UPTOWN — The Kuumba Lynx urban arts program raised more than $2,000 over the weekend to send its talented teen poets to a writing institute in Michigan aimed at preparing them to represent Chicago in this year's Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.
"We were really surprised," said Kuumba Lynx co-founder Jacinda Bullie, who sent out an email Saturday seeking donations to cover food, travel and board so that the poets could attend a intensive week-long writing workshop in Ann Arbor, Mich., this week. "It's really nice to see that so many people support this opportunity Kuumba Lynx has to represent Chicago in this poetry slam."
In March, four teens in the Kuumba Lynx Hip-Hop arts education program performed a scathing social commentary on the relationship between social media, reality television and the numbing effects of violence in Chicago that won the annual citywide Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam competition. The performance also earned them a birth in this year's Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. Chicago is hosting the competition in August.
The four teens who won the Louder than a Bomb competition are 14-year-old Sejahari Villegas of Humboldt Park; Tanya Smith, 18, of Humboldt Park; Jeramiah Perry, 18, of Englewood; and Jahleigh Bullie, 16, of Uptown. They train several days a week at the Clarendon Park Field House, in Uptown, where Kuumba Lynx was founded about 16 years ago.
Young Chicago Authors, the host organization for Louder than a Bomb, typically sends winners to a week-long intensive writing program in Ann Arbor. But Kuumba Lynx co-founders Jacinda Bullie and Jaquanda Villeges said in an email that "we were recently informed that YCA will not be able to cover all of the originally promised costs of attending the camp [travel, food and board]."
"We want to follow through on the promise of support that was made to this year's winning team," the email said. "We need help! We are reaching out to you, the folks who believe in the power of Hip Hop to heal, transform and inspire a more just world!"
Kuumba Lynx originally asked for about $3,000, and fell short of that goal, but managed to raise enough money to make do — $2,300 — all raised in 48 hours, Villeges said.
The teens arrived in Michigan Sunday night. Smith, the captain of the team, said she had been "very worried," that the lack of funds would ruin the trip.
"It feels really good," she said, regarding the outpouring of support. "It really feels like we're supported in the community."
Bullie said in a text message late Sunday: "We're not sure what happened with the YCA funding ... but when they told us a few days before the camp started that they couldn't cover costs beyond the camp registration fee, we knew we had to try to come through on the promise we made to [Kuumba Lynx] youth."
She said Kuumba Lynx is "not bitter about anything," and is "humbled and grateful for all the love" they received from a roster of contributors that she said included local politicians, teachers, community members, parents and anonymous donors.
Representatives for Young Chicago Authors were not immediately reachable for comment.