Cathy Nguyen, youth activist and poet, has been announced as Tacoma’s 2015-2017 Poet Laureate. An artist who works at the grassroots-level for social justice issues, Nguyen will take up her post at a free public poetry event May 1 at B Sharp Coffee House, where former laureates will perform work, joined by local musicians.
Organized by the Tacoma Arts Commission, the laureate program has been in place since 2008. Laureates spend two years promoting the literary arts in Tacoma, organizing and hosting readings, workshops and other community events.
Nguyen, 24, who has lived in Tacoma since 2010, calls herself an “artivist” and uses poetry to promote social justice, creating teen poetry/hip-hop program “The Riot” at the STAR Center in 2012 and working with gay and lesbian youth and young adults at Oasis Youth Center. She is also a teen support group facilitator at BRIDGES, a center for grieving youth and their families, and an organizer of Tacoma Stands Up, a peaceful grassroots initiative against police brutality.
“The Poet Laureate is an artist and activist who works both to amplify the literary voices of underrepresented community members and to enhance the shared written and oral narratives of the Tacoma community,” said Nguyen in a news release. “It’s necessary to me that social justice and equity are at the center of all that I do and create which, in the community context, means raising social consciousness, building civic advocacy, and engaging community members in shared learning and teaching through poetry and other forms of creative expression.”
Nguyen will formally take up her position at a free public poetry and music event featuring past laureates Lucas Smiraldo, Josie Emmons Turner, Tammy Robacker, Antonio Edwards Jr. and William Kupinse, joined by musicians Terry O’Hara and Bronson Bragg, and vocalist Kathryn Burke singing compositions by Gregory Youtz.