- First Poet Laureate of Hawaii and named one of the top ten nation’s best poets
- Internationally-acclaimed storyteller who has performed all over the world
- Graduate of MIT in nuclear physics with experience in high security with the U.S. government
Travels from Oahu, Hawaii
Keynote Fee: Contact Forte Speakers
Kealoha is the first Poet Laureate of Hawai`i. As an internationally-acclaimed poet and storyteller, he has performed throughout the world — from the White House to the `Iolani Palace, from Brazil to Switzerland. He is the first poet in Hawai`i’s history to perform at a governor’s inauguration, and in 2010 he was selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program. In the 7 years that he has represented Hawai`i at the National Poetry Slam, he has performed on the finals stage 4 times, was ranked in the top ten of the nation’s best poets in 2007, and was honored as a “National Slam Legend” in 2010. He is the founder of HawaiiSlam, Youth Speaks Hawai`i (2-Time International Champions), and First Thursdays (the largest registered slam poetry competition in the world with an average attendance of 500+). Kealoha has served as Hawai`i’s SlamMaster since 2003, and has been on the Artists in the Schools roster since 2005. He has Hundreds of live venues feature Kealoha throughout the world, including the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (New York City), the Bowery Poetry Club (New York City), the Green Mill (Chicago), the Schiffbau (Zurich, Switzerland), the Rokerij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), the Bienal do Ibirapuera (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and the 2007 NFL Pro Bowl halftime show. In the genre of storytelling, he has gained national recognition by showcasing at high-profile events such as the National Storytelling Network Conference, the Bay Area Storytelling Festival, and the Honolulu Storytelling Festival.
Kealoha was born and raised in Honolulu and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the nation’s top school for science and engineering.
Toward the end of his undergraduate career he worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federal think tank near Washington, DC, affiliated with the Department of Defense. Kealoha was the primary author of a white paper presented at the Pentagon regarding the national security consequences of Global Climate Change.
Kealoha earned a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT with honors. For his science and policy work, he held both confidential and secret security clearances to access classified information. The title of his thesis was “Proliferation Issues Associated with the Transmutation and Stabilization of Plutonium.” Upon graduation, Kealoha was hired by the San Francisco branch of the Mitchell Madison Group, a worldwide company that was acquired three times while he was there. During his two years of wearing suits and traveling back and forth between major cities, Kealoha did marketing, aggressive sourcing, business development, internet strategy, corporate strategy, and energy research for clients such as Adidas, Visa, Samsung, Mattel, Sun Microsystems, and Health Net.
In the year 2000 Kealoha read about a slam poetry event. That night, the floodgates were flung wide open, and Kealoha went home and wrote incessantly. In 2009, HBO produced the Russel Simmons Presents “Brave New Voices” documentary, which followed 7 teams from around the nation as they traveled to the International Youth Poetry Slam. Kealoha was featured on the documentary as the strategic coach for Youth Speaks Hawai`i, which won the entire festival and was one of the seven teams that the documentary focused on. He has been hired by over 100 organizations throughout the state of Hawai`I and travels across the mainland sharing his poetry and story. Kealoha has shared the stage with Kenny Loggins (Multi-Platinum/Multi-Grammy Winner), Jack Johnson (Multi-Platinum Recording Artist), Ben Harper (Multiple Grammy Winner), Willie Nelson (Multi-Platinum/Multi-Grammy Winner), Damian “Junior Gong” Marley (Multiple Grammy Winner), Jason Mraz (Multi-Platinum/Multi-Grammy Winner), Michael Franti (Spearhead), Don Carlos (Reggae Legend), Konishiki (Champion Sumo Wrestler), Medusa (Grammy Winner), and countless numbers of slam poetry superstars.
KEYNOTES AND PERFORMANCES
Kealoha shares stories from his life during his shows – stories of inspiration, of being willing to embrace change, and of finding your passion. Two of his popular presentations:
The Poetry of Us
You Can’t Fool the Youth
“In Hawaii, Kealoha must be the rock star of performance poets. I was waiting in the wings to go on at a recital, watching him performing in front of Hawaiian schoolkids. They cheered and yelled! ‘Gee, thanks Kealoha,’ I thought to myself as I walked on after him. At that moment I decided I wanted to be like him when I grow up.” –Witi Ihimaera, Professor of English, Distinguished Companion in the New Zealand Order of Merit (equivalent to a knighthood in the old honours system), and author of The Whale Rider.
“Kealoha, a mainstay of the local spoken-word scene, was probably playing to his largest audience ever, and not only did he spit out political verse with an assured flow, but he was inspired to bust out an occasional break-dance move or two.” –Gary C.W. Chun, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, while reviewing Jack Johnson’s Kokua Festival
“I can picture this island boy at MIT studying nuclear fusion. Even when you sit with Kealoha, it’s as if he himself is a source of energy… and when you first meet him, he leaps out of his chair to shake your hand. It’s not just physical. His mind seems to always be on the move, searching for something new, fresh, and challenging. With his positive messaging, his boundless energy, and his ability to lead and mentor people of all ages, we can’t wait to see what he’s going to do.” –Leslie Wilcox, President/CEO of PBS Hawaii and former news anchor for KHON-2
“Kealoha is more than just a poet, he is a one-man poetry movement. He practices what he preaches about mindfulness and positivity in art, and his openness of his spirit, both onstage and off, is a true gift to our community.” –Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and author of “Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam
“Kealoha is like a son to me. I have always felt such a strong connection to him from the first time we met. Our spiritual and creative energies are so amazingly ‘pono.’ He’s the real deal. Good person, good spirit, and amazingly creative. I am lucky to have him in my life. I love him like a son.” –Henry Kapono, Hawai`i Music Icon
“I knew I wanted to have Kealoha perform with me tonight. That was perfect. While he was on stage, I was asking myself… ‘why does he have to be so darn good?” –Taylor Mali, Four-time National Poetry Slam Champion, HBO Def Poetry Jam Veteran, and Past President of Poetry Slam, Inc.
“Kealoha’s presence here absolutely revolutionizes what we are doing.” — Principal John Colson, Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School.