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words of empowerment:


Annual poetry slam welcomes writers, performers s by Trent William Poetry Slam rvices Building Computer Info Se e, Auditorium Rm 4893 Price Driv pus 1008, UNCW cam 3rd, 7 p.m. il Wednesday, Apr 7314 Free • 910-962-


ou have to have a pas-

sion for what you want to do in life,” Dr. Maurice M. Martinez, professor in UNCW’s Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations and Secondary Education, says. “That’s exactly what these poets have; they bring the passions of life out through their words and in the remarkable creations of their poems.” Dr. Martinez founded the Poetry Slam 15 years ago out of his love for poetry and the powerful impact words have in the promotion of social change. Martinez says his desire to promote poetry comes from nurturing literacy, one of the main goals of education. “My teaching credentials are but tools that enable me to impart knowledge and inspire future teachers,” he says. “I give them the tools to express ideas and restore compassion for those less able to, and to bring about the necessary changes that address the human condition and make the world a better place.” Poetry, often considered one of the most revealing forms of literature, is a great vehicle to “set the spirit free from the dark past and the darker things to be,” as Martinez puts it. Taking the words one step further, slam poetry adds performance to the equation. This combines the best of both worlds: a well-written poem, along with all the articulation, enunciation, dialects, soul, rhythm and flow of the human voice. It forces the audience to accept these face-to-face human emotions in real-time with the reader. Martinez, who worked in jazz clubs throughout the 1960s has seen poets and jazz musicians struggle through hard times to get to the freedom of speech they have now. “I am known in music circles around New Orleans, my birth place, as ‘Marty Most,’” Martinez says. Involved in the civil rights movement, the professor went under the alias “Marty Most” to protect his family. “At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for police to raid the home of a person they thought was a civil rights activist at 3 in the morning, to arrest him or her, and beat them black and blue at the local precinct,”

SPOKEN LIKE A CHAMP: Dr. Maurice Martinez hosts the annual Poetry Slam Wednesday, April 3rd. Courtesy photo

Martinez continues. “I didn’t want my family identified with my public spoken-word poetry, advocating integration and civil rights.” Though the history of spoken word dates far beyond its time in Wilmington, the history of it locally goes back to more than 20 years ago. Dr. Martinez first moved to Wilmington in 1995 to try out living in between his hometown of New Orleans and the bustle of his time spent teaching in New York City. “There was a place called Water Street Restaurant [now Mixto], owned by Harper Peterson who used to be the mayor of Wilmington,” Martinez says. “He would allow students to come in on Tuesday nights for open-mic sessions.” At the time, two students from UNCW would religiously attend the event: Shane Truett (now a practicing lawyer) and J. Wayne Bass. They were known as Shane and Wayne, and were co-editors with Martinez on a book of poetry entitled “Celebration” (1998). Shane and Wayne both helped maintain the original open mic’s vitality. “After it grew larger than the dedicated regulars, the event began to receive funding from UNCW and started being held on campus,” Martinez says. A veteran of the classroom, Martinez believes wholeheartedly in supporting poetry and all types of literary events. Mainly, they express stories and feelings that otherwise couldn’t be told. “Some of the students pictured in the group workshop actually cried when they read their poems,” he says. “It was very

powerful. You never know what imprints have affected the lives of students. That’s why I think teaching is the noblest of professions because you help people in many ways giving them skills, knowledge and joy in their hearts to do and pursue whatever their life’s work might be.” Martinez, who celebrates his 51st year in the classroom in 2013, encourages everyone to join in his annual poetry slam competition. UNCW, community college and high school students—as well as all members throughout the greater tri-county area—are welcome. The slam presents a powerful medium for voices to be heard. Its increase in popularity over the past decade is shown from national groups, which started in the ‘90s, like James Kass’ Youth Speaks and Urban Word NYC, the latter a free workshop for inner-city youth run by hip-hop poet and mentor Michael Cirelli. “I’m amazed at the growth in the quality of the poets that we’ve had,” Martinez notes. “Maybe it had something to do with

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the onslaught of hip-hop and rap. It certainly didn’t hurt, only added.” The slam will be held at UNCW’s Computer Information Services Building at 7 p.m. on April 3rd and runs up to three hours. Contestants will read original poems they have written, with a maximum delivery time of five minutes. Judges decisions will be final. Martinez hand-picked five judges to score 1 through 10, and choose the top six poets out of the 30 slots allowed. Cash prizes run from $25 to $300. Poets like Allison Parker (now an English professor at Whiteville Community College), the masterful realist poet Gerry Hewett, Lenard M. Moore, Ziggy Nix and Neal Thompson all have attended past events. “There is so much creativity in Wilmington,” Martinez states. “Over the years I’ve seen outstanding poets who have really poignant and unique stories to tell.” Also attending will be Coast 97.3 Program Director DJ Bigg B, who will emcees and keep the energy flowing between poets and the great Grenoldo Frazier, who will tickle the keys during the judging process. A former Broadway performer, Frazier plays a slew of music, especially jazz. “I’m very excited to have Frazier come,” Martinez states. “He is the last of the great entertainers. If I had to put him in one word, it would be ‘fantastic.’” Registration dates are open through April 1st. Folks who wish to pre-register for the poetry slam should call 910-962-7314 and leave their name, address and phone number. Martinez warns of a limited number of slots left, so participants are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible. UNCW’s Watson College of Education, as well as The Office of Campus Diversity and The English Department are sponsors of the event.

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March 27, 2013  
March 27, 2013  

Your alternative voice in Wilmington, North Carolina