Louder Than a Bomb Poetry Festival Team Finals Take Place Saturday

Raw. Emotional. Empowering. Louder Than a Bomb Florida returns with a power punch.

Now in it's 4th year, the spoken word poetry festival features youth poets, primarily high-schoolers, competing in a showcase of lyrical mastery and verbal defiance.

"Words can be cutting, they can be uplifting, they can be inspiring," says NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. "And that’s what we have here. Spoken word poetry in a very raw, organic, real way that’s really leaving a big impact on kids."

Taylor's charitable foundation provides the platform for the festival through its Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network, whose namesake is the star of the hit show "Power" on STARZ.

Hardwick, a poet himself, appreciates the power this festival provides.

"You’re a grown person so you’ve heard the subject matter but you’ve never thought about it in the way that they are presenting it," he says. "We are just a participant in their discovery of who they are while they’re on stage."

After preliminary and semifinal rounds, the 4 week festival culminates this weekend at Nova Southeastern University. Friday night's Indy Finals features the top dozen high school poets from around the state to crown an individual champion. Saturday's Team Finals showcases the top four high school teams.

The poems are entirely the work of the students and touch on a wide range of topics that are often deeply personal. Violence, sexual assault, family dysfunction, gender identity and social injustice are common themes, often using this performance art as a way to make sense of their challenges.

"I cry every time," Taylor admits. "I'm always taken aback in awe of their courage to stand up in front of people they don’t know and spill their story and spill their heart."

This year's festival expanded all across the state, from Jacksonville to Homestead to the Treasure Coast. Thirty-nine high schools fielding entries at a chance to share their work and earn prizes including a grand-prize trip to Chicago for the original Louder Than a Bomb festival.

"We’re crossing railroad tracks and ethnic backgrounds and social backgrounds and economic backgrounds. The amazing part is the life-saving platform that these kids have now," Taylor said.

NBC 6 continues as a presenting sponsor and will feature the performances live each night on NBC6.com. The Indy Finals will stream live from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

In addition to the star power of Taylor, a long-time Miami Dolphins player, and Hardwick, "Ghost" from "Power," the festival has attracted recognizable names as judges. Rapper Trick Daddy will join "Six in the Mix" co-host Johanna Gomez to judge Friday night. Student activist Emma Gonzalez of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will help decide Saturday's winner.

LTABFLA will also feature a special team performance from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School poets who crafted a powerful tribute to the February 14 shooting that left 17 dead. The development of that poem and the experiences of the Douglas poetry team will be the subject of an upcoming NBC 6 special documentary.

Those interested in attending can purchase tickets at the door of the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center of Nova Southeastern University on the Davie campus.

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