Halifax’s next poet laureate says she’s ready to get loud.
Rebecca Thomas, a Mi’kmaw spoken word artist, is taking over from El Jones on April 1.
“I plan on being the squeaky wheel that gets the grease,” said Thomas.
Thomas, 30, currently holds the title of Halifax Slam Master. She is the co-ordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at the Nova Scotia Community College.
As a Mi’kmaw woman, Thomas knows first-hand what is missing from Halifax’s most prominent histories — the voice of indigenous people.
Her father was put through the residential school system.
“I don’t speak any Mi’kmaq at all because it was forcibly taken from my dad,” she said.
This is just one of many issues Thomas wants to talk about. She said she wants to create an open dialogue that neither attacks nor defends, but prompts people to listen.
She also wants to push for Cornwallis Street to be renamed. The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre is located at the intersection of Cornwallis and Gottingen streets, which Thomas said is less than ideal, given the figure’s history.
“This gentleman put a bounty on us,” she said, “so it would be nice if the street our Friendship Centre is on had a different name.”
Thomas will be Halifax’s sixth poet laureate. She will serve in the position for a two-year term.
According to the HRM, The poet laureate is someone who has an acclaimed, relevant voice and that advocates for literary arts in the city.
In a news release, Mayor Mike Savage said this position will “empower (Thomas) to enhance our understanding of our region’s unique cultural tapestry through her work.”
Thomas said she is extremely honoured and looks up to past holders of the title, including El Jones, who she said is a “phenomenal advocate for her people, her causes and her passions.”
Jamie MacLellan, public arts facilitator with the municipality, said the panel that chose Thomas was “struck by her quality of work and her presence.”
Thomas’ two-year term coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, and the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. MacLellan confirmed Thomas will speak at those events, and said the duties and expectations remain the same as with past poet laureates.
“We’re excited to see what she can bring,” he said.
Thomas said it’s important that people see an indigenous face in a prominent position at these celebrations.
“Indigenous voices are intrinsic to Canada,” she said.
“After all, we are all treaty people — two parties signed those treaties.”