By Edward Henderson
On Monday, August 21st, the San Diego Poetry Slam Team hosted a free show for its supporters to celebrate their National Poetry Slam victory in Denver earlier this month. Queen Bee’s Art and Culture Center played host for the event as team veterans, staples in the poetry community and the number one team in the nation shared their thoughts on the win and performed for the excited crowd.
“To say it feels good is an understatement,” said coach and founder of San Diego Poetry Slam Rudy Francisco. “It was always part of the plan from the beginning. We wanted to be one of the elite teams in the country, and its dope that we have the opportunity to be on final stage once again and bring home the championship.”
San Diego has slowly built a strong poetry scene over the years. Multiple open mics have helped foster talent and strong performances on the national stage have inspired poets to move to the city in order to be part of the emerging powerhouse.
“We’ve seen a tremendous growth in the community for 20 years,” said team member Viet Mai. “When collective purpose got together and did Elevated, there was already a good community. What we did was made it a lot more attractive and accessible for college age students who were interested in Art and Activism. A lot of people who are involved in San Diego poetry walk that life as well.”
After performances from team veterans, the San Diego Poetry Slam Team recapped the poems used on final stage which featured teams from Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Boston. After falling behind in the first round of poems, San Diego clinched the comeback victory in their final poem by Javon Johnson.
“I don’t ever believe I’m not going to get the score that the team needs,” said Johnson. “I’m so confident in what I do. Before I have to go up there, everything in me believes I can do it. When I was up there, I’m my mind I’m thinking I have the entire team on my shoulders. I have last year’s team on my shoulders too. I kept thinking that I can’t let them down so I have to give it all.”
“It’s so cool to join a legacy of these really good poets and get the mentorship I needed, especially from Javon and Rudy,” said team member Chrissy Croft. “To jump on my first year and be part of that, it’s so cool to start off running. I believe in myself a lot more because I’m able to see what my best work can actually be.”
Last year’s team finished second in the nation. Natasha Hooper was a member of that team as well and is relishing the vindication that came from being part of this year’s championship team.
“It feels great to come back and finish what we started last year with a solid team,” said Hooper. “It was good working with Rudy and Javon being veterans in the game. It was like we had two coaches. My favorite part about the season is the growth that happens preparing for slam. It culminated in this dope trophy we have.”
While spirits were high in the building surrounding the win, Francisco already is looking forward to next year’s team.
“My goal wasn’t to win just one championship. I’m more interested in the longevity of it all. How do I help build a scene that’s going to be a contender every year? I want people to understand it just wasn’t one year. I feel like this is a beginning of a dynasty.”