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Teens, seniors use spoken word to bridge generations


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Photo by Wanda Jackson. With her poem titled “Legacy of Henrietta Lacks,” Shirley Dumas from the Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center commanded the stage Sunday at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. With her poem titled “Legacy of Henrietta Lacks,” Shirley Dumas from the Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center commanded the stage Sunday at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville.

Published on: Thursday, May 02, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

National Poetry Month ended on a high note Sunday at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville.

Students from Suitland High School and seniors from the Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center displayed the power of the spoken word as they recited their original poems out loud during an Intergenerational Poetry Slam.

The poetry slam emanated from an exhibit, “Paper Dolls: Poetic Responses to the Artwork of Ulysses Marshall,” by the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.

The exhibit continues through April 13 at Gallery 110 in the Gateway Arts Center and features Marshall’s collage and mixed media works, which he refers to as “paper dolls” that explore different aspects of southern black life.

“What we really wanted was to hear the inspiration from one generation regarding this topic and all that it brings up, and then to hear the younger generation’s inspiration regarding this topic,” said Jacqueline Brown, executive director of PGAAMCC.

“Bringing us together as a family within culture is one of the major missions that we have,” Brown added.

While the poetry slam wasn’t designed for verbal interaction with the audience, frequent applause and finger-snaps of approval sent a clear message that the packed house enjoyed what was being said.

The slam’s 11 participants included Malacaya Adams, Rachel Ampley, twin sisters Belinda Banini and Brenda Banini, Melva Bittingham, Shirley Dumas, Lori Gonzalez, Bryanna Rather, Malik Mills, Jordan-Kayla Mitchell and Joi Walker.

Each participant recited three works. Poems by the students tended to center around self-discovery and identity. Poems by senior participants focused on history, family memories and religion. However, everyone shared common themes about friendship, romance and faith.

The poetry slam was a collaboration between the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center and the American Poetry Museum. Participants took part in a two-month series of workshops to write poetry and learn techniques for the spoken word.

The poetry slam was emceed by “Pages,” a spoken word artist from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and native of Cameroon, Africa. His performances have been featured at The Kennedy Center, colleges and

universities including Columbia University and Black Entertainment Television. He is the 2010 DC Grand Slam Champion. When he is not onstage, he works as a creative writing teacher and leads workshops at universities and elementary and high schools.

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