Teams of performance poets from around the country converged on Charlotte, North Carolina, last month for the 23rd annual National Poetry Slam, and local team Slam New Orleans took away the top prize. Seventy-two teams competed in head-to-head bouts during the five-day event that drew more than 1,000 poets and spectators. Kataalyst Alcindor, who leads Team SNO, said a staunch degree of preparation coupled with a dose of unseriousness made his group stand out. For a team that begins its group writing process by hanging out and cracking jokes until something inspirational pops out, they were confident and determined throughout the competition, “prepared to do battle with people we’d never seen before,” Alcindor said.
Alcindor, Tarriona Ball, Sha’Condria Sibley, and Akeem Martin first formed Slam New Orleans after a night of performances at Sweet Lorraine’s in 2008. Since then, the group has performed in multiple slams for new seasons, and recently added Justin Lamb to the roster. In Charlotte, they performed solo and group pieces that ranged their catalog—some old, some new—on topics as diverse as self-determination, the insecurities of the black man, race, love, the military, and pirates. Alcindor, who grew up in Marrero, said the tight-knit spoken word community in New Orleans provides a vital support system for himself, his team, and other poets, and when Slam New Orleans went to Charlotte, they were excited for the opportunity to represent the city they love.
Slam New Orleans performs at the Shadowbox Theater (2400 Saint Claude Ave., at St. Roch) the first Sunday of each month, and information about theirs and other spoken word performances can be found on the Team SNO Facebook page.