the DC Youth Slam Team’s 2014 SEMI-FINALS SLAM

is on sunday, january 26th at 4pm at the smithsonian’s national portrait gallery in downtown, dc. it’s free and open to the public, so bring the whole crew to see dc’s finest young poets performing their original spoken word poetry.

semi-finals poster here


the fb event is here

and you should be there. the dc youth slam team is absolutely amazing.

here is a video of one of the teenage poets performing at a rally on the national mall in front of the capitol. his name is Malachi and i think he is one of the poets who will be performing at the semi-finals on the 26th.



From my trip in July 2013 with Split This Rock Teaching Artists and high school students on the DC Youth Slam Team to the City of Tshwane, South Africa for two weeks we’ll always remember… this video was my first try at editing the footage to show part of our journey. I hope you like it.

You can learn more about Split This Rock and the DC Youth Slam Team at

Electric Sunshine

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Smiling at your uneasiness
Inviting you to laugh at yourself
She won’t do it alone, so you go with her
Beautiful five foot something, dark curly hair, 
She can make prison walls show their dimples

Stretching ocean waves flat across the face, a rocky shore
She’ll silence its mighty roar

With eyelids like butterfly wings
 Two flutters and tidal waves wash away nations worlds away
Her stare lowers sea levels around the earth
Boiling beaches without uttering a single word
Phony suckers evaporate in her presence, and
Sunflowers bend backwards following her as she walks by my building
Five foot something, beautiful brown hair
Daughter of hippies
Descendant of hustling immigrants
Mother of creation, she
                A future
Outside the lines, confident strokes
She’s not worried about finding a man
As much as a reason
To keep the struggle in her back pocket
We all know what the guys are looking at
No need to spell it out on her bottom
The movement is in her genes,
Attractive activism swings from generation to generation
Marching through her blood like city streets
Up to the steps of her capital buildings
Where everyone can see
Where she gets it from,
Mother taught her how to raise children, not her own
For hours each day, she
A flexible temple, her body
Stretches almost as much as her mind
Both needing to shake it off, sometimes
The daily grind, can be difficult
But she is coffee
Already made, organic, smooth and strong
Do not fear her stubborn stains she only spills on those who don’t know how to hold themselves

Names? She goes by many
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes

Call her sunshine, her spirit touches you through intermediaries like the moon when she’s not around,
Many have tried, but no man can walk on her
Ground-ed like a lightening rod
She is not easily shocked
    Electric sunshine butterfly woman
Sister transforms awkward to awesome when she enters the room
She turns strangers to family with her loving cocoon 

Weaving a little more of what this world needs into the corners of every social fabric
Wearing love as an old tee shirt

Worry as a prom dress
Life in a necklace
Joy in her earrings
And justice as brass knuckles
She is not an easy woman, not your girly girl
Do not try to label her
She gets out of all your boxes
Running, she
Chases dreams back to where they came from and forces them to grow up
Developing old realities from young fantasies
She stays in the darkroom
Raising children, not her own
Out of the city chemicals 
With increasing contrast
Between their present situation and their past
    Always looking better

    She, is light

All colors together, as one
Running faster than anything or anyone
Across the room
To give you a hug.

new poem – The Living Truth

I read this poem at the Busboys and Poets 5th & K Wednesday night open mic hosted by my man G. Yamazawa. My friend and teacher-of-the-year Clint Smith was the featured artist that night, and none other than Danny Glover read as the spotlight feature. Yes, that’s Danny Glover in the background listening to my poem. He said he liked it. I hope you like it too. I think it still needs some edits, and I definitely need to learn how to perform it better. Let me know what you think.

