Randell Adjei, a spoken word poet, author, inspirational speaker, arts educator and community leader, was named the first Poet Laureate of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, on April 28, 2021.
The Poet Laureate position was created by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, in honour of legendary Canadian rock singer-songwriter, musician, writer and activist Gord Downie, to promote art and literacy in the province.
Randell is, however, hoping to inspire the youth to deepen their sense of self. Speaking to CBC, he said: “I think there’s a great opportunity for young people to really look within themselves. If they’re going to be the leaders of our future, I feel like we need to prepare them and give them the tools necessary to ask the right questions about who they are, what their purpose is here on Earth.”
“And with educators, my goal is to help them understand how introspective arts like poetry can help young people transcend and overcome adversity,” he added.
Born in Ghana and raised in Scarborough, Toronto, Randell revealed in a biography video on his website that growing up, he had a lot of anger in his heart and did not have a way to express himself.
“It was really tough because growing up in a single-parent home, I was living with my mom at the time,” he said. “I got arrested a couple of times when I was 12-years-old for robbery, failure to comply and assault… But I was just looking for attention.”
After going through all these experiences, Randell discovered his gift and love for poetry thanks to the support and inspiration from one of his grade 8 teacher who introduced him to writing as a means for self-expression to deal with challenges he was facing. This unleashed his inner spirit and led him towards a path of personal enlightenment as a budding writer.
“I had this teacher in grade 8. She introduced me to writing. She heard about my story, my suspensions, my arrests and she said write… So I wrote a poem about me being suspended, me being arrested and it really allowed me to go into myself to see that I had a lot of talent…” he said.
Randell eventually graduated from high school as an Ontario Scholar and valedictorian for his class. He later obtained a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from York University.
In 2012, out of inspiration for what he had gone through, Randell founded R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) Edutainment, one of Toronto’s largest and longest-running youth-led initiatives, to provide youth with inclusive and safe platforms across the Greater Toronto Area to creatively express themselves through the performance arts. It became an important outlet for many who had endured negative situations in their lives.
Randell gained fame for his work as a result of the popularity of R.I.S.E., earning him awards including, the Best Spoken Word Award at The Black Canadians Awards n 2014, the CBC Metro Torontonian of the year in 2015, and the NOW Magazine’s Local Hero Award in 2017.
He has also performed across the globe and in support of high-profile figures such as former U.S. President Barack Obama, Terry Crews, Paul Mooney, Kardinal Offishall, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Randell’s ambitions as Poet Laureate include creating more social networking opportunities for poets across Ontario; connecting with various regions across the province to host events, facilitating workshops and perform poetry; linking Ontario’s diverse communities by weaving poetic stories; working with regional school boards to encourage more creative writing in the classroom, and attending meetings or events to advocate for poetry and the spoken word.
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