The Stay Gallery Hosts … Poetry Slam!

Andre Lucas, Co-Copy Editor

On Saturday, Dec. 7, Downey School’s Thirst Project hosted a Poetry Slam contest at the Stay Gallery not only to fundraise but also to educate the public on the global water crisis, which has left over 663 million people without access to clean drinking water, according to the organization. Throughout the night, each contestant recited poems as well as songs that pertained to their personal lives and at the end of the evening, three winners were announced.


The contestant who came in third place, Pedro Martinez, a special guest poet, shared three poems. His first poem, titled “Self Respect,” emphasized the power of respect and how it represents who he is. Next, he performed “Be Careful,” where he highlights the significance of doing what you love for not only yourself but for others as well. Finally, he ended with “This Connection,” a favorite poem of his, which was generally written for those with important connections with others.


When asked about where his inspiration for all three poems came from, Matinez decided to explain the origins of where his love for poetry began. Subsequently, he gave his thoughts on winning third place.


“I used to be into art my whole life, but I started doing poetry and I thought [by] the time I went to middle school, and I just thought that art didn’t help me enough to allow me to think, so I just wrote poetry, and I needed words to actually here myself out,” Martinez stated. “All of this is about encouraging others to express their opinions so that’s why I’m here [and] you never know who you’ll inspire.”


Piolo Ignacio, 12, of Narbonne High School in Los Angeles, who took second place, read aloud his poem, “Because of You,” which depicted the flaws of America in terms of division, wealth inequality, and racism. Towards the end, he alluded to notable activists such as Ceasar Chavez, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. who sought to create change in society, and he calls for the audience to do the same as well.


Once he was asked about what inspired him to write his poem, he gave two anecdotes that drove him to write on race relations in America, and he then expressed his reaction when he learned he placed second in the competition.


“It was my sophomore year, and it was based off of a book and a presentation I did in class. It was called A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, and at the same time – I live in Carson – there was a shooting across my street, and it was because [the victims] were Mexican, and I didn’t see what the point was to all of this, so I made this piece to correlate to the book,” Ignacio explained. “I didn’t even think I was going to go today, but I’m happy that I did. I’ve never said my work out loud, but it was worth it.”

The contestant who took first place was Robert Elizarraras, a Downey High alumnus, and he performed his poem called “Alive and Well,” which took him five years to complete. In it, he opens up about his struggles with anxiety by metaphorically comparing the story of his life to a book that is initially brand new and “full of adventure,” yet it has a questionable ending of where it will end up just like Elizarras’ life.


After he was asked about how he prepared for this event given his personal struggle, he gave an example by describing how he felt before performing in his answer. Moreover, he made an announcement after claiming first place. 


“Before I came up here, there’s just a lot of anxiety and nerve racking. I can only imagine for all of us who stepped up here and perform in front of everybody. With me living with anxiety, I have to develop my own coping skills to just live with it,” Elizarras revealed. “On behalf of the prize that I claimed, I’m going to donate it to the Thirst Project Club.”


The second and third place contestants followed suit and donated their money as well. Additionally, aside from reciting poetry, the Thirst Project hosted an activity called “Miracle Minute” where the audience donated as much money as they could in one minute to the club and in that one minute, the club raised $70, which saved three lives that were affected by the water crisis since the Thirst Project intends to use this money to build water wells in countries that have been left disenfranchised by the water crisis so that their inhabitants will have access to safe, clean, drinking water.