Team Fort Lauderdale

Team Fort Lauderdale

About the Team

Fort Lauderdale is a humid beachfront city in South Florida with palm tree laden streets framed by sandy beaches and shallow clear blue water. But only minutes away from the shore there are neighborhoods with dirt and grass sidewalks and sparsely-stocked mom and pop convenience stores.

Ray Dominguez, the program director of Write Side Poets and coach of the Fort Lauderdale Team, mentors poets from these hard-working neighborhoods. He brings the mosaic of the Deep South, the West Indies, Little Havana and Little Haiti together with writers that deliver poetry in a mix of languages and dialects that are both powerful and clear. Unlike most teams, Fort Lauderdale does not have a center to conduct workshops. Writing sessions and performance training all take place in coach Dominguez's living room. Inspired by Ray's passion for poetry, the team wants nothing more than to spit on the finals stage at the Brave New Voices festival in Washington, DC. Confronted by financial and personal challenges, these teens work to transform themselves from novice writers into hard-hitting slam poets.

About the Coach

With a timer in hand, Ray Dominguez puts the members of Write Side Poets through what he calls "Poetry Boot Camp." As the coach of a team diverse in background and personality, there is one challenge that he confronts across the board—stimulating the imaginations of members of a distracted generation. He says, "A lot of kids today are so consumed with text messages, video games, who got the latest cell phone, who got the good gear, who dresses nice and stuff. And they forgot their imagination. I want kids to be kids."

The Contenders

Jasmine Bailey
Jon K.
Matthew Madonia
Diego Mosquera
T.P. Pearson
Yveka Pierre
Cierra Robinson

Jasmine Bailey

This 18-year-old psychology major faces the dual challenges of her health and her poetry with grace. Jasmine and her best friend Cierra just formed their college's first campus Poetry Club.

At an early age, Jasmine made poetry the primary outlet for her emotions and blossoming creativity. Her poems read like the well-worn pages of a personal journal—the kind a teenager her age might want to share with her loved ones. Poetry is not purely recreation for her; it's a necessity for her well-being.

Her friends at college tease: "'Why do you always have to speak poetry?'" Jasmine responds, "Poetry is my language. I speak it."

One of Jasmine's main concerns is health care. "The thing that's gonna help me make my decision toward who to vote for is health care," she says. "Because sometimes the medical system doesn't work to the patient's advantage. It's literally life and death, quality of life and everything."

Jasmine is committed to building chemistry with her Fort Lauderdale team. So whether they win or lose at Brave New Voices, they will have become a team in her eyes; and, for Jasmine, that's enough.