UPTOWN — The teen poets trained by the Kuumba Lynx program in Uptown are champions of yet another poetry slam competition — but this lyrical victory comes with the opportunity to open for legendary hip-hop duo Black Star.
Black Star is a socially conscious tandem composed of Mos Def (also known as Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli that is slated to headline the Inner-City Muslim Action Network's five-day "Takin' It to the Streets" festival in June. Black Star will also be joined on stage by Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a DJ who made his name as part of one of hip-hop's most celebrated and influential groups, A Tribe Called Quest.
The Kuumba Lynx Performance Ensemble, recent champions of the city's Louder Than a Bomb competition, beat out seven other contestants in a spoken-word battle Saturday for the chance to open for the headliners.
Team member Sahara Burton, an 18-year-old Logan Square resident, said "it feels awesome," to have won. The senior at Uplift Community High School who was recently accepted to Columbia College acknowledged that Black Star rose to fame well before her dive into hip-hop culture and "is respected by a lot of old hip-hop heads."
"Arizona Politricks," was the title of Saturday's winning poem.
[To hear the poem, click here.]
The piece was inspired by the controversy surrounding ethnic studies in Tucson, Ariz., where classes and books focused on race-related topics were banned. Critics decried the ban as racist, but a federal judge upheld most provisions of the ban in March.
"We did a lot of dialoguing and writing about the issue of ethnic studies, the need for it, and thinking about how that related to the Chicago Public Schools system," said Jacinda Bullie, Kuumba Lynx co-founder and mother of one of the team members.
"They found similarities in how young people are being miseducated. Their stories and histories not being included as part of the curriculum," Bullie said.
She said the poem was dedicated to "young people everywhere," who feel that their cultures are too-often left out of the conversation in academia.
Burton said the performance will mesh perfectly with the themes of peace, awareness and justice touted by Black Star.
"We always do [poetry] about justice, and with Arizona, they are trying to take away their culture, basically. That's an injustice in itself. So I think [Arizona Politricks] fits in perfect," Burton said.