Kathy Jetnil Kijiner is a Marshallese poet and activist. Bearing witness at the front lines of various activist movements inspires her work and has propelled her poetry onto international stages. She has performed her poetry in front of audiences ranging from elementary school students to most recently over a hundred world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit, where she performed a poem to her daughter, “Dear Matafele Peinam”. Currently she lives and works in the Marshall Islands, where she teaches Pacific studies courses full time at the College of the Marshall Islands
*This is an article I originally wrote for the UN-Non-Governmental Liason Services E-Magazine, three weeks after returning home from the United Nations Summit.
It has been three weeks since I spoke and performed “Dear Matafele Peinam” at the United Nations opening of the Climate Summit. Three weeks, and still I am processing the amazing whirlwind that was the few days I had spent in New York, marching with over 3,000 others at the People’s Climate March and meeting dignitaries from all over the world. Yes, for a small island girl from the Marshall Islands, the entire thing was overwhelming, amazing, and thrilling.
At the time, I had no idea what kind of reaction and response I would receive for the little poem I had written. I only knew that I wanted to write a poem that was true to my story – something my daughter could read years later, perhaps…
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