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Des Moines poets earn first place in international youth poetry slam festival

DES MOINES, Iowa – In July, a group of young women from Des Moines won first place in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival held in California.

Kai Brown, LaNeeta Burgs, Samm Yu, Jocelyn Rifas, and Sophie Savage performed together. The group is a part of RunDSM, an organization dedicated to helping youth express themselves through the arts.

The group wrote several poems including one poem which was an ode to Abdullahi “Abdi” Sharif, Breasia Terrell, and Diaa Kafi, all Black Iowans who went missing.

“We wrote about three missing children from the past calendar year,” said Kia Brown, a poet.
“That’s going to be Diaa, Abdi Sheriff, and Breasia Terrell. We all wrote about them together. Only three poets actually performed, then I was on stage because I sang.”

For several months, RunDSM coach Jalesha Johnson and Movement 515 coordinator and coach Leah Waughtal-Magiera helped the group refine their skills.

“When you teach people, they make you grow up. They make you more careful and more kind and more conscious, and being around them and loving them keeps reminding me that I want to be a better person,” said Johnson.

“It’s so amazing when a team has worked so hard; is grounded in such love are able to elevate to that level, and everyone would be able to see their brilliance also,” said Waughtal-Magiera.

“With this win, it really wasn’t just about this team and us. It was about our coaches and all the people that have come before us that have made us so much better. So it’s like the whole city won and not just this team of five people,” said Samm Yu.

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