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The Green Room

Third Annual Black Arts Matter Festival

Posted: 02/03/22

Third Annual Black Arts Matter Festival

Founded in 2019, the Black Arts Matter (BAM) Festival is an interdisciplinary arts festival dedicated to building community around Black artistry. Festival Founder and Artistic Director Shasparay started the festival while studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree with a major in theater and a minor in African American studies. She is also an accomplished performance artist who ranked the 10th best slam poet in the world in the 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam Competition.

Incorporating her art and expertise in slam poetry, the 2022 BAM Festival presented by the Wisconsin Union Theater will include a three-day national poetry slam along with dance, theater, and music performances. Get to know BAM better:

Why does the BAM festival include a poetry slam?

Slam poetry, a competitive form of spoken word, has been an important part of BAM Founder Shasparay’s personal and professional life. She says that slam poetry saved her in many ways by offering a creative outlet in her childhood, providing meaningful personal connections across the country, and offering opportunities such as a college scholarship. She also recognizes what a critical channel it can be for others, so she is providing a platform through BAM for more people to share their art through the slam format.

She has received a lot of excitement from the slam community about the event and what it accomplishes.

The 2022 BAM Poetry Slam Primer 

Prelims: The BAM poetry slam kicks off with prelims, during which more than 40 poets will present a four-minute and one-minute poem. There will be six total bouts, three running simultaneously over two hours and the second three bouts running over an additional two hours. Twenty-four poets will continue on from prelims into semifinals. 

According to Shasaparay, “There are a lot of heavy hitters in this slam. It’s going to be a fight. There are so many people who have accolades upon accolades.” 

There are multiple well-known poets she is particularly excited to see perform. In addition, she notes that there will be several newer poets who will give people a run for their money, and some of the previous BAM slam winners will return to defend their titles.

Between poetry performances, a range of additional artists will showcase their talents in music, dance, and more.

Semi-finals: The second day of the BAM poetry slam will consist of four total bouts featuring 24 poets, each of whom will share a two-minute and three-minute poem. The top 12 poets continue on from semifinals to finals.

Finals: The first two days of competition will culminate with finals. Taking place in the historic Shannon Hall and virtually, finals will be a spectacular showcase of spoken word. The 12 finalists will all perform a three-minute poem, and the top eight will be selected to continue to perform another three-minute poem. Finally, four poets will compete for first place with the last three-minute poem of the slam before the judges announce the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and grand prize winners.

Shasparay said this about finals, “Those 12 [people] will be the best of the best. They will have to come hard. No one is going to give a disappointing performance. I can guarantee that it is going to be a brilliant show.” 

Plus, Shasparay, herself, will keep up the tradition of hosting finals. 

“I love hosting,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do outside of performing.” 

(She said not to miss what she’s wearing, which she calls her “boutfit,” which will showcase her personal style and hopefully get her the honorary title of best dressed).

The 2022 BAM Festival runs from March 23 - 26 in Memorial Union. Tickets range in price depending on the event, from about $10 - $50. In addition, there will be a limited number of Poetry Slam Passes for sale to experience all three days of the slam at a discounted rate. Tickets are expected to go on sale in late February. Learn more about the BAM Festival.


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