DC SCORES’ Charity Blackwell (left) and Jerry Chamberlain, a student from Kimball Elementary School, in New York City shortly before the pandemic started in 2020 (Courtesy photo)
DC SCORES’ Charity Blackwell (left) and Jerry Chamberlain, a student from Kimball Elementary School, in New York City shortly before the pandemic started in 2020 (Courtesy photo)

At D.C. Council budget hearings, students, parents and other community members continue to plead for increased funding for out-of-school time (OST) programs that can meet the socioemotional needs of youth impacted by the pandemic. 

With the support of local sports teams and other partners, some programs like DC SCORES have been able to serve the needs of District students. DC SCORES’ poet-athletes continue to play soccer, participate in poetry workshops and manifest the change they want to see in community service projects. 

Throughout much of this school year, students have used their time back in the classroom to build comradery and bask in face-to-face interactions, so much so that program facilitators continue to rave about the growth they’re seeing in their poet-athletes. 

“There was this super-eagerness students had to work collaboratively,” said Malachi Byrd, a slam poetry phenom and DC SCORES poetry fellow. 

This academic year, Byrd shaped the curriculum for DC SCORES’ Our Words, Our City series. He also recruited poetry specialists to help poet-athletes, particularly those who yearned to go beyond the foundational workshops to develop their artistry.  

“Young people were exposed to creative writing in a way they didn’t expect,” Byrd said. “This came from working together, being exposed to other schools and having writing coaches and poetry specialists in the classroom. It was a great space for our students to see community service writing and reiterate the purpose of what a program looks like.” 

DC SCORES Delivers Soccer and Poetry  

On the evening of May 24, DC SCORES will host a poetry showcase at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest. Those scheduled to perform include DC SCORES poet-athletes along with renowned poets Liz Acevedo, Charity Blackwell, Amin Dallal and Rasheed Copeland. 

For nearly 30 years, DC SCORES has provided DC Public Schools [DCPS] students the opportunity to play soccer and participate in poetry workshops. The program started at Marie Reed Elementary School in Northwest, soon expanding to several District public schools and eventually to a dozen other cities under the America SCORES umbrella. 

In 2005, DC SCORES formed a partnership with the DC United professional men’s soccer team. Other collaborations include the Washington Mystics and the Washington Spirit, a National Women’s Soccer League team based in the District. 

DC  SCORES’ relationship with the Washington Spirit, which started shortly before the pandemic, manifested in the inclusion of the DC SCORES logo on Washington Spirit jerseys and a visit by Ashley Hatch to Truesdell Elementary in Northwest. 

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, the Washington Spirit’s Andi Sullivan and Jordan Baggett served as guest coaches during a match between Marie Reed Elementary and H.D. Cooke Elementary School on March 31. 

Hours later, DC SCORES and the Washington Spirit hosted a poetry slam at the Takoma Busboys & Poets in Northwest that centered on the theme of “Amplifying Women Everywhere.” 

“One of the massive undertakings that we’re moving toward is being part of the D.C. community, as seen by those who live here and understand the culture,” said Zoe Wulff,  Washington Spirit’s community relations manager. 

“We introduced our players to DC SCORES to help them see D.C.,” she said. “The players show up to schools and [then we] have DC SCORES at our games [where we] see students waving their [DC SCORES] flags. To see this unfold in the last couple of weeks has been cool.” 

Young Up-and-Comer Makes His Mark 

In the early months of the pandemic, young people quarantined in their homes saw a racial justice movement unfold after the murder of George Floyd. 

In subsequent months, other hot-button issues dominated social media and sparked conversation that persisted upon their full return to in-person learning at the beginning of the academic year. 

Amid the shift in the nation’s collective consciousness, Jerry Chamberlain continued to sharpen his voice and find his niche as a poet. Jerry, a fifth grader at Kimball Elementary School, a Southeast-based public school, started exploring poetry with DC SCORES months before the pandemic started in 2019. 

He has since used it as a means of documenting the world he sees. 

With the likelihood that he’ll perform at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library on May 24, Jerry continues to fine-tune his craft and explore opportunities to reflect on topics of importance to him. 

“Poetry can always help you express your thoughts and feelings,” Jerry said. “Most of the things that come up in my poetry are [about] politics, Don’t Mute DC and Black Lives Matter,” he continued. “It feels good because I’m only 11 years old and people don’t listen to children my age. It’s good for them when they actually listen.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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