Maui Arts & Entertainment

The MACC Announces Selection of Hawai‘i’s First-Ever Youth Poet Laureate

May 23, 2021, 8:54 AM HST
* Updated May 24, 1:40 PM
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First Hawaiʻi Youth Poet Laureate, Lua Bowman. Photo by BryanBerkowitz. Courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
First Hawaiʻi Youth Poet Laureate, Lua Bowman. Photo by BryanBerkowitz. Courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center.

The Maui Arts & Cultural Center has announced that Hawai‘i’s first-ever youth poet laureate designation has been presented to Lua Bowman, a junior at O‘ahu’s Punahou School.

The announcement was made Saturday night, May 22 as part of the MACC’s Live @ the MACC streamed concert and event series. The event included performances by 11 youth poet finalists from throughout the state, appearances and performances by several special guest judges, and culminating in the announcement of the young poet selected to be the state’s first youth poet laureate.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino also made an appearance, welcoming the finalists and providing his own words of encouragement. This is the first time a youth poet laureate title has been granted to a young person in the state. The event was streamed on the MACC’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages and on Maui’s AKAKU channel 55. The event remains available for viewing on demand on the MACC’s site and social platforms.

Dr. Moira Pirsch, Education Director at the MACC says of the event, “Hawaii’s first youth poet laureate ceremony marks an important moment in history for the MACC and the state of Hawai‘i. The stories the finalist poets shared speak to the diverse identities, experiences and challenges young people face in Hawai‘i. To formally recognize these young literary artists and their stories in this way is not only shining a spotlight for the world to see but also telling other young poets that your voice matters and there are people, institutions and governments that will listen to what you have to say. At the MACC, it is our hope that programs like this continue to support lifting the voices of young people to support leadership and civic development among them.”

This year, MACC’s Education Department has been working with teachers and students statewide to encourage and prepare them for this opportunity. Finalist participants in this program ranged in age from ten to eighteen. The event’s top five finalists, in addition to Ms. Bowman, were Shea Noland, Lyric Kensington Ono, Rachel Waggoner, and Harley Wolters, all students of O‘ahu’s Punahou School.

Hawaiʻi Youth Poet Laureate Finalist, Annabella Charles of Ha‘ikū Elementary on Maui and her mother Heather DePee. Photo by Bryan Berkowitz. Courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
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Additional youth poets who had qualified as finalists are Anabella Charles of Ha‘ikū Elementary on Maui, Mika Hiroi, Julia Leong, and Miya Peterson of O‘ahu’s Punahou School, Eliana Pimentel of the Hawai‘i Technology Academy on Kaua‘i, and Korion Williams of O‘ahu’s Stevenson Middle School.

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The development of a Hawai`i youth poet laureate program at the MACC is the first collaboration between an arts organization and Urban Word, an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization. Urban Word 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. In 2008, Urban Word established the Youth Poet Laureate Program which identifies and celebrates young poets who exhibit a commitment to artistic excellence, civic engagement, youth leadership and social justice.

Special guests and judges for the event, offering performances and some mentoring messages to the finalists, were Meera Dasgupta, current U.S. Youth Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, current U.S. Adult Poet Laureate, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Maui-born poet and professor at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Dr. Camea Davis, Director of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program.

Emcees of the event were Travis Kaululā‘au Thompson and Ittai Wong. 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. Ittai Wong is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and educator, a published poet and two-time international grand slam champion, featured on the HBO documentary series, Brave New Voices.

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As the state’s most comprehensive nonprofit multi-disciplinary arts facility, more than 5 million adults and children have been served by The MACC’s activities since 1994. Maui Arts & Cultural Center has developed a statewide and national identity through its performing arts, visual arts and arts education programs. As an educational resource, Maui Arts & Cultural Center serves all ages from pre-school to adults, enhancing arts education in schools as well as professional development for classroom teachers.

Based on significant research that arts education is vital for every child, the MACC works closely with national and local teaching artists to develop arts integration curriculum, which meets common core standards. Research shows that arts integration prepares students for the future by developing valuable life skills: collaboration, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and communication.

In 1995, the MACC partnered with the Hawai‘i Department of Education, Maui District to become Hawaii’s first recognized team affiliated with the prestigious national network, Partners in Education, a program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The MACC/DOE, Maui District partnership team continues to date, and is recognized as one of the most advanced of the 110 teams in 40 states. Maui Arts & Cultural Center is also part of the statewide coalition of organizations known as ARTS FIRST Partners of Hawai‘i, which is dedicated to insuring that every child in Hawai‘i receives an arts education.

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