FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- "Stand! Speak! Listen!" attracted six teen poet "slammers" who shared feelings of anger, pain, love, kindness and compassion with an audience of approximately 80 people who hissed, jeered or gave rousing applause Feb. 6 at the Sam Houston Club.

A poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. A dual emphasis on writing and performance encourages poet "slammers" to focus on what they are saying and how they are saying it.

The Family Advocacy Program's Poetry Slam was the culmination of three workshops for teens wanting to learn to express themselves through words, music or acting and bring awareness to teen dating violence.

February has been established at Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month by Senate resolution.

"Recent research has shown that one in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, or physically hurt by their dating partner," said Chandra Peterson, FAP educator, adding that "with 81 percent of parents not believing or not sure if this was an issue, we felt it was important to reach out to teens and parents about teen dating violence in a real and interactive way."

"We felt a poetry slam was a great way to encourage literacy, creative writing, and build self-esteem in our teens. At the same time it would be a great opportunity to get them invested and make others aware of teen dating violence," Peterson said.

During the workshops local poets Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson and Anthony Flores were on hand to demonstrate their own poetic style, encourage teens to express their feelings with words, and explain the rules of a poetry slam.

For the competitive event, six members of the audience were chosen as judges, scoring performances from zero to 10 based on content and performance. The audience was encouraged to participate if they agreed or disagreed with a judge's score.

Dr. Sheila Siobhan and Ronald Horne, both co-directors and board members of Texas Youth Word Collective in Austin were guests at the competition. The TYWC is a nonprofit youth literacy program, encouraging middle and high school students interested in writing and poetry.

Before the "slam," as competitors took the stage, Horne addressed the teen poets.

"Your voice matters. You may think you don't have any power at this age, but your voice matters. Use your words to speak for and to us tonight."

During the open-mike portion of the evening, 11-year-old poet Anjelica Cavasos and more experienced slammer Bob Harry, FAP specialist and Sanderson and Flores gave animated readings.
At the end of the readings winners were announced.

Third place with a $50 gift card was presented to Alexus DeWitt, age 16; second place and a $75 gift card was awarded to Kellee Greenwood, age 17; and first place, with a $100 gift card was awarded to 16-year-old Bria Banks.

"I feel this event was a huge success. I think everyone walked out that night with a new experience and a new appreciation for poetry. It was great to see all the support that the poets had from Family members to friends," said Ashley Duran, FAP educator.