Monday, April 06, 2015

WORD UP! Competition Gives Students across Jefferson County Opportunity to Say What's on Their Minds and in Their Hearts

WORD UP! 2014 winners: (left to right) 3rd Place Winner, Jeralyn Langford, 
Clay-Chalkville High school; 2nd Place Winner, Kayln Miaya Webster,
Alabama School of Fine Arts; 1st Place Winner, Eboni Wallace, Tarrant
High School

WORD UP!, the poetry slam for high school students who are enrolled in schools—or home schooled—in Jefferson County, celebrates its eighth anniversary this year. The event will be held on Saturday, April 11, at 3:00 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium at Central Library. This slam is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) and Real Life Poets (RLP), a non-profit creative writing organization based in Birmingham. Students in grades 9 through 12 write and perform an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee. The theme for WORD UP! 2015 is “Survive.” Each participating high school holds a preliminary contest, and the winners from each school compete in the WORD UP! competition.

The contestants are judged on content and performance by a panel of three judges and compete for cash prizes. Jim Reed will serve as the emcee of WORD UP! This year’s competition will be judged by Will Gillette (first placed winner of WORD UP! 2010); Tomika Glenn (performance poet who has been the top winner at the BPL’s Bards and Brews slams); and Sharrif Simmons (local performance artist, songwriter and activist who has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and has toured extensively in Europe). The first place winner receives $300, second place $200, and third place $150.

For those students determined to go even further, BPL and RLP will help sponsor a spoken-word team to compete in this year’s Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Competition (BNV) in Atlanta, Georgia. BNV is the worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. BNV 2013 was held in Chicago, and for the first time in the history of the festival, a small but dedicated group of Birmingham-area teens who called themselves Team #KnowDisclaimer competed and did well enough to go on to the semi-finals—a feat almost unheard of by first time teams. The teens’ perseverance and talents and the help and encouragement of BPL and RLP made this successful bid possible. School systems throughout Jefferson County have been represented in past WORD UP! slams. Students from Birmingham City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, and independent schools such as Hewitt-Trussville, Tarrant, and Alabama School of Fine Arts have participated.

Young people have important things to say, but they often feel they aren’t being taken seriously. Forums such as WORD UP! and Brave New Voices give them the chance to tell the world what’s on their minds and in their hearts. Word UP! 2015 is made possible in part by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For additional information regarding this competition, visit the WORD UP! webpage: For additional information about the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library, visit our website at and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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