Mayor Emanuel’s loudest opponent isn’t a local politician or the Chicago Teacher Union’s Karen Lewis. That honor goes to the teens in the slam poetry group TEAM Englewood, whose latest poem verbally eviscerates the Mayor.
Competing in the semi-finals of the youth poetry competition Louder Than a Bomb, TEAM Englewood read a poem titled, “Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Homes, Hide Your Children, ‘Cause He’s Wrecking it All.” TEAM Englewood Community Academy‘s Dallas Battle, Kenyatta Tolbert, Alicia Hinton and David Holmes leave no mystery when it comes to the target of their poem, the second line makes it quite clear: “Rahm Emanuel is single handedly destroying our city.”
Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) is the biggest youth poetry festival in the world. Founded in 2001 by Kevin Coval and Anna West and run out of Young Chicago Authors — an after-school program that offers workshops to teens across Chicago — LTAB pits teams of high school students against each other in a poetic battle royal. Competition or not, winning isn’t the focus of LTAB, as seen through one of their mottos: “The point is not the points, the point is the poetry.”
Through poetry, TEAM Englewood is able to humanize their neighborhood in a way that the media — which tends to only associate Englewood with their high homicide rate – often fails at. “When people think of Englewood, they have their stereotypes,” said coach Dave Stieber. “This experience let’s everyone know they’re regular kids.”
The closings of Chicago schools and clinics, City Hall’s use of TIF funds and plans to build a railroad freight yard where Englewood residents still live are subjects criticized in TEAM Englewood’s poem. It rips into Mayor Emanuel for decisions that have affected communities like Englewood significantly more than others — and not necessarily in a good way.