Louder than a bomb

Is there a better way to try out my new 70-300mm lens than from the dark nosebleed seats at Louder than a Bomb 2017?

Spoiler alert: No there is not. There is also no better way to support this work than to donate here.

Veronica and I attended an event Thursday night at Chicago’s DuSable Museum. Performances at the boundary between hip-hop and traditional poetry poured out of these vibrant young people. These high school students had much to say about poverty, racism, sexual and community violence, the high school life of a heavy teenage girl, police misconduct, school underfunding, and much more.

Stephanie delivered “broken English” a loving tribute to her father, Mexican-born, who has worked so hard to support his four children: “In my father’s face, you do not see a criminal. You do not see a rapist. You do not see a drug dealer…. He might come from a different place, but he is right where he belongs. He is the best that Mexico has brought.”

Surprisingly, President Trump was not real popular with this group of Chicago young people. Stephanie reminds the President: “This land was never yours to begin with,” to cheers.


Anthony delivered a striking “Man-bot” meditation on masculinity and sexuality. “We are engineered for fake strength.” (Bonus badly-shot video below the fold…)

Sammy’s angry untitled poem noted the plight of a 17-year-old who must join the army to kill and fight as his only route to college. “My 1.872 don’t pay for college. 1.872 skeletons do.”

Melissa projected such serenity standing waiting to go on, and then exploded with the first words of her angry poem, Blackjack, on the memory of a sexual assault: “My body was your back room gamble.”

Ireon, the eventual winner, gave an amazing word-play tribute to her grandmother with a green thumb, who “jammed her praises into my scalp.”

On it went. Just an amazing evening.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.