Penn State poetry group named champions in national poetry slam invitational

May 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State student organization WORDS (Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories), took home the championship title at this year’s College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) held by the Association of College Unions - International (ACUI) at the University of Houston.

The invitational took place in Houston on April 10-13, where Penn State and WORDS was represented by four students and their poetry.

Rabiyatu Jalloh recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in education and public policy and African American studies, and was president of WORDS in 2018. This year, Jalloh served as a general body member of WORDS and helped bring home the gold in this year’s CUPSI.

In order to participate in the CUPSI, organizations must participate in at least two pre-qualifying events and then are put into the semi-final competition before the final round at the national invitational. Participants are judged by spectators in the crowd and are given a score from 1 to 10 for their poems.

Jalloh described slam poetry as an art form being born out of the hip-hop movement and has been producing this art form for four years now.

WORDS also claimed the championship title in 2017, and Jalloh said that Penn State has been very supportive of their work. The group was able to attend this year’s Invitational through fundraising and also donations from on-campus organizations like the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC), offices such as the Gender Equity Center and Student Affairs, and the English department.   

Some of the highlights from this year's event for Jalloh were being able to network with other students and share this art with others as well.

Jalloh noted that while the group has faced adversity and despite its occasional differences, the organization is a family supporting each other while also being there to provide feedback on each other's work. Throughout the year the organization hosts different poets, hold weekly meetings to share their poetry and practice their performances, and put on shows to present their work.

Jalloh said that WORDS is here to “build a community of artists that respect each other and respect each other's words and have space where people can grow."

Last Updated May 22, 2019