Mi’kmaw Woman Becomes First Aboriginal Poet Laureate of Halifax

Spoken word artist Rebecca Thomas will become the Halifax Regional Municipality’s sixth Poet Laureate. The municipality’s Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador and advocate for literacy, literature and the arts, and reflects the vitality of our community through appearances and readings of poetry at a number of civic events and other activities.

Rebecca Thomas, new Poet Laureate of Halifax. (Photo Credit: Matthew Madden)

Rebecca Thomas, new Poet Laureate of Halifax. (Photo Credit: Matthew Madden)

“We’re very pleased to appoint Ms. Thomas as our next Poet Laureate, a position which will empower her to enhance our understanding of our region’s unique cultural tapestry through her work,” said Mayor Savage.

Rebecca will serve a two-year term as the municipal Poet Laureate, which will notably coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and Canada’s 150th birthday.

Rebecca is the current Halifax Poetry Slam Master and also works as Coordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at the Nova Scotia Community College. Coming from an Indigenous background whose family has been greatly impacted by residential schools, Ms. Thomas has come to recognize the lack of prominence given to First Nations perspectives within the history of Halifax. As a Mi’kmaw woman, she embraces the opportunity to bring her cultural voice to the broader public discussion through the Poet Laureate position, and believes that the arts and poetry can help people heal in ways beyond traditional therapies.

“Poetry can give a voice to the voiceless. Poetry can make a powerless person feel powerful. This is why I speak,” said Ms. Thomas.

Rebecca is also an active supporter of youth engagement through poetry and the arts and has volunteered the past two years with the Halifax Youth Slam Team. Over the last several years she has organized a variety of workshops and poetry series’ with a focus on youth empowerment and diversity education.

Rebecca will officially assume the position of Poet Laureate on April 1, 2016, in time to celebrate National Poetry Month. The naming of the new Poet Laureate will also be marked in late April with a special reading at Regional Council and a public reception. The reception will celebrate the legacy of the outgoing Poet Laureate, El Jones, and introduce Rebecca and her work to the citizens of the municipality.