Patrick de Belen will perform his poetry at Pan Am Games closing ceremony

Richmond Hill spoken word artist incites kids to own their voice


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Patrick de Belen

In a refreshing departure from the norm of our culture, award-winning spoken word artist Patrick de Belen will be opening for the Roots at the final ceremony of the Pan Am Games this month. 

Spoken word poetry, de Belen explains, involves two steps: getting things off your chest and sharing it out loud. The theme of his work: “apathy is boring,” he said. 

Since 2009, the youth mentor and arts educator has visited about 100 schools (including his alma mater Richmond Green Secondary School) to hold spoken word poetry workshops for students in Grades 1 to 12. 

Whether it’s a period or a full day with them, de Belen hears about taboo human experiences each time: a boy writing to his absent father, an ESL student coming out of the closet (she later started her school’s first LGBTQ alliance). “Instead of sitting in your ivory tower writing these beautiful little poems, you have to be on the front lines and own your story,” he said. 

The 2014 Harris Institute grad also competes regularly in spoken word poetry slams. In 2012, he was the youngest Canadian spoken word poet to hold the National Championship title at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, in Saskatoon, which helped to put him on the radar of schools. 

At 23, his spoken word poetry career has taken him to classrooms from Montreal and Vancouver to New York and North Carolina. 

de Belen hopes to mobilize youth to live the life they want and to be who they want to be. “Get out and care about something,” he said. 

“Own your voice.”

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