Poetry slam lets servicemembers show artistic side
By Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 18, 2008
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The Goodfellow Event Center was home to a different type of entertainment not usually associated with the tough, gung-ho image of past military eras as nearly a dozen brave souls performed poetry in front of a small, but appreciative, audience during the Poetry Slam April 30.
"The Poetry Slam is not a competition," said Tech. Sgt. Shanton Russell from the Goodfellow African-American Heritage Committee, which helped sponsor the event. "The people here don't come to pass judgment, so there's no booing involved or allowed. This event is about people coming together and sharing their artistic talents with others."
R&B recording artist and poet Sean Rasul kicked off the free event with an original poem, "Ghetto Child," which provided a brief look at the challenges and experiences of children growing up in the struggling and troubled urban communities of America, commonly referred to as ghettos.
After Mr. Rasul set the standard for the evening, Tech. Sgt. Alicia Wilder raised the bar with an impressive dramatic monologue by Dr. Herbert Brewster, entitled "I'm determined to be somebody."
DJ Campbell (also known as Airman 1st Class Everett Campbell) provided music during breaks and guests continued to snap their fingers for all the other poets, who made the event an enjoyable experience for the ears.
But guests could not resist clapping enthusiastically for Tech. Sgt. Charmane Tatum, who bravely bared his soul and exposed his deepest emotions with every word he read from his original poem, "It ain't always roses."
"Oh my God, that was so beautiful," said Laura Garcia, who was one of several guests who sighed after hearing the sentimental composition dedicated to the poet's lovely girlfriend, who was present to return the favor and show her appreciation and love with an original poem of her own.
The evening concluded with another impressive performance by Sgt. Wilder, and some singing and dancing to a few "old-school" jams and some current radio hits.
"We had twice as many poets perform and we also had a larger audience than last time," Sgt. Russell said. "It's very gratifying to see this event grow."
Despite the Poetry Slam's recent successful growth, Sgt. Russell stated that the African-American Heritage Committee plans to change things up a bit.
"Because this event was originally called a Poetry Slam, the majority of our performers are poets," Sgt. Russell said. "However, we've noticed that this event has started to evolve into something more than a poetry reading. At our last two events, we've had people make requests to perform a song or a dance," he added. "That's why we've decided to officially change the event from a traditional poetry reading to an open-mike night, which we hope will provide people with the opportunity to showcase and share their artistic talents with others."
Mr. Russell also mentioned that the committee hopes to make the open-mike night a monthly event.
Individuals or artists interested in participating in the next event can contact event coordinators Staff Sgt. Jamaal Chesney at 654-1736 or Tech. Sgt. Shanton Russell at 654-4850 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or