Last week, HawaiiSlam placed in the top 5 of 72 teams at the National Poetry Slam, validating both my own writing and the approach to coaching and mentoring I've developed slowly over these last five years with the help of my mentors, students and friends. Our overarching strategy was to honor the stories of our island and peoples and carry our family with us along the way. We will continue this tradition because it is the surest path to success, even when a competition provides distractions and motivations to compromise our vision. It was an honor to work with Jenna Robinson, Tui Scanlan, William Giles and Sam Skeist as teammates and to further synergize with my brother and co-coach Will.
When I walked into a Youth Speaks Hawai'i writing workshop with Darron Cambra in September 2009, I did not consider myself a poet or a writer. Now, I've been integrated into an enormous network of love and support, and I refuse to take these opportunities for granted or deny them to the next generation of poets in my state. I leave Honolulu in one week for Harvard. While I lay the groundwork for what is to come, I will honor the stories of my island and peoples and carry my family along my path. I have to.