By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Kofi Dadzie, a junior at Westborough High School, is a poised, athletic and extremely talented young man. He has been chosen to participate on the Brave New Voices Slam Poetry Team from Massachusetts and will travel this summer to Washington, DC, to compete and perform in an international Poetry Slam Festival.
Growing up near Yonkers, N.Y., Kofi, his mom and his younger sister relocated to Westborough when he was around 11. In the sixth grade, he can remember writing rap music until his freshman year at Westborough High School when he joined the outdoor track team and met seniors Adhu Krishnan, Abram Lucas and Gabe Esposito. They needed a fourth member on the Poetry Team to compete in the Louder than a Bomb (LTAB) Youth Poetry Festival. Although Kofi was skeptical, as he had never written poetry, he agreed to try. He reasoned that there are parallels with poetry and rap and the process would be similar.
“When I am working on a poem, I basically free-write,” Kofi said. “Rhymes tend to come naturally to me. For this competition, this was like my crash course in writing poetry. My first poem titled, ‘Change Changes All’ was about how people are quick to hype change but when it actually comes time to fight for the change it doesn’t happen. It was my first time slamming a poem and it ended up scoring well. While I was nervous on my way up to the microphone, it acted as a motivator for me to do my best.”
After each performance, Kofi has a multitude of emotions that he experiences. While he is relieved afterward, he explains that each performance is a very emotional and cathartic experience filled with vulnerability. When he gets the opportunity to watch a video of himself performing, it seems like a totally different experience than when he is actually in front of an audience.
Slam Poetry is a very participatory art and performance form of expression.
“Slam Poetry is such a supportive and positive environment for the students, explained Kathy Stoker, English and journalism teacher at WHS and a team coach. “It’s a very ‘feel-good’ atmosphere where the goal is to be heard.”
The goal is to listen to the authors’ voices and have them be heard. Because Kofi was one of the top five poets that competed in individual competition in the LTAB Festival, he was asked to participate in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival in Washington, DC, July 12-16. The competition is sponsored by the Mass Literary Education and Performance (Mass LEAP).
“I am ecstatic to compete,” Kofi said. “I have made it my mission to go and even missed my prom for the LTAB Individual Finals competition, which was held at the United South End Settlements in Boston on the same night. It was one of the best nights of my life. I felt my performance was among the best I’ve ever given. I was one of the top 10 Slam Poets there.”
Stoker and Anita Cellucci have coached the team for five years. They are so proud of the team and how supportive they are of each other.
“Kofi is a gifted poetry slammer and works extremely hared at the craft. He is very supportive of his teammates and I am so proud of him,” said Stoker.
Added Cellucci: “Kofi came to the team as a freshman, full of potential. I am so proud of his growth in writing, performing and as a leader over the past three years. We knew he had it in him to take his talent to the national/international level and we couldn’t be prouder.”
To help sponsor Kofi and his team, visit www.gofundme.com/massleap.