Updated: November 28, 2023
The Maui Arts & Cultural Center presents Hawaiʻi’s third youth poet laureate presentations on Friday, April 28, to be livestreamed from the MACC’s Castle Theater beginning at 10 a.m. on the MACC’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The event will include performances by the five Hawaiʻi youth poet finalists, appearances and performances by several special guests, the four National Youth Poet Laureate finalists and culminating in the announcement of the young poet selected to be the state’s third youth poet laureate. This event again marks a special local-national partnership between the MACC and Urban Word.
Founded in 2008 by Urban Word, the National Youth Poet Laureate Program identifies and celebrates teen poets who exhibit a commitment to artistic excellence, civic engagement, youth leadership and social justice.
The live event will take place before an invited audience of Maui students in the MACC’s Castle Theater.
“The powerful student poets that make up the Youth Poet Laureate Program use their stories to thoughtfully guide us toward a future where diverse identities are honored, challenges in society are addressed and a new, more equitable, world is possible,” said MACC Education Director Dr. Moira Pirsch. “The third year of this program has shown us that more young people, teachers, schools and communities are eager to support the voices of the young people and we are grateful this platform will amplify often under heard stories of the young people of Hawaiʻi.”
The MACC’s Education Department has spent the past several months working with dozens of teachers and over 1,000 students statewide to encourage and prepare them for this opportunity.
Finalist participants in this program range in age from 10 to 19. Youth poets were chosen through a multi-faceted judging process that placed value on both the quality of their artistic work and the strength of their civic engagement within their communities. For the National Competition, youth poet laureates were decided among over 70 partners and the four regional winners appearing in the MACC livestream were selected last fall.
The significance and impact of a poet laureate was brought to dramatic life when the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, spoke during President Biden’s inauguration, and in 2021 when Hawaiʻi’s first Youth Poet laureate, Lua Bowman, and last year, Kalehua Fung shared their strong, poetic voices to our community.
For this Hawaiʻi youth poet laureate event, the MACC collaborated with Urban Word, an award winning youth literary arts and youth development organization that initiated the National Youth Poet Laureate Program. The organization collaborates with local youth literary arts organizations across the country to provide uncensored platforms for youth voice. It is championed by the leading national literary organizations, including the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Foundation, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Special guests for the MACC event, offering performances and some mentoring messages to the finalists, are Kalehua Fung, Hawaiʻi’s second Youth Poet Laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Hawaiʻi’s current State Poet Laureate and Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word and the founder the National Youth Poet Laureate Program.
Emcees of the event are Travis Kaululā‘au Thompson and Dr. Camea Davis. Born and raised in Kalihi, Oʻahu, Travis T. is a nationally ranked slam poet, spoken word artist, educator, and professional teaching artist for the MACC. Dr. Camea Davis is the Director of the Youth Poet Laureate Program and is a poet, educator and researcher at Georgia State University.
This program is funded by the support of the County of Maui, Office of Economic Development, a grant from the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.