Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
Crouched like a tiger on the prowl, ready to attack, 12 year-old Jahzan McLaughlin, delivering in true theatrical style, was the toast of the inaugural United States Embassy's Youth Poetry Slam Competition. Darting across the stage, with clarity, poise and expression, McLaughlin captivated the audience with her piece, aptly titled 'Change Climate Change', on Thursday.
From the preliminary section it was clear that McLaughlin was talented and exuded immense confidence beyond her years. At the end of the competition, she copped one of the top prizes for best performance from a total of 15 finalists in her age group of 10 - 14 years old.
"I wrote my own poem and it took me a day to complete it. I like the performing arts, because it moves a place in me. It makes me confident and provides a medium to say what I have on my mind," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin was among over 50 students who participated in the competition, which was held under the theme Understanding the World around You: The Environment and Climate Change. Competing in two categories, 10 - 14 years old and 15 - 19 years old, the students were judged based on their written piece and their overall performance.
In both categories, the students highlighted climate changes that have serious implications for people and the economic system. Victor Mulaa, with his piece A Companion Like None, was the other winner in the 10 - 14 year-old category.
For her piece titled Changing its Form, 19 year-old Des'ree Riley was the winner of the best poem category in her age group. Riley intertwined imagery and metaphor to highlight the issues of climate change, stating that climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems.
"I have an overall love for the arts, especially poetry. I had written the poem earlier this year and when I heard about the competition, I tweaked it to facilitate the theme and concept. When I started to write it, the first line I was ironing. I stopped and everything just started to flow," Riley said.
The trio of Justene Roomes, Savana Bromfield and Shannon Bailey won best performer in their age group for Di Enviranment. With scientists estimating that up to 20 per cent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation - greater than the combined emissions of every car, truck and plane on the planet - the group implored individuals to solve the climate crisis, instead of making the situation worse.
The judges for the Poetry Slam were Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris, Ann-Margaret Lim and Fabian Thomas, with Miguel 'Steppa' Williams as MC. The audience was also treated to an open-mic session, where young and upcoming poets shared their talent on different issues.
The winners of Best Performance and Best Written Piece from each age group received tablet computers, while all the entrants received certificates and free lifetime membership to the Embassy's library, named The Paul Robeson Information Resource Centre.