Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that combines the elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation. It is performed at events called poetry slams, or simply slams. The name slam came from how the audience has the power to praise or, sometimes, destroy a poem and from the high-energy performance style of the poets.
The concept of slam poetry originated in the 1980s in Chicago, Illinois, when a local poet and construction worker, Marc Kelly Smith, feeling that poetry readings and poetry, in general, had lost their true passion, had an idea to bring poetry back to the people. He created a weekly poetry event—the poetry slam—where anyone could participate.
Poets would perform their work and then be judged by five random audience members on a scale of 0 to 10. Out of the five, the highest and lowest scores were dropped and the three remaining scores were added to give the poet an overall score. Whoever had the highest score at the end of the competition was deemed the winner.
The 26th of November 2022 was the date scheduled for what would turn out to be competitive and a highly attended poetry slam. The first-ever ‘All Female’ poetry Slam was heavily contested, shortlisting 26 female poets from around the country, and an attendance of more than 120 people at Global Platform Zambia.
In efforts to demand accountability on promises made by the Government to protect women’s and girls’ rights specifically, the all-female slam was organized around the theme: ‘Ending Gender-Based Violence: How Far?’ It was also scheduled within the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence so as to join in the call for global actions to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts, share knowledge and innovations, and coordinate the ‘16 Days of activism against Gender-Based Violence‘, to end violence against women and girls.
Enala Ngala, ENRA JAY JAY, leveraging theatrical delivery, bested the rest in the 3-round spoken word contest and carried the day. She walked away with the K2,000 prize money and an invitation to perform at this year’s Intwasa Arts Festival in Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe between December 27 – December 30.
Though being the first ever all-female slam, the movement has hosted four (4) slams prior to this one which we have used as creative communication tools to advocate for socioeconomic change that is for and influenced by youth and women from communities heavily struck by inequality.
It marks the second slam we have staged this year and in our ‘Atibwanji’ project in which we are asking #HowFar the UPND Government have gone to fulfilling the campaign promises made by them to the Zambian people. The first slam was held on 27th August 2022, and in it, the lucky poet was Andrew Simuntinta known as Acentric, who will also be performing at Intwasa Arts Festival.
In order to activate female participation in activism and motivate the growth of spoken word poetry by women and girls, the ‘all female’ slam will be our annual flagship event. Participation is very important in upholding democracy in the community as well as at the national level.
Women’s participation is critical to this cause. The first female Secretary of State for the United States of America, Madeleine J.K. Albright, puts it rather aptly when she said, women in power “can be counted on to raise issues that others overlook, to support ideas that others oppose, and to seek an end to abuses that others accept.”
Next year we look forward to an even bigger ‘All Female Slam’. In the meantime, we thank all who made it to this one, the performers and audience members who made it the success it was. To the participants, we wish to see you all begin creating poetry that advances causes you believe in because it starts with your voice. Once you own your voice, all else becomes achievable.