” Malone, Fanon Rucker, Tiffany Cooper, Sol, and Celine Quinn. The Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati and Elementz are program partners, with sponsors Christ Church Cathedral and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Louder Than a Bomb Cincy encourages everyone to share their story and to use their voice. The program is an amazing artistic platform for Cincinnati’s youth. To learn how you can get involved, visit their website.

Black Bodies and Blood

by Jordan Polk

There is gore in the streets, black bodies and blood.

Our racist history repeats, with a bang or a thud.

We are what America eats, POC chewed up like cud.

Whites sleep in soft sheets, while we lay buried in mud.

Now I need y’all to bear with me,

because I write these words with sincerity:

our nation needs glasses, needs some clarity.

If we open our eyes to the racial disparity,

we will see that all people aren’t equal.

Some suffer under the big bald eagle,

getting pulled over in cars, doing nothing illegal,

then they step on our necks, while we lay spread-eagle.

We have to put an end to this calamity.

So, talk to a friend and your family;

tell them our colors can blend, we can have amity.

Come on, let’s do it for the sake of humanity.