May 12, 2022

Edmonds Center for the Arts will present the We Speak poetry festival on January 27

Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA) will present the second annual WE SPEAK festival on January 27 – a celebration of spoken word poetry featuring critically acclaimed artists alongside young local talent. As a hybrid in-person/virtual event in 2022, the festival features acclaimed poet Steve Connell in collaboration with inflection pioneer Drew Dollaz and violinist Daniel Bernard Romain, Ivan Coyote, Kealoha and Seattle poet Chelsey Richardson with jazz trumpeter Owuor Arunga.

The emcee is Richard Taylor, Jr, a mental health expert, speaker and author.

This year’s WE SPEAK festival is centered around the theme of ‘connection’. After the past two years, how can we connect – and heal – as a community? Where do we see love and resilience, and how can we move forward after trauma? According to an ECA announcement:

Through performance, WE SPEAK artists address topics including (but not limited to) the global health crisis, Black Lives Matter and the racial justice movement, as well as the experiences of disabled, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities. Their voices call for action, understanding and, ultimately, hope.

As this is a hybrid event, non-local artists will appear via video submission, while local artists Chelsey Richardson and Owuor Arunga – along with finalist students from the Youth Poetry Slam Competition – will perform live on stage at the ECA.

Tickets for the live event are sold through ECA partner Mandolin. When you click on the Buy Tickets link, you will be redirected to the Mandolin site.

The live event will be available for replay 72 hours after the performance.

Note that submissions by students and professional artists to the WE SPEAK Festival may contain adult or explicit language.

Performers include:

Steve Connell, a transformative actor, poet, thought leader and artist whose work has been seen on ABC, HBO, MTV and performed live at Sundance, the Kennedy Center and the White House.

Drew Dollaz, a pioneer of flexing, a Brooklyn-based genre of street dance also called bone breaking, which is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movements. Her performances on Madonna’s 2012 MDNA tour marked the flex’s first appearance on the world stage.

Daniel Bernard Romain, A composer, performer, educator and activist, his work spans over two decades. He is known for his signature violin sounds infused with a myriad of electronic, urban and African-American musical influences.

Ivan Coyote, a writer and storyteller who was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Coyote’s stories tackle the complex and intensely personal topics of gender identity, family, class, and queer liberation, but always with a generous heart and sharp wit.

Kealoha, Hawaii’s first Poet Laureate. As an internationally renowned poet and storyteller, he has performed all over the world, from the White House to the Iolani Palace, from Brazil to Switzerland.

Chelsey Richardson is a mother, teacher and poet. In October 2007, she had the honor of winning The Gwendolyn Brooks PoetrySlam at Chicago State University and also earned a three-time spot on the First Women’s National PoetrySlam team stage to compete against some of the most great female poets of Seattle.

Owuor Arunga is a jazz trumpeter who started out as a member of the Garfield High School Jazz Band. He moved to New York in the early 2000s, where he studied in the New School’s Jazz & Contemporary Music program. He has since performed in the United States and around the world.


All ECA clients, regardless of age, will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test (taken within 72 hours of performance). Masks are mandatory for

In addition to providing proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test, guests 18 or older must present government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Guests under the age of 18 may present government-issued photo ID or school photo ID as an alternative. Guests under the age of 18 who do not have government-issued ID or school photo ID may only attend performances accompanied by an adult who provides the ID identification and vaccination documentation required for themselves and may also provide documentation for the minor’s test results or vaccination. verification.