Keyera Edwards is a rising senior at Toledo Early College in Toledo, Ohio. She was introduced to ACT-SO by her school counselor, Stacey Oxner. After seeing her performance of her piece titled, Pretty Hurts, at her school talent show, Stacey was thoroughly impressed and encouraged Keyera to join the program. When she attended the first ACT-SO meeting, after turning in her paperwork, she was instantly hooked on this unique experience. She was ready to explore a new opportunity and continue to share her poetry with the public. She decided to compete at the local Toledo NAACP ACT-SO branch competition in the Poetry Performance category, and she received a gold medal for her piece titled, I’m Fine. Due to her accomplishments at the local competition, Keyera has advanced to compete at the national competition in Baltimore, Maryland at the end of this month!
Keyera competed in the 2016 local Toledo NAACP ACT-SO branch competition in the Poetry Performance category, where she received a gold medal for her poetry piece. She then traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to compete at the national competition in the Poetry Performance category with her piece titled, Perspective. Unfortunately, her work did not receive a medal that year; however, she is grateful for the experience and is excited to compete nationally again this year.
Three Words to Describe Feelings about National Competition
Elated, anxious and determined. Keyera feels elated because she has high expectations for this year’s national competition, after traveling to Cincinnati for last year’s national competition and having a phenomenal time. She is ready to see what great things Baltimore has to offer. She also feels blessed to have met fellow Black individuals from all over the country and witnessed their unique talents, especially during a time when society does not truly believe in the prosperity of the Black community. She is anxious about performing and having her work critiqued by the judges, because she is not sure how they will react to her piece. Lastly, she is determined to dominate in her competition category, regardless of whether she wins a medal or not. Despite the results, Keyera will remember that she went into the competition with confidence, did her very best, and, through her writing, shared a piece of her heart with the world.
Then vs. Now
Keyera feels more relieved and less tense going into this year’s national competition. She has more experience now, as this will be her second year competing nationally, and she can honestly say that she feels “confidently comfortable.”
Nerves & Excitement
Although this will be her second year competing at nationals, Keyera is nervous about becoming emotional during her performance and ruining its flow. Her poem is about a very personal subject that she is still learning how to cope with and express to society. She is looking forward to meeting new people, reuniting with friends that she met at last year’s competition and seeing their development, as well as eating the great food served at the competition: “The vendors were off the chain last year and prices were very affordable, especially for the delicious food they supplied.” From this competition, Keyera hopes to gain more experience, more confidence in sharing her poetry pieces and allowing her voice to be heard and constructive criticism about how she can continue to improve her poetry and writing skills.
Keyera encourages current ACT-SO competitors to be their authentic selves: “ACT-SO is something created for someone like you! This is where you can be your true self, so use who you are and what you’re capable of bringing to the table.” She feels that this is a chance for Black high school students to show society and the rest of the Black community their passions and life purposes: “Own the room, own yourself, own your presence and, lastly, own your gift!”
“Go for it! You’ll never know what you’re truly capable of, until you go out and do it. ACT-SO is a wonderful place to mingle and make connections with Black people from all over who share a love for art, mathematics, science, business and so much more. You’ll receive lots of love, feedback and support from people you might not ever see again, but it’ll always mean something to you, because there once was a time where you felt like you didn’t belong in the competition room.” – Keyera Edwards
We wish you the best of luck, Keyera, in the 2017 national competition!