First reported 12/11/2009 9:06 p.m.

Tamara Lynch didn¡¦t perform in a local poetry slam contest last Wednesday for the money or the guaranteed job offered at a West Side McDonald¡¦s restaurant.

The Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy student did it because she enjoys writing poetry.

And that passion for spoken word snagged top honors for Lynch at the Power of Words Poetry Slam Dec. 9, at the Sankofa Business and Cultural Arts Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave. The American Idol-styled contest featured students from four West Side schools. The teens went through three rounds of elimination to get down to five finalists. Each received $50 and a job with the West Side McDonald¡¦s chain owned by Lofton and Lofton Management, which co-sponsored the event. Lynch also walked away with the grand prize ¡X an additional $100.

Many of the students¡¦ pieces were personal. They used metaphors and imagery to weave stories about teen pregnancy, self-love, divorce, and youth violence. Lynch, a 16-year-old junior, did a piece promoting inner beauty, called My Black Is Beautiful. She used a murder trial as a metaphor to explain how blacks are often unfairly judged by the color of their skin.

“A lot of black people are insecure about their color because the way people treat us,” said Lynch, who began writing poetry three years ago. “That was the inspiration for my poem “o that color don¡¦t matter and you can make it regardless.”

Fellow ABEA student Damon Gunn¡¦s poem Kill Zone was not about violence, but about dealing with the emotional baggage of his parents¡¦ separation. Gunn, also a finalist, said the title is about getting rid of all the negative emotions he was feeling by writing them down. He hoped his poem would be an inspiration to other students enduring the same thing.

“I honestly feel that there are kids in this room that are going through the same thing I went through. I hope I touched their heart and that they are not alone,” he said.

Lawrence Fredrick Meade Jr., a freshman at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men in East Garfield, took on this issue of false hope among youth. He mainly addressed the false hope kids have of their future when the education system fails them. Many students, he said, think playing ball like Kobe Bryant, or joining a gang, would bring them what rapper Kanye West calls the “Flashing Lights.”

“I want to let them (youth) know these are failures,” Meade, 15, said. “You don¡¦t do things of those natures like prostitute, drug deal or invest all your time in a boyfriend or sports. You always have to have some type of knowledge. Education is the foundation.”

Participants

Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy
231 N. Pine (Austin)
Tamara Lynch
Damon Gunn
James Brown

Manley High School
2935 W. Polk (North Lawndale)
Joshua Dinkins
Raphael Love
Alvin Smith

Healey North Alternative Learning Program
100 N. Western (Near West Side)
Totiana Lomax
Deon Brown
Johnny Patterson

Urban Prep Academy for Young Men
2908 W. Washington (East Garfield Park campus)
Marvin Williams
Lawrence Mead
Caprice Hamer

North Lawndale College Prep
1615 S. Christiana (North Lawndale)
Devin McIntosh
Deja Dunning
Larinita Starks

Some of the teens listed were scheduled to perform but weren¡¦t able to show