In the fall of 2013, Gray’s Creek High School English teachers Nicole Rivers and Joel Mayo were looking for a way to reach students during their poetry unit, which they found didn’t quite make an academic or emotional impact for their students or themselves. Before beginning poetry that fall semester, Mrs. Rivers introduced to Mr. Mayo the documentary Louder Than a Bomb, and they both used it and spoken word poetry as a way to capture the attention of their students and bridge the gap to other types of poetry. The unit was an overwhelming success to the point in which students were fighting for a poetry club.
The next year, Mr. Mayo and Mrs. Rivers formed the Gray’s Creek High School poetry club, which included a slam team for students interested in potentially competing or performing in front of an audience. The club was a huge success and several students tried out for the slam team.
The team then decided to go by Poetic Pathos Slam Team. They chose Pathos for the rhetorical device focusing on persuading someone or making an impact through emotion. Soon, the name became recognized throughout the school, where the slam team performed throughout the year.
Thanks to local poets Marshall “Northstar” Pampkin and LeJuane “Elja” Bowens, Poetic Pathos Slam Team began to branch out to the local area, where they performed at coffee houses and competed in competitions like the Southeastern Regional Poetry Festival Youth Slam Competition. Soon membership began to climb to over twenty poets annually at the school each year. The talent also evolved and the team was aching to compete more, which was difficult due to the small youth poetry scene in the Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
In 2016, the team discovered Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Festival, but were too late to apply for a chance to actually go. The next year, Mr. Mayo applied for the team to go, but they were unfortunately waitlisted due to the high volume of applicants and the large amount of North Carolina teams going. Thankfully, after a couple of months thinking that competing at SERNC and hosting a GCHS Slam Competition were the only options, the team found out they were accepted to compete and participate in the 20th Annual Brave New Voices in the Bay Area. It was then that coaches Mayo and Rivers took the top 6 of Gray’s Creek Poetic Pathos Slam Team to the competition. Mr. Mayo and Mrs. Rivers wanted more though. They wanted to extend Poetic Pathos to all of Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s youth, including the surrounding areas. Thus, the nonprofit organization Poetic Pathos Youth Slam was formed.
Today, Poetic Pathos Youth Slam has grown to include members outside of Gray’s Creek High School, whose team is now just Gray’s Creek High School Slam Team. Poetic Pathos Youth Slam now works to bring the power of poetry and slam to all youth, and hopes to give everyone teenager with a pen a voice in the community.