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Macomb teens build empathy with award-winning slam poetry

Cynthia Canty
Michigan Radio
Members of the Arts Academy in the Woods slam poetry team include (l-r), Rebecca Kahn, James Scarborough, team captain Ciera Dozier, and Kyle Starks.

Poetry can be a powerful tool for expressing yourself.

That's certainly the case for James Scarborough and Ciera Dozier from Arts Academy in the Woods, a performing arts magnet school in Fraser, Michigan.

Earlier this month, Scarborough and Dozier were part of the team that took first place at Louder Than a Bomb, a statewide slam poetry festival. 

Over the two-day event, hundreds of high school-aged creatives engaged in poetry slam competitions, intensive workshops, open mic performances, and more.

According to the Poetry Foundation, the roots of slam poetry can be traced back to Chicago in the 1980s. The genre and is unique for its combination of poetry, performance, and storytelling.

The group performed “Welcome to the Projects,” a poem that explores the beauty and struggle of the black experience. Partly inspired by his mother's life journey, Scarborough says the poem is an effort to build empathy between the audience and himself.

Listen above to hear the poets, along with their creative writing teacher and poetry coach, Craig Campbell, reflect on the power of diversity, peer collaboration, and the celebration of youth voices.

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