SlamNUBA is an award-winning performance poetry event based in Denver, Colorado. Originating in 2006 as a program of the Pan African Arts Society and certified by Poetry Slam Inc, SlamNUBA has become a collective of many of the nation’s finest poets, including Amy Everhart, the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion & Dominique Ashaheed, the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion. Since its inception, SlamNUBA has performed on every semifinals stage at the National Poetry Slam (The Largest Poetry Gathering in the World). The squad has made finals stage three times, 2007, 2011, 2014. SlamNUBA placed fourth in 2007 and 2014. In 2011, SlamNUBA won The National Poetry Slam Championship. Every single member of the SlamNUBA has appeared on at least one final stage in the trio of large competitions put on by PSI. SlamNUBA was inducted to the Denver Westword’s Mastermind Class of 2011. This award is given to creative people and groups who serve the Denver community with an invaluable service or product. The SlamNUBA collective presents a feature poet, open mic & slam event every last Friday of every month at The Crossroads Theater in the historic 5 Points district in Denver.
Slam Nuba was conceived by Ashara Ekundayo, Ken Arkind and Panama Soweto. Café Nuba, Denver’s premier monthly poetry showcase, had been a registered Poetry Slam, Inc. venue for several years and had never sent a team to the National Poetry Slam. With the support of the community Slam Nuba was created for the purpose of representing the versatility of Denver’s poetry scene under its parent organization of Café Nuba.
The team has performed in many places outside of poetry slam including an event hosted by Democracy Now, sharing a stage with Amy Goodman, opening for recording artists Les Nubians, sharing a stage with the hip-hop group Dead Prez, and at such local events as Denver’s Black Arts Festival, Freedom of Speech, The Poet As Muse, Café Cultura, & the Historic Mercury Café Poetry Slam.
Nuba is widely known for their voice recall and response “Slam Nuba” responded with “We Cut Heads” the origin of this interaction comes from Spike lee’s first independent film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. It in no way connotes violence in a decapitation sense as much as it suggests that the poetry group prides themselves in their ability to present mind blowing & thought provoking work that separates listeners from their senses.
Slam Nuba is involved in community development throughout Denver & the mid & south west region of the country. Several of the poets in the organization are youth mentors and advocates. The group believes that a strong community can be determined by the contributions of its teachers, laborers and artists. This belief has led the group to work with other non-profit organizations and volunteer a great deal of their time to neighborhood enrichment. Panama Soweto states, “Poetry is a very important tool, it can expire the anguish in our souls and solicit the best from our hearts.”
In 2007, its first year of competing, Slam Nuba had four competing members, Jai Harris, Bobby Lefebre, Panama Soweto, and Lucifury (Theo Wilson). Suzi Q. Smith was the team’s founder and Slam Master (organizer and manager), and Bianca Mikahn Shaw was the team’s coach. Most of the team were rookie slammers yet they won several regional bouts including the Lincoln, Nebraska Invitational and the Dallas Invitational Poetry Slam.
During a week of events at The National Poetry Slam 2007, Lucifury won the Erotic Poetry Slam and earned the coveted title of “Most Erotic Slam Poet in the Nation” Throughout team finals, Slam Nuba placed fourth in the United States out of a possible 75 teams.
2008 saw a change for Slam Nuba. Several of the previous teams members remained but a few new ones were added to the troupe. Bobby Lefebre, Panama Soweto, Lucifury, Original Woman, and Ayinde Russell represented Slam Nuba during the 2008 slam season. Suzi Q. Smith left their ranks as Slam Master,but Bobby Lefebre and Panama Soweto picked up where she had left off. Bianca Mikahn remained on as coach.
During the 2008 season, the team won a variety of tournaments and performed at a wide range of venues in the Denver area, including the wrap up party for DNC (Democratic National Convention) volunteers. The team was also featured in an article in El Semanario, Denver’s weekly Latino newspaper.
