At the Berkeley Slam right now for the Battle of the Bay Indi World Poetry Slam edition. Jason’s competing. I almost wrote “performing,” and that’s what it is, but here, it’s all about competition. And I like competition. We all do–the poets, the audience, the hosts–and in fact, Jason just did a poem about sports and how rallying for the home team is a family tradition, a tradition of immigrants trying to be accepted by the home team.
I’m not used to cheers and pom-poms and rallies. It’s true that I spent my early childhood watching a lot of baseball on television with my grandmother, who loved not just the White Sox, but the Cubs. She was perhaps the only black women on the south side of Chicago who adored that team that played on the white side in a neighborhood that generally wanted her and everyone who looked like her, who looked like us, dead. Yes, Chicago made sport into a race war, and maybe slam is, too.
Maybe every poem about police harassment, about black-on-black crime, about the embarrassment of a father’s Filipino accent turns that stage into a battlefield. But it’s a war worth fighting, even if I’m a veteran now, no longer on the front lines, but cheering the bombast, rooting for my own home team.