For the past 2 months I've been a main coordinator/organizer in charge of putting together the 8th Annual Youth Speaks Hawaii Interscholastic Team Teen Poetry Slam. After some major highs and minor lows, the Pacific Tongues community reminded me how much support we have within our poetry family. I couldn't have done so much of the work without the assistance from every person in our ohana. From the set-up and breakdown crew, from the folks running our door, to running the merch table, to our DJ & hosts, to our judges, to our amazing coaches. Man, I could really go on for days expressing how grateful I am for every hand that helped to create such a magical event.
What I really wanted to do in this post was reflect....
So here it goes.
Back in 2006, my Sophmore English teach Mrs. Ahana offered me extra credit if I wrote a poem and shared it after school. I immediately said yes. Little did I know that the sharing part of it was for a mini competition that would determine the first ever Kalani High School slam poetry team. Little 15 year old Jocelyn read her political rant rhymes in front of a packed room of students and 3 unknown judges. Turns out, 15 year old Jocelyn placed 2nd and made it onto the slam team. And 15 year old Jocelyn had no fucking idea what slam poetry was. I had watched Def Jam Poetry on HBO with my mom and sisters but never knew "slam". It was until Melvin Won Pat Borja, my first slam coach took me under his wing and taught me all the foundations of slam. Little did I know then that Melvin would impact my life in more ways that just introducing me to the world of Spoken Word, but he would be a older brother figure in my life that I would constantly be learning from on how to be a facilitator, organizer, and all around better person.
Anyways, back to 15 year old Jocelyn.
The very 1st Youth Speaks Hawaii Interscholastic Team Teen Poetry Slam was held at the Kalani High School cafeteria. It was nothing like I experienced before. The rush of being on stage. The ability to speaks words that I wrote to a packed audience that were actively listening to my words. The opportunity to hear voices and stories from other youth around the island. The excitement from the poetic competition. I was hooked. I was in love. I had found something that I wanted to take over me. Kalani High School (my crew) ended up winning the slam. I would go onto winning the next 3 Intershcolastics that followed. I remember thinking how unstoppable I felt. (what a little shit I was haha) The confidence I gained from slam poetry was like none other. I had a voice. I had presence. I held my head higher. The rest of my youth poetry journey can be saved for another post...
Fast forward to Nov 22, 2014. 8 years later. I am one of the head coordinators for the event. Coaching Iolani Slam and helping out with Farrington. It's crazy. To help the organization that helped to raise me. To be in Melvin's shoes. To reflect upon my growth as a poet, facilitator, organizer. It makes me stop to take a breathe, smile and simply feel so blessed.
This year was the first year I felt like an adult facilitator. Like a legit adult facilitator. Like my mentors. I had youth coached slam team before but this year was different. Maybe it's the age, the experiences I've gone through, the growth of my spirit? Whatever it is, I have made more real connections with the youth than before. My mentor Lyz says it's because I'm finally taking myself more seriously as an organizer and I'm finally looking at myself as a confident adult facilitator. I guess she's right. Lyz is always right. I could write on forever about Lyz Soto but I'll save that for another time.
Anyways, back to the youth. I had never been so invested in the personal lives and stories of the youth poets. Is this what Melvin felt like mentoring me back in 2006? I think so. I'm getting it now. The giving of ones self so others can open themselves up. The first safe spaces we create are with our interactions, our energies, how we cultivate these small villages within our communities. I've been lucky to be at Iolani and Farrington this year. Both schools have youth poets that have brought me to tears, made me smile bigger than the sun and have made me soo proud to see them set the stage on fire. I'm seeing the passion in their eyes, the same passion I had my first year doing slam poetry. I'm witnessing them fall in love with the word. I've never felt so honored to be a tiny part in their poetic journeys. I don't think I could tell them how much I love them enough. How much I've grown to look at them as my younger siblings. I've never had younger brothers or sisters. But now I can honestly say that I do. And for that, I am thankful.