ATLANTA -- On March 22, Amari Parham joined 14 other finalists for the Atlanta Hawks "I Was Born This Way" Poetry Slam competition at the Hard Rock Cafe in Atlanta.
When the Parkview High School student took the stage, she started her poem "My Voice," and the room stayed quiet as Parham signed the words while projecting the poem on a screen next to her.
But Parham isn't deaf -- or even hearing impaired. In fact, she has perfect hearing.
"I was curious of what the judges would think when they found out I was not deaf," she said. "My inspiration for this poem came from the show 'Switched at Birth.' The impact of the show motivated me to create a poem in the perspective of a deaf person. Of course, I will never understand completely what it feels like to be deaf, but I do have sympathy for those who are."
At the end of the event, the Lilburn resident learned that she had won fourth place, which left her with sense of achievement from the day.
"Although I did not win one of the top three prizes, I won the satisfaction of almost moving the crowd to tears," Parham said. "That, in itself, is a prize for me. The Poetry Slam is a wonderful program that reaches out to the community and inspires young people, like myself, all around Atlanta. I am glad that I participated and I am looking forward to it next year."
This year's judges were Atlanta Hawks Guard Willie Green, Coordinator of Library Media Services, Fine Arts and Literacy Support for the Georgia Department of Education Judy Serritella, Atlanta-based writer Devika Rao, and principal of Carrollton Middle School North, Trent North.
"The Atlanta Hawks are incredibly proud of each and every student who shared their stories with us," said Bob Williams, president of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. "This year's Poetry Slam was a tremendous success, with the largest number of entries to date, and we look forward to continuing to grow students' love of reading and education and honoring young poet's around Atlanta for years to come."