By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Scarborough’s Randell Adjei is Ontario’s first Poet Laureate, and he hopes to inspire young poets and artists in communities across the province.
Legislators of all parties passed a private member’s bill from Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP Percy Hatfield to appoint Adjei as the province’s first Poet Laureate. The bill followed a move to memorialize The Tragically Hip frontman the late Gord Downie, who died in 2017.
“I welcome Randell Adjei as Ontario’s first Poet Laureate,” Hatfield said. “As Gord Downie wrote, ‘It’s been a long time running, and it’s a long time in coming, it’s well worth the wait’.”
In his new role, the renowned spoken word artist, poet, motivational speaker, and coach, Adjei will serve as a legislative officer in a two-year term. When public health restrictions are lifted, he will travel across the province to increase the profile and exposure of Ontario’s poets, participate in poetry readings, and organize and administer educational workshops.
Adjei serves as executive and creative director of R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) Edutainment. It’s an organization that empowers BIPOC youth in the Greater Toronto Area to promote meaningful art in self-expression.
“There’s a stigma around being an artist that doesn’t encourage a lot of young folks to pursue their passions,” Adjei told the Beach Metro News. “If you’re given a gift it’s on you to push it forward.”
“For me I hope this can be an opportunity for young people to see their potential and pursue their goals despite adversity,” he added.
Adjei’s an inspirational speaker, working in three major school boards in the GTA to incorporate a growth mindset and arts introspection into the school curriculum.
He served as lead consultant in the development of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy in 2015, the same year he was nominated CBC’s Torontonian of the Year.
In 2017, he received NOW Magazine’s Local Hero Award, and in November 2018 he released his first book entitled I Am Not My Struggles, a collection of poetry highlighting the transformation of pain to power.
“Randell Adjei is a great communicator and will excite and motivate audiences in all corners of the province with his enthusiasm for the written and spoken word,” Hatfield said.
Adjei credits Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter for encouraging him to apply for the position.
“I’m really looking forward to advocating for arts and poetry across the province,” Adjei said. “I want to connect with different ministers to see what it could look like for poetry to be more woven into the curriculum from more educational and cultural standpoints.”
He wants to create a map of poetry events across the province after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, hoping to profile a lot of “pioneers in poetry, and people who’ve paved a path for me.”
Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.