Native Youth Leadership Alliance

(Jesse Shortbull) Life is Beautiful Poetry Slam – A love for the gift of giving

Hello my name is Jesse Antoine Short Bull, an employee of Oglala Lakota College and NYLA member. I wanted to discuss the “Life is Beautiful Poetry Slam” that I had the honor of being apart of. The event was taken to a higher level when NYLA became involved.  On Friday April 30th, 2011 at the Woksapi Tipi Library at Oglala Lakota College the “Life is Beautiful Poetry Slam” showcased ten poets and their original works. This was a collaborative effort with Oglala Lakota College, Sweet Grass Suicide Prevention Project, and KOLC-TV which I work for.

Richard Iron Cloud of the Sweet Grass Project as well as his son Arlo from the local radio station spoke at the event. We also were fortunate to have District 27 Representative and fellow NYLA member Kevin Killer give a speech as well.   Each poet got a writing journal for their participation. Their was also a 1st place prize of $150, a second place prize of $100, and a third place prize of $50 plus a free book from the Woksapi Tipi. The top prizes were chosen from a panel of judges based on standard poetry slam criteria. We also had Itunes gift cards and pen sets for door prizes. We also had a nice variety of refreshments for everyone. All of this was made possible thanks to NYLA.

How the poetry slam came to be was one of our Television Production Students Dena Lone Hill wanted to express her concerns about youth suicide on our Pine Ridge Reservation. She did so by creating a short documentary following a high school student who attempted suicide. The film also features the power of poetry which includes some originals from Dena herself.    When Dena finished her project, she had a private showing with her instructor Kathy Aplan, OLC’s librarian Lavera Rose, and myself. We were all very impressed with her work. That’s when the brainstorming for this event took place. Lavera pointed out that April is National Poetry Month and perhaps we could utilize Dena’s film. Kathy is always looking for a venue for her students work so she happily agreed. The idea of a Poetry Slam was born.  We needed to entice people to come and that’s where I took the initiative to utilize the Native Youth Leadership Alliance.

We wanted to make the most positive experience as we could. We wanted the poets to feel that we truly appreciated their participation. This was my first experience in doing something like this, my leadership in this role was only strengthened by those around me and who supported the venture. At the last minute our original emcee went down due to back pain, I was called upon to be the voice of the event, I took on the role without hesitation. Anyone that knows me is aware that I don’t say much, that alone pushed my confidence to higher level.  The one thing that I discovered about myself through this event is that I love the gift of giving. We were handing out the journals to the participants and to see the people light up made me feel so good. This makes me happy as generosity is a Lakota virtue and I felt that I lived up to it. I was also humbled by the courage of the poets that shared there most deepest feelings. We were asked to do this poetry event again. I most certainly would, from every aspect to planning and even speaking again.