Slam What Am 

A change of venue for Oakland Slam.

You can't keep a good slam down. After stints at now-defunct venues like the Black Box and Oaklandish, the venerable Oakland Slam is back in the spoken-word business at the Oakland Metro (201 Broadway). Hosted by former Oakland National Slam Team members Nazelah Jamison and Dahled Jeffries, with DJ Agana spinning on the turntables, the Slam now happens every third Thursday (or Thirdsday) of the month. The event (signups at 7:30 p.m.; show at 8) is both an open slam and a warmup for the annual slam season (past Oakland teams have consistently placed in the top ten nationally). Participants in the monthly competitions, which has a $50 monthly prize, earn points, just like NASCAR. The top five become the official Oakland Slam team, which then takes on other local groups in the "Battle of the Bay" before entering the national contests held at the end of August.

Jamison, who's originally from South Carolina but grew up in Philadelphia, says she has always been writing, but didn't start reading poetry until after moving to the Bay Area a decade ago. Multitalented as well as charismatic, she's an actress, singer, and musician -- she played keyboards in Michael Franti's Spearhead for a time -- in addition to a poet who describes herself as a "pro-masculine feminist" on her page. "I'm down with women's rights," she explains. However, she feels that "traditional feminism" can result in misandry: "You don't have to be anti-man to be feminist." Conversely, you can be a feminist and still appreciate chivalry. "I'm Southern," she emphasizes. "That's how I was raised."

For Jamison, the goal of Oakland Slam is to "legitimize poetry as an art form," which seems ironic, considering that it's been around since time immemorial. It's a matter of perception, she adds, that spoken word isn't as marketable as rap. She feels that the only real difference between a hip-hop cipher and a poetry open mic is "style and approach." With spoken word, however, "the messages tend to be a lot clearer." And without the distraction of music, she adds, "my words are what you're paying attention to."


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