The Leader of JYPS Aims to Win BNV
Written By: Desirae Lee
Photo credit: Desirae Lee and Daniel Schaffer
Jax Youth Poetry Slam (JYPS) based in Jacksonville, Florida will be taking a team of students to Washington D.C. for Brave New Voices (BNV), a five day poetry event and competition. BNV is an annual festival and international poetry slam competition founded nineteen years ago by Youth Speaks Organization. The week of July 12-16 will consist of celebrity poetry workshops, showcases, emcee battles, parties, and two days of slamming. Although there is an emphasis placed on the competition the true purpose and goal is cultural unity through art.
This festival draws poets and coaches from all over the globe, but some of the realest talent is right here in Florida. Three teams will be representing different cities in Florida this year. Team P.O.M.E (Product of my environment) began last summer and brought together a group of five youth poets who traveled to Atlanta, Georgia. Of them was nineteen-year-old Nyla Stanford.
Stanford is this year’s team captain. She is a student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a published author, and member of Black on Black Rhyme International, She became the leader of the JYPS team P.O.M.E by being the highest placing Jacksonville native in a citywide slam held this past April. It’s no wonder because Stanford has years of experience under her belt.
She began performing at age seventeen during her time at Lavilla School of the Arts, but has been writing her entire life. Stanford’s writing style draws from the “meticulous and beautiful” styles of her favorite poet guru Rudy Francisco. When asked to describe her personal definition of poetry she described it’s power to create beauty; “Poetry means being able to make even the ugliest of things beautiful,” said Stanford. When writing, she admits her goal is to create a “photograph for her audience to visualize” and she parallels the act of spoken word to “being a metaphysical organ donor.”
The key word here being: donor. Stanford agrees that when a poet has healed and has grown stronger from their story, only then can the heart be something you willingly lend. With this precaution in mind, she refuses to write “bleeding poems,” which is what she described witnessing at BNV 2015. Stanford has every intention to not only to be better prepared this year, but to win.
After talking with Stanford I realize how badly she wants this team to succeed. Her tactics include encouraging raw, undeniable truth from each team member rather than a perfectionist mentality. As a previous team captain of the 2015 JYPS slam team I can understand her need to individualize attention and efforts. I witnessed this first hand the immediate obstacles, challenges, and adjusting of commitments that take a great deal of initial energy.
Stanford says her biggest challenge is working with a team full of new talents. Several members are new to performance, new to a disciplined practice of poetry, and new to contributing feelings in a group setting. There is discomfort in her voice when she speaks about it, but there is also hope. In that discomfort I know that her confident hopefulness will lead to an exponential amount of growth for her and her teammates.