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Mission and Vision


Pacific Tongues is a nonprofit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community of writers, spoken word performers, leaders, educators and students of all ages.

Our commitment is to honor the practice of kuleana through creative workshops, public events and pedagogical development.

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Mission and Vision


Pacific Tongues is a nonprofit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community of writers, spoken word performers, leaders, educators and students of all ages.

Our commitment is to honor the practice of kuleana through creative workshops, public events and pedagogical development.

Origin

O'ahu, 2005-- It began with a program called Youth Speaks Hawai'i.  Eventually, Youth Speaks Hawai'i was a banner too small to represent the Pacific. Pacific Tongues emerged, creating a cross-cultural exchange of Pacific voices through performances, spoken arts education, community engagement and youth development.  In addition to local and regional stages, Pacific Tongues provides an educational practice accessible for classrooms.  While based in Hawai'i, Pacific Tongues also has partners in Guahan, Palau and Aotearoa. 

Mission

Provide a safe and central location in the Hawaiian Islands to facilitate a cross-cultural exchange within Pacific influenced populations through spoken arts education.

Vision

Pacific Tongues is a non-profit organization that cultivates an active artistic Oceanic community of writers, spoken word performers, leaders, educators and students of all ages. Our commitment is to honor the practice of kuleana through creative workshops, public events and pedagogical development.

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Our Family


Our crew is filled with highly dedicated educators, spoken word poets, musicians and community organizers. With the intention to facilitate an opportunity for youth to lead our movement, the young voices are integrated into the decision making for our organization. It started with grassroots-- organizing a vision to increase the number of young voices in Hawaiʻi. With spoken arts as the tool, we continue the practice of orature used by Pacific Islanders.

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Our Family


Our crew is filled with highly dedicated educators, spoken word poets, musicians and community organizers. With the intention to facilitate an opportunity for youth to lead our movement, the young voices are integrated into the decision making for our organization. It started with grassroots-- organizing a vision to increase the number of young voices in Hawaiʻi. With spoken arts as the tool, we continue the practice of orature used by Pacific Islanders.

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Lyz Soto

Lyz Soto is Co-founder of Pacific Tongues and between 2008 and 2012 she was the Executive Director of Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi. She has worked as the head coach of the Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi Slam Team from 2008 until 2012 and she is currently working towards a PhD at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she also teaches English. She has performed in Hawaiʻi and across the continental United States. She has also had the honor of traveling with Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi alumni to Aotearoa, where she had the great pleasure of performing with the South Auckland Poets Collective. Her chapbook, Eulogies, was published in 2010 by TinFish Press.


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Melvin Won Pat-Borja

Melvin Won Pat-Borja is a spoken word poet, slam poet and hip hop artist.  Spoken word poetry is performance-based poetry that is presented as a narration, as if the poet were engaged in a conversation. Won Pat-Borja recites originally composed poetry with a rhythmic presentation, akin to hip hop style. Unlike rapping, however, spoken word poetry does not usually incorporate music.  Like many spoken word artists, the subject matter of his poetry reflects issues in social justice, education and identity.  Won Pat-Borja has been competing in poetry slams since 2003.


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Jason Mateo

Jason is an award winning, international recognized performer, educator and cultivator. Since 1997, heʻs facilitated spoken arts workshops in Bosnia, performed in Japan, annually interacted with 45,000+ youth from all over the world, organized a touring Pilipino Performance Poetry troupe, directed a program at UC Davis, hosted a touring urban arts competition  and is currently leading the charge with Pacific Tongues.  Jason cultivates a creative worldwide community to communicate through spoken arts, hip hop, and education. A co-founder of Youth Speaks, Inc., Jason introduced the youth spoken word program to three islanders who programmed Youth Speaks Hawai'i.


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William Giles

William Giles is not a player, he just writes a lot. If you ask him how he is living, he will respond "In moleskins and Bic pens, giving ends to my friends and it feels stupendous." Will is a member of the First Wave Hip Hop Theatre Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first Hip Hop scholarship and performance program to be funded by a university. He was also a member of the 2008 Youth Speaks Hawaii Brave New Voices championship team.

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Culture Keepers


The Culture Keepers are a volunteer group of youth that coordinate events and pursue other objectives.

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Culture Keepers


The Culture Keepers are a volunteer group of youth that coordinate events and pursue other objectives.

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Malialina Derden

Outreach Intern

Malialina Derden is a senior at Farrington High School and the president of the FHS Poetry Club. In 2011 and 2013 her poetry club took first place in Youth Speaks Hawaii's Interscholastic poetry slam. She enjoys working with all kinds of people. Malialina is now an intern for Hawaii Women in Filmmaking, a four year ally in her schools Gay- Straight Alliance, and a volunteer for the Mr. Sister Drag Show. She believes that there is nothing more important then connecting with the people who are around you. She hopes to continue meeting new people, hearing their stories, and developing connections that will last a life time.

