“This is excellent writing! This is what you ALL should aspire towards. Christina, I’ve made 25 copies for the class. Please stand and read clearly,” my favorite 11th grade English teacher smiled. The paper shook and my voice trembled as I read my essay about a runaway slave. As though I were sprinting, I began to sweat profusely and got slightly breathless as my heart raced like the black man I imagined running through the night. From that day on my love of writing and reciting grew. Later in life I began writing poetry daily. As time passed, friends and family suggested I get on stage. Though often shy and quiet, I accepted the challenge. I touched the mic, felt the spotlight, heard the hush of the crowd, felt the rush of adrenaline and I was hooked. I recited at open mic shows, protests, rallies, banquets, weddings…you name it. Eventually, my 1st book, “Flow, Motion & Self Expression” was published. I wanted to test my hand as a salesman and also compete in poetry slams. I found my way to NYC. The Nuyorican Poets Café embraced me with open arms. The crowd was more diverse than any I had ever seen before. I quietly stepped on stage and boldly stated, “This poem is called ‘Figurative Bitch Slap.” Instant roars of laughter rang through the audience. Four pages felt like an eternity under the bright lights. I read fast. A weight lifted from my chest as I expressed and released anger. My voice dominated the crowd. My hands stopped shaking just as I finished the poem. I looked up and everyone was standing, clapping, cheering, whistling and screaming. I got my 1st standing ovation at 21! Two older Italian men in the front row slapped me five. Over a decade later I still love word play. I came in 1st place in the 1st round yet came in 2nd place in the finals. I went to New York with no money and sold my 1st book that night for ten bucks! I walked away wealthy.