2023, Senior, Poetry & Spoken Word
Climate Hero: Terisa Siagatonu
I was inspired to write about Terisa Siagatonu after remembering one of her poems that I read a few years ago, “Atlas.” In it, she talks about the frequent erasure of island nations and the Pacific Islander community (specifically, American Samoa, a U.S. territory) in their fight against climate change and the legacy of colonization. As someone who enjoys reading and writing poetry as well, I admired how Terisa used her talent to bring awareness of the danger her home faces from sea level rise: she spoke at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference and received the Champion of Change Award from President Obama in 2012. She also discusses climate change and her heritage in other published poems, speeches, interviews, and workshops she holds. To write my poem, I read about Terisa's work, researched about Samoa's (both American Samoa and Western Samoa) history and climate projections, and looked into vegetation, language, and culture native to Samoa. My goal was to emulate Terisa – not only in form, for which I was inspired by her poem "Moana Means Home: A Contrapuntal," but also in theme and lyricism. I wrote about the commercialization of threatened land, marginalization in the climate fight, oil pollution, and overfishing, but also the power of words. I hope that, like Terisa, my voice can join the thousands fighting for a safer future.