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Joanna Gordon

Culture Keeper

Joanna Gordon is a poet that dwells in the reformed swamplands of Hawaii Kai as a graduate of Kaiser High School and studies English at the UH Manoa. She has competed as a poet in various Pacific Tongues events and coached the Kaiser team in the 7th Annual Interscholastic Poetry Slam. She is a member of the First Wave Hip Hop Theatre Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin, and co-wrote and performed in a collaborative production called “Welcome Mat at Capacity” at First Wave’s annual LineBreaks festival. Since returning home, Joanna has used her writing to engage the many voices of women she has encountered-- to heal, relate, and shed light upon the expectations and stereotypes bestowed upon women.


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Kamalei Hee

Communications Intern

Kamalei Hee is a Kaimuki High School graduate and a junior at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. In addition to her work with the Culture Keepers, Kamalei is a Street Team Member of the BAMP Project. She is also a wrestling coach!

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Faith Pascua

Education Intern

Faith Pascua was the 2010 Youth Speaks Hawai'i Grand Slam Champion. She has competed in the International Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, representing Hawai'i twice (2010 & 2012). She is currently getting her Associate of Arts in Teaching from Leeward Community College, and she acts as the current Poet Facilitator/Mentor for Waipahu High School's Slam Poetry team.


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Serena Simmons

Artistic Ambassador

Hailing from Waikiki, Serena Ngaio Simmons has been actively participating in the spoken word community for about six years now. She has competed in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival, with a group of five other youths, representing Hawai'i in 2011 and 2012. Serena graduated in 2011 from Kaimuki High School and is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Serena hopes to see more young women and men finding their voices in the future through programs like Pacific Tongues and many, many books.

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Poet Facilitators


Poet Facilitators are artist educators committed to encouraging student participation in the learning process through the use of spoken word poetry as an engaging teaching tool. All Poet Facilitators are practicing artists who have received professional training in pedagogical practices and poetic development. Poet facilitators are certified by Pacific Tongues after completing a rigorous course of training.

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Poet Facilitators


Poet Facilitators are artist educators committed to encouraging student participation in the learning process through the use of spoken word poetry as an engaging teaching tool. All Poet Facilitators are practicing artists who have received professional training in pedagogical practices and poetic development. Poet facilitators are certified by Pacific Tongues after completing a rigorous course of training.

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Travis Thompson

Poet Facilitator

Travis Thompson cofounded Youth Speaks Hawai'i, Words at Ward Rafters, re:VERSES Poetry Collective and the HI Poets Society. He is a former cohost of Hawaii Theatre Slam, the 2007 HI-Slam Grand Slam Champ, the 2003 Red Shark Slam Jam People's Choice Award winner, a 7-time HI-Slam team member, a 2-time UH Manoa slam team member. He has performed in venues across the country, taught numerous poetry workshops across and helped coach both international and state championship winning slam teams from 2005-2012.

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David Keali'i

Poet Facilitator

David Keali‘i is a queer poet of mixed Kanaka Maoli descent who was born and raised in Western Massachusetts. A poet, whose work has appeared in Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poetry in English (Whetu Moana, Volume II), and Assaracus: a Journal of Gay Poetry. He was also a member of the 2009 Worcester Poetry Slam and is a graduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi at  Mānoa's Center for Pacific Islands Studies.


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Navid Najafi

Poet Facilitator

Navid Najafi is a founding member of local conscious rap collective the Super Groupers and a two-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner — he took home trophies for Hip-Hop Album of the Year in 2012 (for his solo album “Illnomadic”) and 2013 (for “Live From Soul Sound” as part of the band Evasive Species). He also serves as an administrator for the Honolulu Museum of Art’s “Soundshop” interactive music education workshop series at Doris Duke Theatre.

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Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Poet Facilitator

Kathy Neien Jetnil-Kijiner is from the Marshall Islands and graduated from Mills College with a BA in English. She is a poet, writer, performance artist, and journalist and has performed in the Marshall Islands, the United States, and England. Kathy is interested in learning from the oral historians that came before her and furthering her writing based on Marshallese legends in order to encourage other Marshallese to write and publish.


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Jocelyn Ng

Poet Facilitator

Jocelyn Ng is a Hawai'i based poet, public school educator, and poetry facilitator. She has been a member of seven national slam teams. She is a 2x Brave New Voices Champion, a 2011 CUPSI 'Best of the Rest' performer, and was a member of the 2013 InkSlam Championship team in Los Angeles. As a graduate from the University of San Francisco with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, she has conducted poetry workshops throughout schools in California and Hawai'i.

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Harrison Ines

Poet Facilitator

Harrison Ines is a Brave New Voices International Youth Slam Poetry Festival champion, a three-time member of the Youth Speaks Hawai’i travel team, a HawaiiSlam Grand Slam Finalist, and in 2009, he led his alma mater Farrington High School to their first Hawai’i Interscholastic Poetry Slam Championship. With a mixture of raw emotion and honest power, Harrison’s poetry brought both Youth Speaks founder James Kass and performing artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph to tears in his first year competing at Brave New Voices. Since then, he has wowed audiences with his balance of humor and pain, love and longing, darkness and hope.