all around the world

i’ve been traveling a lot without updating my website. my apologies.

in the summer of 2015 i took the DC Youth Slam Team to New York City, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, Atlanta, Johannesburg, Tshwane, and Cape Town, South Africa. right now i am in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (with no young poets) for a much needed 2-week vacation. i have many photos, videos, and stories to share from each location. hopefully i will find the time to put some of them up here.

in the meantime, check out some of our photos on the DCYST fb page.

i need to do more writing and performing. that is a goal for the upcoming months/year.

South African Poets Join Hundreds of DC Area Teens for High School Poetry Slam Festival

South African Poets Join Hundreds of DC Area Teens for High School Poetry Slam Festival

Washington, DC – The nation’s capital is home to both the youth and adult reigning national poetry slam champion teams from 2014. The Beltway Poetry Slam Team won the National Poetry Slam and the DC Youth Slam Team won the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. With the two highest ranking poetry slam teams in the nation working in local after-school programs through nonprofits Split This Rock and poetryN.O.W., the national capital area is about to explode with poetry in the 4th annual Louder Than a Bomb DMV Teen Poetry Slam Festival (LTAB) April 18 – May 2, 2015.

A special delegation of South African poets that the DC Youth Slam Team met in 2013 in the City of Tshwane are making their first trip to the United States to teach classes, facilitate workshops, host slams, and perform at LTAB. Their visit to DC is through a Sister Cities International Arts Grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities.  LTAB kicks off with “Crossing The Street” on Saturday, April 18, 2015 at the historic Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, 101 N St, NW at noon. The Festival brings together over 25 high school poetry slam teams for two weeks of poetry workshops, open mics, MC competitions, film screenings, discussions, and a slam tournament, culminating with the Grand Slam Finals Saturday, May 2, 2015 at the University of the District of Columbia Theatre of the Arts, 4200 Connecticut Ave, NW featuring award-winning poet Danez Smith.

Over 200 student poets participated in the regional festival and competition last year, with Cesar Chavez Public Charter School winning the 2014 championship. Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Washington, DC won the competition in both 2012 and 2013. Each school club brings a team of 4-6 students to perform their own original individual and group poems in multiple rounds of poetry slam. Registration for local high school teams is open now until April 1, 2015. Teams may register online at this link:

The goal of LTAB-DMV is not solely to promote a culture of literacy, critical thought, self-confidence, and powerful public speaking, but also to purposefully bring students together across dividing lines like region, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and politics, to listen to, learn from, and bond with one another. There is vast inequality in the DC area. These students are speaking up about that, sharing their experiences, and speaking out on many other important issues. They deserve to be heard.

According to one student participant “[LTAB] is an amazing way to bring people from all different backgrounds together to learn and grow as people and as poets. I met and spoke to people I would not have otherwise, and it felt great to be in a space where people understand you when you open up on stage.”

Most Festival events are free. The Preliminary Slams, Semi-Finals, Youth Open Mic, and Finals are ticketed events. Please see the schedule of festival events below.


Festival Events

Crossing The Street  –  Sat. April 18, 2015 11am – 3pm Dunbar High 101 N St, NW

Youth Open Mic – Sat. April 18, 2015 5 – 7pm Busboys and Poets 5th & K, 1025 5th St, NW

Preliminary Slams

●  Mon. April 20th 6:30 – 9pm @ Busboys and Poets 14th & V, 2021 14th St, NW

●  Tues. April 21st 6:30 – 9pm @ Busboys and Poets Shirlington 4251 S. Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA

●  Weds. April 22nd 6:30 – 9pm @ Busboys and Poets Hyattsville, 5331 Baltimore Ave, Hyattsvile, MD

●  Thurs. April 23rd 6:30 – 9pm @ Busboys and Poets Brookland 625 Monroe St, NE

Floetic Friday Open Mic – Fri. April 24th 5:30 – 8pm @ Metro Teen AIDS 651 Pennsylvania Ave, SE

Poetry Prom – Fri. April 24th 8pm – 12am @ Josephine Butler Center 2437 15th St, NW

Anacostia Community Museum Slam – Sat. April 25th 5 – 7pm @ Smithsonian ACM 1901 Fort Pl SE

Brookland Spring Concert – Sun. April 26th 2 – 6pm @ Brookland Arts Walk, 7th & Monroe, NE

Film Screening & Workshop – Tues. April 28th 4 – 7pm @ Split This Rock 1112 16th St, NW

Semi-Finals  Weds. April 29th 5 – 9pm @ True Reformer Bldg 1200 U St, NW

Louder Than A Library – Thurs. April 30th 6 – 8:30pm @ Anacostia Library 1800 Good Hope Rd, SE

Finals  Sat. May 2nd 7 – 9:30pm @ UDC Theatre of Arts 4200 Connecticut Ave, NW Bldg 46

Visit for more information.

