‘Split This Rock’ teen poets open local reading; prep for Las Vegas festival

Teens preparing for a poetry competition in Las Vegas next month, showcased their heartfelt works at a poetry affair closer to home.

Four members of the Split this Rock DC Youth Slam Team opened up at “Sunday Kind of Love,” a monthly poetry series at Busboys and Poets’ flagship location at 14th and V streets in Northwest D.C.

A five-member team will travel to Las Vegas in July for the Brave New Voices Festival that runs from July 17-21.

“It’s gonna be super exciting,” said Alexa Patrick, the team’s lead coach. “So they’re going to compete, they’re going to engage with workshops, they’re going to perform, and it’s just going to be a really wonderful, vibrant experience.”

Split This Rock’s name comes from a line in a Langston Hughes poem titled “Big Buddy.”

Youth Program Director Chelsea Iorlano told WTOP that their workshops, activities in schools, and open mics and poetry slams are meant for young people to have a voice.

“Youth programming that we provide is really to, in essence, provide a stage, page, microphone — really the space for young people to be able to tell their stories, speak their truth and really testify to what it is that they see in their lives everyday, what’s happening within themselves, within their communities, their classrooms, their friend groups,” Iorlano said. “Recognizing that there are really not actually a lot of spaces that really open up and give youth the opportunity to speak for themselves, to tell their stories — and to do so uncensored — and to be supported in that.”

It’s also an opportunity for them to see firsthand the weight of their stories spoken aloud.

“There is something to being a poet and really watching people react to your words while you’re onstage, because you’re understanding the impact that your words have,” Patrick said.

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