now hiring pt coordinator

if you know anyone interested
there is now a position open
for a part-time life coordinator

my life is a mess
gray hairs from the stress
schedules and socials
and i must confess

it’s sometimes too much
often a fuss
i need organizing
put can’t pay too much

the ideal candidate will be quick with the word
witty and sharp
know a little web design
or be willing to start
oh, and you must be awesome, eager, and chill
and possess much love, respect, and skill

payment is commensurate with hugability
because there’s no bag of money
just hugs and high accountability

interested candidates
please send me your bio

your first task on the job is to sort through
the pile
and pick the best person
which is obviously you

then give me a call
when the process is through

Mother’s Day Poem

I grew up wearing nothing
But other peoples’ clothes
Strangers’ used clothing
Bought by my mom at local yard sales

At some point, probably around middle school
I was embarrassed about my pre-owned garb
Thinking clothes should be bought full price
at some fancy department store
I don’t know who taught me this but it sure   wasn’t    my     mama

My mom lives by her own code
She is not normal
She is weird and quirky and fun and we love it
She is the Queen of Weird
The odd thread holding our family’s diverse fabric together
And the old comforter keeping us warm

She is also the Queen of the Yard Sale
Fashioning a new life for our family
From used goods of others
Saving paper and threads
Toys and tables from their landfill fate
She was recycling before it was hip
Throwback before I could throw
Turning old to new with the smudge of her hand
And a wipe of her brush

Yard sales were an integral part of our home

For those who might not know, a yard sale is not the selling of a yard
Also commonly referred to as a garage sale, and again, no selling of the garage is involved
Rather, upon the yard or from the garage, a family will offer their used property for sale to all Who may come by to see. No business license necessary.
Almost like a flea market, which usually markets no fleas, these events can be found every Weekend throughout the U.S. and  around the world

My mom is stately
Tres Chic and powerful with her curly Jew-fro crown
The Queen of Yardsale
Makes friends with everyone
And secures unheard-of deals
From villages near and far

It’s a skill few possess
Taking the patience of a teacher
The eye of an owl
And a griot’s gift of gab

She has a flock of female friends following her lead
She is the Queen
She can go far in any direction
And early Saturday mornings her kingdom opens

Queen Yardsale has an MBA
We call it her Mom Buys Anything degree
Not haggling, hassling, or scheming, NO
These ladies are professional negotiators
With more bargaining skills than any businessman on Wall Street
Top-notch firms of female-headed households
Holding used goods up to the light

Like disobedient children
Nothing is ever thrown out
When it can be loved and valued still
With a little elbow grease and extra care

When it can be weird, eccentric AND cool
Like my mom
Taught me
That weird IS cool

So whenever I would call her weird (and yes I said it often and survived)
She would simply say “thank you,” with the most sincere pride.

It took me a long time
To understand this wisdom
This love
This extra care

For all things born
And all hands and moms prepared
To make them born again, anew

Like our relationship after a fight
And all the stranger’s clothes I’ve grown through
Like the smile on her face
When I say
Mom, I love you.


jbt n mom


So my challenge to you and myself is to write more poetry. Take it to the extreme and join the 30/30 challenge, or just carve out a small chunk of time to devote yourself to the word once or twice a week. In addition to being fun and creative, it can also be very therapeutic and healing. Try it!

Also, if you want to go out to see and hear some great poetry, here are some upcoming opportunities in DC.

Saturday, April 6th 11am-3pm FREE
FAMILY DAY @ The National Portrait Gallery
My students and I will be leading tours of the Poetic Likeness exhibit and conducting writing workshops prior to an open mic for young people.

Tuesday, April 9th 4pm-7pm FREE
POETRY CARNIVAL @ MLK Library Teen Space
We’re throwing another carnival full of wild rides and fun poetry games.

Wednesday, April 17th 9pm-11pm $5
WEDS NIGHT OPEN MIC @ Busboys and Poets 5th & K
Hosted by yours truly every 3rd Wednesday of the month!

Saturday, April 20th 5pm-7pm $5
YOUTH OPEN MIC SERIES @ Busboys and Poets 5th & K
Featuring 4 Swedish Slam Champions, and co-hosted by the talented teens of the DC Youth Slam Team.


Get your kids to submit to this Youth Poetry Contest!

Get your kids to submit to this Youth Poetry Contest!