Rochester Institute of Technology’s Poetry Slam team is ready to rhyme, as they compete on the national stage for the very first time.
Five students from throughout the university will represent RIT at the 13th annual College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational held April 3–6 at Barnard College in New York City. The national competition, hosted by the Association of College Unions International, offers an opportunity for colleges with new or existing poetry slam programs to compete for top honors and share their artistry and voices.
Slam poetry, a form of performance poetry in which poets perform their own poems and are judged on a scale from 1 to 10 by three randomly selected members of the audience, looks to embrace the value of inclusivity and support a program in which everyone’s voice is welcome. Each student performs individually but competes as a team, working toward a maximum collective score of 120.
RIT hosted a qualifying poetry slam competition in January to select the top four competing poets and one alternate for the collegiate poetry slam competitions.
“Twenty-seven students competed at the first qualifying slam, performing poems that ranged from their experience as a deaf student to generational issues within society,” says Lisa Barber, an adviser for the team and senior staff assistant in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. “The slam was a tremendous success with roughly 100 students in attendance, thanks to the planning and contributions of Carol Reed and Sarah Griffith from Campus Life.”
The RIT team is made up of Christopher Ketan, a fourth-year software engineering student from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Lakeishia Brow, a third-year electrical engineering student from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Olivia Matthew, a fourth-year chemical engineering student from Bronx, N.Y.; Kwando Opong-Mensah “Memo,” a fifth-year electrical engineering student from Hercules, Calif.; and Michelle Sason, a first-year photography student from Oneonta, N.Y. In their first slam as a team, they placed second in the regional competition hosted at RIT.
“Spoken word has given me the opportunity to be honest with the world and be a voice for lives and issues that people don’t normally see and notice,” says Ketan, who is also a member of Mental Graffiti, an on-campus poetry club. “We can’t wait to prove to the world that RIT is not just a tech school.”