THE BLOG

Why I Am Championing A 17-Year-Old Star as the next Poet Laureate for Toronto

08/12/2015 05:13 EDT | Updated 08/12/2016 05:59 EDT

As former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, once reflected: "A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed to death." For the past 15 years, the UN, has noted August 12th, today, as the International Youth day.

It is an important day.

The reality is, a society that engages young people and embrace them as the real agent of change, is the society that ultimately wins. The engagement of passionate, talented and smart young people in our society is important. In a multicultural society such as ours, that voice, especially from cultural and immigrant communities, is needed more than ever. I hope Toronto is such a place -- a progressive, open and modern society.

I cannot think of anyone who has the capability to be, and bring much youthful vigor, excitement and passion, to a position that will soon be vacant -- the position of poet laureate for the City of Toronto -- than Maymuna Mohamed.

It is important and vital she becomes empowered enough to be a spokesperson of her generation.

The York university student and soon-to-be 18-year-old is a native of Somalia. She is a noted and talented spoken word artist like no other. She also mentors young people. What more can we ever want from a model young citizen?

Her mentor and manager, the talented artist Patrick de Belen, describes her style as "contumacious narratives she stashes in her journal -- her spoken word poetry has transformed from stories about the life of a young, black Muslim woman to the ultimate form of rebellion".

She has won the city-wide poetry slam part of the Poetry Saved our Lives Project, and opened for The Roots at Nathan Philips Square for Panamania 2015. She has always been a crowd favorite. In many venues around the GTA, large and small, she has used her talent to engage with young people, empower them to raise their voices for better ideals in society and become better citizens themselves.

In 2001 -- when the position of poet laureate was created in Toronto, it was envisioned to be that of a literary ambassador who advocates for poetry, language and the arts. So far, four accomplished artists have occupied the title and brought signature contributions to it.

From children's writer, Dennis Lee, the award winning Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, the noted essayist Dionne Brand and my favorite, George Elliott Clarke, each one has brought much needed energy to it while contributing to the fabric of our citizenship.

Maymuna Mohamed will bring unique talentsto the position.

By empowering her to be an important voice -- in a city whose motto is "Diversity Our Strength" -- we will be welcoming an ideal society that embraces partnership with young people to adequately serve them to be real leaders while allowing our collective ideals to be that of an inclusive society.

This is precisely why I am championing Maymuna Mohamed, to be the fifth Poet Laureate for the City of Toronto. She will be an exceptional ambassador of our great city.