Louder Than A Bomb 2013 is in the final rounds. Hello poetry lovers, I am talking to you!
I want to take the time out to highlight a group of people who are doing great things in the Chicago-land area and abroad. They are known as the Louder Than A Bomb.
Louder Than A Bomb or LTAB is under the watchful eye of the Young Chicago Authors. They offer a safe environment for the youth of Chicago, keeping them off the streets while allowing them to unleash their writing talents. Louder Than A Bomb has been around for 12 years. It is an annual slam poetry festival that highlights young, up and coming poets, and opening the doors for broader horizons.
The LTAB 2013 festival heads into its Chicago finale’ this week with the individual finals this Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 E. Washington Street from 7-9 pm. The group finals will follow on Saturday at the Cadillac Palace, located at 151 W. Randolph Street from 6-9 pm.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the director of communications and publications Demetrius Amparan. (For the full-length interview, you can click here.
Are you an LTAB Alum, how long have you been involved in it?
Yes, yes I am. I joined Louder Than A Bomb and Young Chicago Authors when I was 16 years old. It was my sophomore year in high school. And I had always written, I had written all my life, but I joined LTAB at a time when Teen Def Poetry Chicago started reaching an alarming rate. I had actually lost one of my best friends to a hit-and-run accident by a drunk police officer. I started writing a lot more. Writing transferred and stopped becoming a hobby; it actually became my outlet and my release. A friend of mine she was on the poetry team and of course said, “why don’t you join?” And so I did and then with that we joined into Louder Than A Bomb. And I can tell you the first experience that I had there I came to an open mic in preparation for Louder Than A Bomb, I was really skeptical, I grew up on the south side of Chicago, I was like “I didn’t really trust people”, I didn’t have that many friends. I had a very small circle. So when I went there, I saw this young lady, she did a poem I’ll never forget, she did a poem about her mother and how she had this drug problem. She shared this message with so many people that she didn’t even know, that when she was done, everybody came around her, hugged her celebrated with her and consoled her. It was a great experience and from that moment on when I was thinking Louder Than A Bomb, I had the pleasure of winning a Louder Than A Bomb my senior year. And from there I was able to go on to Brave New Voices, which is the national competition, won that and then was featured on HBO’s Brave New Voices. I had the ultimate LTAB experience and it was amazing for me. It helped shape my life, my friends and everything.
What is Louder Than a Bomb and when did it get started?
It got started in 2001. It was started by Anna West and Kevin Coval. It started off with 12 teams. They was actually in a basement for the finals in 2001. It’s the largest youth poetry slam in the world now. We have over 900 students competing this year. Its two rounds of preliminary bouts where students put together a team of seven. , its five total and two alternates. They come up with four rounds of individual pieces and they come up with one group piece each round. Each team does this, they’re guaranteed two bouts and if they place first or second in both their bouts they go on to the semi-finals. So it’s basically set up like any basketball competition but it’s for poetry and on stage.
How many schools are currently participating in the event?
We blossomed this year to over 107 teams. We had, I think the exact number was 109 then we had a couple of dropouts so it was 107.
LTAB has been around for a while, when did it start expanding and where?
We had the pleasure to expand to 12 cities and states now. We’re in the Boston area. We are in Tulsa. We are actually in South Africa. Then we have a bout of regionals spread across the Midwest in Valparaiso, Indiana and Merrilville, Indiana and we are just starting to branch out to Wisconsin.
Back to LTAB 2013, the individual final are coming this Tuesday with the team finals on Saturday, what the audience should expect to see.
From a technical standpoint, they will see 12 poets going on stage. For the finals, they’ll see four teams going on stage and competing in five rounds, four individuals, and one group piece round. What the audience can expect is the new stories of Chicago. I think each student can verse the city like no other person, or nobody else can. These youth do that. Whether it is traveling from all the way from the south side of Chicago to the Young Chicago Authors from 1180 N. Milwaukee, they hold the stories of a new Chicago and a new city. They really provide the counter-narrative to all of the violence and the way the media is really portraying the youth as, especially in Chicago, just violent and no direction. I think these students provide those stories and they give you the pictures of where these things are coming from. A young lady, I remember she gave a piece about why she was so angry all of the time. The main thing of the piece about why she was angry all the time because of all the things that was going on inside her home, but nobody was listening to her. The teachers don’t take that into consideration, the people around her don’t take that into consideration. I think you can expect real stories, live and in person.
How can others such as me get involved with LTAB, Young Chicago Authors? Why should others get involved?
I would say come to the space and come to our open-mic Wordplay, which happens every Tuesday. It is the longest running youth open-mic in the world. From there our director of programs will be there and she’ll be able to help you get more involved whether that means helping out as a volunteer or actually helping with some of the programming and outreach ends of the schools. We run Saturday programming and a program called Division Street, which is a youth-generated program, we run those throughout the year. So if people want to get involved and that is youth and adults, they can help assist in that program.
For more information about Louder Than A Bomb and Young Chicago Authors, go to www.youngchicagoauthors.org
Like the Louder Than A Bomb Facebook page www.facebook.com/YoungChicagoAuthors
In addition, you can follow LTAB on Twitter @YoungChiAuthors #LTAB2013