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Kuumba Lynx Wins Team Championship At Louder Than A Bomb

By Josh McGhee | March 20, 2017 2:52pm | Updated on March 20, 2017 6:31pm
 The 2017 Kuumba Lynx team took home the team championship in this year's Louder Than A Bomb festival.
The 2017 Kuumba Lynx team took home the team championship in this year's Louder Than A Bomb festival.
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Mike Bump/ Kuumba Lynx

UPTOWN — Kuumba Lynx took home its sixth championship at the Louder Than A Bomb team finals this weekend.

The group's championship win will be its last under coaches Jaquanda Villegas and Jacinda Bullie, who founded the team and have led it through all 17 of its previous competitions, Bullie said.

Saturday's win "was a great way to end the poetry slam coaching run we had," said Bullie. The next coaches for the team have not been appointed yet. "We think, at this point, we have a variety of alumni [who can take over, but] it's a lot of work, a lot of hours."

The Louder Than A Bomb competition is considered the largest youth poetry festival in the world. It is composed of five weeks of events where 120 teams from high schools, middle schools and community organizations compete in "slam-style poetry bouts" and are whittled down, bracket-style, to a single winning group.

The Kuumba Lynx team, which practices at the Clarendon Park Community Center at 4501 N. Clarendon Ave., consisted of seven teens representing various high schools across the city including Victor Munsoni, of Senn High School, and Darrius Williams-Lee, of Von Steuben High School.

The team drew the first slot in the competition Saturday night at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University and kicked off with a poem by 6-year veteran Sejahari Saulter-Villegas, of Kenwood Academy.

Saulter-Villegas, who has competed in Louder Than A Bomb since he was in seventh grade, "set the tone for the evening" with his poem titled "Dark Matter," Bullie said.

The poem "really exemplifies what the work is about — amplifying young voices. ... It's a reiteration of the fight [currently] going on," she said. The piece ends with the repetition of the phrase "dark matters — a call to the black lives matter movement and how critical it is right now," Bullie said.

Saulter-Villegas also took home the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Lit Award, which was presented by Brooks' daughter, Nora Brooks Blakley, who also served as one of the finals judges, said Jose Olivarez, the marketing manager for Young Chicago Authors, which hosts the competition.

"In honor of our 2017 theme, Our Gwendolyn Brooks, this award is presented to the poem that most embodies the spirit of Ms. Brooks. Ms. Brooks' poetry created portraits of people from Chicago's South Side, her home," Olivarez said via email.

"Her writing documented the daily lives of Black people in the context of social, cultural and political events. We see the Louder Than A Bomb community as the adherents and inheritors of Ms. Brooks' rich poetic tradition," he said.

Kuumba Lynx' Sammy Aly Ortega, of Phoenix Military Academy, and Jessica Daniels, of Payton College Prep, also competed in the individual poets competition. Onyeka Anosike and Assata Lewis also competed for the team.

As they advanced in the competition, Kuumba Lynx also earned a ticket to the semifinals of the Chicago Voices - Community Created Performances competition, which chooses three community groups by popular vote "to develop their story into an original music theater work with the support of Lyric [Opera of Chicago] staff and artists," according to its website.

To vote for a team to compete in Chicago Voices, click here.