Spoken Word Poet Sarah Kay to Speak at Scripps Graduation
Ayana Kelly | April 10, 2015, 7:52 p.m.
Award-winning poet and performer Sarah Kay was chosen to deliver Scripps College’s 2015 commencement address. Kay is the founder of Project VOICE, a group that uses spoken word poetry to motivate and empower youth in communities around the world.
Kay is also a global performer who has shared her work in over a dozen countries on six continents, She is well-known for her TED talk "If I Should Have a Daughter" and her best-selling debut poetry collection No Matter the Wreckage. She earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Brown University, as well as an honorary doctorate from Grinnell College. She was also the youngest person to compete at the National Poetry Slam in 2006.
Kay was chosen through an extensive selection process, according to Scripps Associated Students Senior Class Co-Presidents Sarah Owens SC ’15 and Vaishali Ravi SC ’15, who spearheaded the search process. Working in collaboration with Scripps' Vice President Denise Nelson Nash, Owens and Ravi began to brainstorm potential speakers and to write and send invitations last fall. Kay accepted the offer to be the commencement speaker in February.
Owens wrote in an email to TSL that the senior class nominated candidates last school year. Owens worked with Ravi to prioritize those candidates, and candidates were selected for the final list "if they had connections to the college or students expressed interest in having them as commencement speaker."
A final vote by the senior class did not take place, but Owens and Ravi said they worked with Nash to choose their top choices from this list and send out invitations.
“There were many excellent commencement speaker candidates, but Sarah Kay particularly inspired us,” Owens and Ravi wrote in an email to TSL. “We invited her in early 2015 and were thrilled when she accepted our offer. She is an accomplished poet and educator, and will be able to speak to the Class of 2015 about following our passions and working to effect change in the world.”
Owens and Ravi wrote that they greatly enjoyed her TED Talk "If I Should Have a Daughter," the video of which went viral online.
“She seems like a engaging and energetic person and we look forward to welcoming her to campus in May,” they wrote.
Scripps President Lori Bettison-Varga wrote in an email to TSL that she is also excited about having Kay as a commencement speaker.
“Sarah Kay is an extraordinary poet and educator who has inspired audiences worldwide,” Bettison-Varga wrote. “Through the work of her organization, Project VOICE, Sarah is teaching a new generation of young people the unbridled power and force of spoken word poetry. We proudly welcome Sarah to Scripps College.”
Students like Anna Marburger SC '15 are also eager for Kay’s speech.
“I’m really excited because she is going to be an excellent public speaker,” Marburger said. “She is going to be able to speak to intersectional conflict that is a key concern of Scripps seniors especially, and how we're supposed to feel as young people entering the real world, and I think she is going to be very inspiring.”
Kay gave the 2013 commencement speech at Grinnell College and was a featured poet on HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam. She is scheduled to address graduating Scripps seniors on May 16, 2015.