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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.


William Giles

Will Giles is a Kundiman Fellowship recipient and a former International Youth Poetry Slam Champion who studied with the First Wave program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been involved with Youth Speaks Hawaii/Pacific Tongues since 2007 and has performed and facilitated workshops across the Pacific, the United States, and Europe. He writes about people, the things that bring them together, and the ways we take ourselves apart. .

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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

TravisT (Travis Kaulula'au Thompson): Co-Founder, since 2005.
As a Pacific Islander, scholar, worker, activist, poet, mentor, and
organizer with over 15 years of experience in the Honolulu spoken word
poetry community, TravisT is also a co-founder of the award-winning
local youth literacy non-profit known as Youth Speaks Hawaii (as seen
on HBO).
As a poet He is an eight time member of the HI-slam team; the 2007
HI-slam Champ, the 2003 Red Shark Slam Jam People's Champ; and has
performed his poetry on dozens of stages across the nation. He's been
featured on NPR, WBAI, Pacifica, HPR, KTUH, & Olelo TV. He released a
cd "The TrapperKeeperT Files" in 2007 & authored two chapbooks
"Serving LIFE SENTENCES" (2003), & "the Politics of Lips" (2004).
As an activist, mentor and organizer he co-founded Youth Speaks Hawaii
in 2005; co-hosted "Words @ Ward Rafters", "re:VERSES", "2nd
Saturdays", the "Hawaii Theatre Slam"; taught Creative Writing at
Palama Settlement's ICTP and the Kapolei Juvenile Detention Center;
and has has visited countless classrooms across O'ahu.
He is currently pursuing his MA in Pacific Island Studies at UH Manoa,
and is a part-time raw-vegan chef.

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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.

Lee Kava

Poet Facilitator

Lee Kava is a hafekasi musician of Tongan descent, currently dreaming/scheming about how she might produce an album and make it an acceptable form of completing her PhD in English at UH Mānoa. She is the founder of the Pacific Verse, a music-writing workshop series that works with participants to create original lyrics and music using indigenous Pacific languages. She dedicates her work to the genealogy of creative expression in Oceania, and hopes to make positive social change through Pacific music and poetry.

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Serena Simmons

Poet facilitator

Serena Ngaio Simmons is a writer of Maori and Pakeha descent born and raised on the island of O’ahu and is currently an undergraduate in the English department at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where she spends the majority of her time these days reading and writing. Serena is a former member of the 2011 and 2012 Youth Speaks Hawai’i slam team that competed at the Brave New Voices international youth spoken word competition, and has had her poems published in issue 36 of Blackmail Press, the “Call & Response” issue of Hawai’i Review, as wellas Hawai’i Review's forthcoming issue, "Muliwai". 

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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.

Jenna Robinson

Poet Facilitator

"As the descendent of back-porch storytellers, Jenna Robinson believes music and poetry are the perfect tools to heal from trauma and grief by empowering people to reclaim their past. Jenna works with several youth based organizations to inspire the therapeutic nature of writing and spoken arts performance: with foster youth as a mentor with Family Programs Hawaii, with youth bereavement groups at the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, and with adjudicated youth through Girls Court at the Hawaii State Judiciary. She has performed across the U.S. as a street musician and as a part of several national slam poetry teams (Hawaii Slam 2012, 2014, 2015 & UH CUPSI 2013). She is also the reigning two-time grand slam champion of Hawaii Slam. Jenna holds a B.A. in History and Ethnic Studies from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Her poetry performances and workshops are centered on cultural and queer identity, grief, trauma informed care, historical re-education, and community building."

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Ashley Nakanishi-Shankles

Poet Facilitator

Ashley Nakanishi-Shankles steadily reps Uchinaa pride and has come a long way from the Okinawan islands. She is a working mother, actress, student and poet. She currently facilitates poetry workshops in detention centers, transitional housing for DVAC survivors and the occasional high school. Shankles is pursuing her masters in post-secondary education blending history, sociology and creative writing to focus on the human diaspora, de colonizing the mind, and the pursuit of equality through love and education.