Slam Nuba won the Flagstaff “Win and You’re In” bout, a match they needed to clinch a spot at the national competition, The 2008 South West Shoot Out Poetry Slam, and The Denver 40 Ounce Invitational Slam. The team won both of their preliminary bouts at the national event, then came second in the semifinals bout to team Austin Egos and tied with the team from Hollywood.
In 2009, the poets representing Slam Nuba on a national level were Bobby Lefebre, Ken Arkind, Panama Soweto, The Original Woman, and Lucifury, joined by their coach Suzi Q. Smith. This team achieved success at a very high level winning regional bouts at the Tree Top in Arizona, The SouthWest Shoot Out and the Denver 40 oz. Slam before departing in the Semi Finials at the National Poetry Slam.
In 2010, Ayinde Russell fulfilled a vacancy by taking over the Slam Master role. Coached by slam veteran and world poetry slam finalist Lucifury, The team featured 4 members new to the Nuba Collective; Rookie Jovan Mays, Jen Rinaldi the 2006 Denver Mercury Café National Slam Champion, 2010 Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist& transplant from Richmond, Virginia Megan Rickman, & Amy Everhart the reigning Individual World Poetry Slam Titleholder. Rounding out the bunch was the Slam off victor Ayinde Russell. The team attained notable success by winning the Utah Arts festival competition and at the National Poetry Slam held in St. Paul, Minnesota they won both of their preliminary spells, then came second in the semifinals bout to the Soap Boxing team out of St. Paul who went on to win the competition for their 2nd consecutive year.
2011 – The Championship Season
The 2011 Slam Nuba team seemed too have conjured up something very special when the squad was revealed at the end of that years slam off. Consisting of past members, Theo “Lucifury” Wilson, Ayinde Russell, & Jovan Mays. Along with new comers laden with poetic prowess; Dominique Ashaheed, and Bran Do Chemtrails. Anchored & coached by Jen Rinaldi and alternate, the team won the Southwest Shootout Regional Competition, the Utah Arts Festival Contest & The Denver 40 oz. Slam. These victories set up the most storied Nuba year to date in which the group completed the task of winning the National Poetry Slam Championship.
Slam Nuba coached by veteran Jen Rinaldi, won the 2011 National Poetry Slam Championship in Boston, Massachusetts. Performing at the Berklee School of Music in front of more than 2,500 people, Slam Nuba won the national title. Team members Dominique Ashaheed and Ayinde Russell performed a duet piece called Amandla about the resistance movement in South Africa, putting the team more than a point ahead, by incorporating South African songs and exuberant messages about fighting barbarism with beauty. In the second round, Theo “Lucifury” Wilson, performed a poem entitled Dark Jester which deals with the ways in which brilliant black performers were made into minstrels. In the third round the team sealed the victory with a complicated quintet piece about chain gangs in the south. The poem involved old work songs, choreography, and biting lines that ranged from personal commentaries that embodied the voices of the men who languished on chain gangs as well as social commentary about the ways in which Black men still negotiate similar circumstances in present day America. The last round was performed by Brando, Securing their place in slam history.
In 2012, Slam Nuba representatives brought a fresh sense of brilliance to the collective. Newly established Slam Masters Suzi Q Smith and City Slam Champ Jovan Mays served as competitors along with a wave of what has become a Slam Nuba tradition of bringing highly skilled & qualified first year members to Nationals. Those members included Denver Spoken word stand outs Kenya “Mahogany” Pollard, Alejandro Jimenez and Brave New Voices alumnus Jozer Guerrero. The team was secured by alternate D. Brooks and prepared under the tutelage of Bobby LeFebre & Ayinde Russell. They were victorious at the South West Shoot Out in Tulsa, OK and at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, NC. Slam Nuba once again found their way into the semifinals after two commanding showings in their preliminary bouts. The journey for this team ended in a thrilling semi’s bout, coming to a halt by way of a tie breaker sudden death overtime.