This blog post is the third in an ongoing series, 10 Years Deep, that celebrates the evolution and growth of Deep Center’s programs in our first decade.

(Read all posts in the 10 Years Deep series here.)

At Deep, we use creative writing and the arts to help young people connect their learning to their lives, their lives to their communities, and their actions to transformational change. Deep learning is connected learning that nurtures creativity, play, and building power in the world. We make learning purposeful, personal, and truthful by embedding it in the neighborhoods we come from and the stories of the people living there.

And because Savannah’s young people have a long history of embodying their written words on stage and in their neighborhoods, Deep Center in 2018 launched our very first slam poetry team.

photo: Laura Mulder

“It’s a different form of freedom.”
—Justin, Slam Team member

A Different Form of Freedom

The Slam Team is made up of Deep’s most advanced performance poets and leaders. In its first year, team members have been working to uplift and affirm their own brave stories and the stories of their communities through writing and performing, building a culture of slam in Savannah, and performing across the nation.

The team’s lead teaching artist is acclaimed poet Marquice L. Williams, who grew up in Savannah’s rich spoken-word tradition, and co-directs Spitfire Poetry Group and the Savannah Spoken Word Festival, and passionately mentors and apprentices a new generation of spoken-word artists.

“It means a lot to be able to go out there
and say all that I have to say and have people
react and understand what I am saying
and being so open to say, I agree with that,
or it’s a simple snap or a hoop and holler.”

—Amaya, Slam Team member

Slam is a form of poetry that combines the elements of performance, writing, and audience participation. The word “slam” itself has its roots in the way the audience has the power to praise, interact, and feel a poem in real time. Poetry written is powerful. Poetry performed has the potential to unlock whole other universes—to transform both poet and audience members.

photo: Laura Mulder

“Mama said never fall in love with a poet.
But here I am paper and pen.
I am the lyricist to make you fall in love
With mind body and soul.”
—excerpt from “Momma Said”
by Justin, Amaya, and Sam

Deep youth have used slam to unlock their own power and showcase the universes that live within just a few blocks of any one neighborhood. Slam, Deep Youth say, frees their bodies, inspires them to spread slam culture wherever they go, and emboldens them to speak truth to power about anything from family dynamics to social justice.

Leadership and “Artivism”

The Slam Team is one of two pathways for Deep’s Youth Leadership Team, alongside the Action Research Team. As youth leaders and “artivists,” Slam Team members don’t simply work as individual poets and performers, they collaborate to build community, nurture a slam culture and performance infrastructure for other young artists, and use their artistry to shine a light on critical issues facing our communities.

National Competition

The Slam Team competes around the country. On July 17, 2019, the team departs for the Youth Speaks Brave New Voices Festival in Las Vegas. There they will go head-to-head with other teams as they share the collective stories of Savannah. Youth Speaks’ annual Brave New Voices Festival brings together hundreds of young poets from around the world for a five-day celebration of arts education, artistic expression, and civic engagement. This is the very first time Savannah will have a competing team at the festival.

How You Can Help

Community members have the opportunity to help the Slam Team meet their July 15 fundraising goal of $5,000, which goes directly to helping offset the costs of travel to Brave New Voices. To help lift our powerful poets to their goal, visit: Get Slam Team to Vegas 

Deep Slam Team member Amaya

photo: Laura Mulder

“I’m able to perform or do anything without
feeling the pressure of being judged,
the pressure of people telling me,
“You can’t do anything.”
You know what your worth is.”

—Sam, Slam Team member


Read all posts in the 10 Years Deep series here.