Louder Than A Library

In partnership with DC Public Libraries, we are hosting a series of Louder Than A Library teen poetry workshops leading up to the Festival and the culminating Louder Than A Library Showcase Performance and Open Mic on April 30th. All are free and open to the poetry-loving public.


Ø  Tues. April 7th 5 – 7pm @ Bellvue Library 115 Atlantic St, SW

Ø  Tues. April 14th 5 – 7pm @ Anacostia Library 1800 Good Hope Rd, SE

The Louder Than a Bomb DMV Teen Poetry Slam Festival is a joint venture between poetryN.O.W. and Split This Rock, with generous support from Busboys and Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities. Part of the global Louder Than a Bomb network, LTAB-DMV is one of many regional LTAB’s across the world working with Young Chicago Authors to bring their successful after-school team poetry slam program to teenagers everywhere.

Email for more information.

Split This Rock, 1112 16th St, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036 – 202.787.5210



Bobbi Johnson performing at LTABDMV 2014

Bobbi Johnson performing at LTABDMV 2014

I Should’ve Cussed on the News

at the protests the news reporters keep coming up to me, asking my thoughts and why i’m there. i keep telling them there are better people to talk to and that i can put them in touch with some of the young black people leading this march. i might refuse to do the interviews from now on, but i’m a sucker for the camera. here i am on news channel 8 last night as we shut down DC to raise our voices for justice for Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

here’s the link to the video.

i stopped myself from saying something about a fucked up world we live in because i knew it was live. i shouldn’t have been so respectful. should’ve let my passions continue, but i was trying to sound intelligent and make some cogent points. i should’ve cussed. should’ve chanted. should’ve directly addressed the viewers. meh. ima just follow the chants, link up, and march in the streets again tonight, and probably tomorrow too.

words that saved me today

so in a random online conversation with a former student now in college, amid regular talk of school and adjusting to college life, this student hits me with something I didn’t expect. she was a relatively shy student and she probably never won nor entered a poetry slam. nevertheless she stayed involved and kept writing and coming to workshops. randomly, after I thought the conversation was over, she hit me with the following words that totally saved me. this work can be tiring. it can be draining. we can lose faith and doubt our effectiveness. I doubt a lot. I doubt everything. I often think everyone over-hypes my work and gives me undue praise. I always think there is more to do or that I’m not making enough of a difference. recently I’ve felt very drained and doubtful. her words will keep me going for years.


to paraphrase, she said:


 if I didn’t ever tell you, i want you to know that you really have helped me with my poetry and confidence. I thank you so much:) I’m very glad to hear that you are still doing what you love because it keeps me going knowing that I can do the same after college. Keep doing you JBT


don’t worry y’all. I will keep doing me. as long as i possibly can.


NEA podcast

Josephine Reed at the National Endowment for the Arts interviewed me about my work with young people on the DC Youth Slam Team and with the national poetry and social justice nonprofit Split This Rock. It’s a 28 minute pod cast you can hear online at 

It starts with a student’s poem, and the volume is low, so turn it up to 11! 

NEA podcast

Thanks for listening. 

Leave me a comment to let me know I didn’t sound like a bumbling fool, because that’s what I always feel like after interviews. 

a quick 16

i’m not an ordinary man
i’m extra
even when i’m going IN
i keep an exit plan

eyes on all sides
they say they like my vision
learn lessons from the skies
on how to keep on giving

never gettin got
you can’t steal the rain
i’m not tom petty
but i’m free falling mayne

heartbreaker gimme glue
duct tape and a minute
life ain’t a competition
but they say i’m gonna win it

i say i’m dedicated
like the page after the title
ten thousand RPM’s
my heart’s never on idle

i’m gear-shifting, spirit-lifting
writing ish you wish you could
getting paid to talk to kids from
london to englewood

rockin stages with my sheroes
they say they like my style
words are so deep
you ain’t heard ’em in a while

some call me eight mile
but i ain’t eminem
more yehuda amichai and einstein
mixed with howard zinn


(from L to R) my mans Pages, CJ, and me at Brave New Voices in Philly this past weekend.

David vs. Goliath Poetry Slam Sunday July 6th

As a fundraiser for both the adult and youth slam teams representing DC, we are having the Beltway Poetry Slam Team compete against the DC Youth Slam Team. It all goes down this Sunday, July 6th at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW, Washington, DC. Come witness the amazing talent of DC’s national slam teams. You can purchase tickets here.

David Vs Goliath 2014