Indigenous spoken word artist Kealoha challenges audiences to enact social change. Photo by Ronen Zilberman.
Indigenous spoken word artist Kealoha challenges audiences to enact social change. Photo by Ronen Zilberman.

Hawaii’s first official poet laureate Kealoha comes to the Chan Centre at the University of British Columbia on October 3 as part of its Beyond Words series.

Here are five reasons we think you should go:

1. Power of the spoken word

Using the power of spoken word and movement, Kealoha’s multidisciplinary work explores social and universal themes from personal and philosophical stories.

3. Founder of largest poetry slam

Kealoha founded HawaiiSlam’s First Thursdays, which is now the largest registered poetry slam in the world with a regular average attendance of 500.

4. A prolific career

Kealoha was featured in HBO’s documentary series about youth slam poets Brave New Voices, and has appeared on PBS and National Public Radio. He has organized more than 200 workshops across Hawaii’s schools, libraries, and community centres. He has shared the stage with music icons Willie Nelson, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, and CeeLo Green, and has performed from the White House to the legendary Green Mill in Chicago. He was also a featured vocalist for Henry Kapono’s Grammy-nominated album Wild Hawaiian Experience.

5. A long journey to spoken word

Kealoha came to the genre of spoken word through a circuitous route. He went to MIT, studied environmental energy technology, and worked at a federal think tank in Washington DC. He then moved to San Francisco to work as a management consultant, where he came across a slam poetry event. Immediately falling in love with spoken word, he has called it the perfect combination of thinking, writing, and theatre.

5. Local slam poets perform

With Vancouver’s own thriving slam poetry scene, the evening will open with performances from five local slam poets: Ivan Leonce, mitcholos touchie, Valeen Jules, Anjalica Solomon, and Santiago Ureña. Bringing their diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives to the art form, each will perform a short five-minute set before Kealoha takes to the stage.