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Port Chester Students Slam Trump, Discrimination In Annual Poetry Contest

From left, Port Chester High School poetry slam winners Mailynn Dempson, Karen Pantoja and Adriana Siguenza with Mattie Gooden.
From left, Port Chester High School poetry slam winners Mailynn Dempson, Karen Pantoja and Adriana Siguenza with Mattie Gooden. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
From left to right, Port Chester High School poetry slam winners Mailynn Dempson, Karen Pantoja and Adriana Siguenza display their awards.
From left to right, Port Chester High School poetry slam winners Mailynn Dempson, Karen Pantoja and Adriana Siguenza display their awards. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Karen Pantoja celebrates with her proud parents after Wednesday's 13th annual Phillis Wheatley Poetry Slam at Port Chester High School.
Karen Pantoja celebrates with her proud parents after Wednesday's 13th annual Phillis Wheatley Poetry Slam at Port Chester High School. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Kevin DeLaRoca, a Port Chester High School student, reads his poem, "Prisoner To Society" at last year's Phillis Wheatley Poetry Slam. DeLaRoca placed second in that competition.
Kevin DeLaRoca, a Port Chester High School student, reads his poem, "Prisoner To Society" at last year's Phillis Wheatley Poetry Slam. DeLaRoca placed second in that competition. Video Credit: Jon Craig

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- Port Chester High School students shared passion and courage on Wednesday during the school's 13th annual Phillis Wheatley Poetry Slam.

Topics ranged from police brutality to new threats on refugees' freedom.

Adriana Siguenza placed first with her untitled poem which addressed concerns about racial equality and immigration under the Trump presidency: "Barrel bombed, heavily shelled refugees, rubble and debris still in the wisps of their hair to be called: terrorists. Not even God is free; as Muslims are persecuted for worshipping in the land of. Not even our dreams are free as broken-backs earn a meal with hope their children will grow to have a career. Do you know how much our parents have worked to be here?"

Karen Pantoja, a sophomore, moved the audience and placed second in the competition with her poem "!2 AM Thoughts."

"I think this society is more messed up than I am,'' Pantoja wrote. "Seeing black men get killed on the spot. With no hesitation, freedom is not what we got. . . . How Muslim is misunderstood with terrorists and danger. How Latinos/Latinas are viewed lower than their reality. And how every white person lives the American Dream."

"Everyone has different pigments on their skin. We are all different on beliefs and origins. But we all struggle as individuals as the world develops. The world gets colder and colder as the existence of stereotypes stays. If we mingle and trade our shoes, the misunderstanding can be understood,'' Pantoja concluded.

Mailynn Dempson placed third with her her untitled poem, which read, in part: "Now I wish for something more. To fall in love, to feel pain, to hear laughter from those who are happy. To feel the warmth of someone that loves me for me. I want so much more than nothing. I want to be able to cry, to scream, and shout. To be able to say I'm glad that I was born."

Club Advisor Nelson Diaz said that while the number of entries in this year's competition was down from prior years, the quality was up. "The point is not the points," Diaz said, "but rather the poetry."

Port Chester Middle School Assistant Principal Byron Womack, one of four judges, said this year's competition was closer than ever.  "All the participants are all winners in our minds," Womack said. "It takes a lot of courage to come up here. . . . Your poems are so creative and so unique. This year was really hard. Everyone was so close. Everyone was so creative. You all are very, very talented. Very, very unique. Very, very special. We thank you for all you've done."

Assistant High School Principal Luke Sotherden said he was struck by the students' "passion behind your poems."

Womack said the poetry slam replaced an annual fashion high school show which had become outdated and old-fashioned.

Mattie Gooden offered opening remarks about Phillis Wheatley, who was a former slave and the first published African-American poet. She died in 1784. This year's judges included Cathyanne Bassett and Caryn Rodman.

Return to Daily Voice for video from the 13th annual poetry slam.

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