Fifteen Oak Park middle schoolers shared their intimate and humorous perspectives on a range of subjects– school, friends, relationships, rejection, adult authority, political upheaval and gun violence–in a moving night of poetry performances for the culmination of OPEF’s Spoken Word program.  Families, teachers, and supporters packed the performance space for the 2nd Annual “Respect the Mic” Poetry Slam last week at the School of Rock.

The judges’ high marks reflected the quality and delivery of the performances.

1st Place: Maya Souden “Undo” – Julian (6th grade)

2nd Place: Anna Chulos “Golden Age” – Brooks (8th grade)

3rd Place: Mekylah Holloway and Taylor Morris “Grow Up” – Julian (8th grade)

“Middle schoolers are perfect candidates for this form of expression as it offers them opportunity to explore their observations and personal struggles at home and school, with friends and family,” said Spoken Word program coordinator Cindy Milojevic. “The shared intimacy of this medium enriches the personal journey of our students.”

Students encouraged each other from both schools to get their voices heard and impressed their teacher coaches, John Colucci and Jill Dombek, along with Jamael Clark and Nate Olison, the visiting artists who worked with them during weekly Spoken Word club meetings held at Brooks and Julian Middle Schools.

The following students from Julian also performed: Della Bonigut, Joseph Cote, Emmanuel Crawford, Antoine Ford, Lilah Grove, Elanor Huber, Brandon Stiffic, and Matthew Zochowski. Appearing from Brooks were Charlie Adler, Charles Dear, and Emma Kneipp.

One poem touched on issues of racism and low expectations: “ Stay in your square dimensions, we rule this part of town I must not mention, but no surprise to you, we are where the needs are.”

Cindy offered a big shout out to her artists, who emceed the event and kept the students encouraged and enthused about their performances.

“The energy ​and heat ​that you brought last night, your leadership and your passion of the art form blended with your mastery ​and finale performances ​could not have been a better way to end the evening,” she said.

A big thanks also goes to our guest judges Linda Francis, Bill Gee, Lary Grimaldi, Stephen Jackson and Carrie Kamm, who faced repeated yelps of “listen to the poem” while they made their difficult scoring decisions.

Launched in the fall of 2015, Spoken Word is one of six in-school residency programs offered free of charge to thousands of District 97 students by OPEF.


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