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Marshalls poet will be keynote speaker at Humanities Council event

NORTHERN Marians Humanities Council Chairman Frankie Eliptico announced on Wednesday that Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner will be the keynote speaker for the council’s 25th anniversary gala fundraiser on Oct. 28, 2016 at the Pacific Islands Club.

Jetnil-Kijiner is a Marshallese poet, writer, performance artist and climate activist. She is the co-founder of Jo-Jikum, an environmental non-profit organization in the Marshall Islands and she teaches Pacific Studies at the College of the Marshall Islands.

Northern Marianas Humanities Council members and staff with Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Daniel Lin.  Photo by Bryan ManabatNorthern Marianas Humanities Council members and staff with Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Daniel Lin. Photo by Bryan Manabat

Jetnil-Kijiner has performed globally with organizations such as 350 Pacific, London’s Southbank Center, Poetry Parnassus, Youthspeaks Hawaii, UC Berkeley’s Poetry for the People, Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and the Pacific Islander collective, One Love Oceania.

She is the daughter of Hilda Cathy Heine, the current and first female president of the Marshall Islands.

When asked what compelled her to be a climate-change activist on the global stage, Jetnil-Kijiner said her mother influenced her.

In 2014, she was selected to address the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. At the summit, she performed a poem she wrote for her daughter titled “Dear Matafele Peinem” and it was followed by a standing ovation from the audience.

She recently attended the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s annual summit on Guam which is also hosting the Festival of the Pacific Arts.

“Thank you so much for having me,” she told the Northern Marians Humanities Council officials during a media conference on Wednesday.

“I’m really happy to be here. It was supposed to be just like a Skype conference workshop and it is really cool that the organizers managed to bring me here. I’ve never been to Saipan. It reminds me of home with a little difference here and there.”

Also on Wednesday, she facilitated the Humanities Council-sponsored poetry workshop at Northern Marianas College from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The workshop aimed to teach young people to use media and storytelling as tools for raising awareness about important local, regional and global issues.

“We are hoping that this becomes a model for continuing workshops,” Jetnil-Kijiner said, “so we can continue to teach our youth how to use writing as a mode of storytelling, as a mode of raising awareness and as a mode of social awareness against social injustices.”

She wants to see more Micronesian students tell their own stories.

“They can shed light on stories that aren’t really seen in the Western media. How many poets and writers do we have that are really from Micronesia? There aren’t many. But starting with this simple workshop we are hoping that it can grow into a regular sort of conversation between poets and teachers.”

With Jetnil-Kijiner was photographer Daniel Lin, who said he is on a life-long journey to discover what it truly means to be a citizen of the world.

His love for travel and photojournalism has led him on extensive visits to the Pacific Islands and Asia while working on issues pertaining to climate change, culture and youth.

Lin is also a regular contributor to National Geographic and the Associated Press. He resides in Hawaii where he is the senior research and policy specialist for Pacific Resources for Education and Learning.

During the poetry workshop, the 40-plus participants created poems that touched on immigration, tourism, culture, capitalism, globalization and the role of each citizen in global conservation.

For more information about the Northern Marianas Humanities Council 25th anniversary gala fundraising event, call 235-4785 or go to