Laura Aguilar

Luis Alfaro

Don Bachardy

Ben Cuevas


Vaginal Davis

Tony De Carlo

Alison De La Cruz

Anthony Friedkin

Olga Garcia-Echeverria

Rudi Gerneich

Ken Gonzales-Day

Susan "Phranc" Gottlieb

Aurora Guerrero

Robert "Cyclona" Legorreta

Catherine Lord

Guglio "Gronk" Nicandro

Roy Rogers Oldenkamp

Monica Palacios

Antonio Rael

Julio Salgado

Terisa Siagatonu

Joey Terrill

Ryan Trecartin

Terisa Siagatonu

  • Poet Terisa Siagatonu
  • Terisa's Poems
  • Contributor Rodnisha Ford

Terisa Siagatonu is a queer, Samoan spoken word artist/poet/activist who hails from the California Bay Area. Though her hometown is in the Bay Area, Terisa went to school and graduated from University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) with a Community Studies major and an Education minor (see 1). While she was a student at UCSC Terisa was involved with organizing around outreach and retention for underrepresented students of color.  She also was apart of After School All-Stars which is a national after school program, where she taught spoken word poetry to students (see 2). Siagatonu has also worked as a poet mentor with Youth Speaks (the leading nonprofit organization for spoken word performance and literary arts education), and with queer Pacific Islander women’s organizations such as One Love Oceania(see 3).
Though Terisa has taken her artwork from the Bay Area to Santa Cruz, she also did work in Los Angeles; more specifically on the UCLA campus. While working at UCLA Siagatonu was a project director for PIER (the Pacific Islander Education and Retention project) which is a program that combat low matriculation rates of Pacific Islander students into higher education (see 4). In 2012 she submitted a video in the “What’s Your Story?” video challenge that was put on by the White House Initiatives on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This challenge chose a select group of individuals and recognized them for their efforts to strengthen their communities. Her video submission resulted in Terisa being awarded the “Champion of Change” award on behalf of President Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative (see 5). Her awards and her involvement in various organizations demonstrates that Terisa is not only a great spoken word artist, but it also shows how she uses her artwork as a form of activism.

1. http://activism.ucsc.edu/10index.html
2. See above
3. http://www.siliconvalleydebug.org/articles/2011/09/28/san-jose-poet-terisa-siagatonu-spits-hillary-swank
4. See above


This piece by Terisa is entitled “Trigger”. This piece is a very powerful piece; it is clear that the artist is speaking truth with every word that is spoken. In this piece Terisa is describing her feelings and fears toward her future of being a queer parent. The poem is her speaking directly to her future children and encouraging them to stay strong even through the criticism from others that they may receive for having a gay mother. Terisa performed this piece at the Word on Wednesday at UCLA during National Coming out week. It was at this event that Terisa openly stated that if she has children, having them get bullied on account of her sexual orientation is one of her fears. The honesty and passion that Terisa placed into this poem is amazing. She finds a unique way to not only express her fears but to also critique the way gays and lesbians are mistreated. Many people in society focus on harassing gays and lesbians for being different, but what they overlook is the fact that gays and lesbians have fears and struggles just like everyone else. This piece was a great way for the artist to vent her personal emotions, while at the same time create an awareness of the neglecting of the feelings of gays and lesbians.


This is yet another moving piece by Siagatonu. In this piece the artist is addressing the problem of PTSD. Though the artist still focuses on PTSD as a state of traumatic shock, she does not relate it to fighting in a violent war for ones country, but she connects the disorder to the students she teaches and the continuous wars they have to fight living in a community that oppresses them. Terisa uses examples from the lives of students to demonstrate that the daily trauma of dealing with oppressions such as racism, classism, and homophobia are just as damaging to an individual’s mental health as engaging in warfare. This piece by the artist is used as a way to bring awareness to the lives of individuals that are forced to live in certain areas, and attend schools that are poorly funded, which results in bad education. This poem is used as a form of activism to fight against the wrongs that poor communities of color have to face.


This particular piece has an unknown title and it was preformed in Long Beach at Pasifika Voice in 2010. This piece by Terisa features another spoken word artist by the name of Storm. In this poem Terisa and Storm join together to eloquently deliver a lesson on race and how it is addressed in the lives of individuals of color. They start out the poem by discussing racial events that took place on various University of California campuses. These particular events were specifically directed to Black students but it was a message that also impacted the lives of other racial minorities. They draw the similarities to the way race and racism are viewed today as compared to in the past, and state that it is not much different. This poem is a touching piece because it forces listeners to face the problem of race and racial injustices, and it addresses all individuals of color, not just African Americans and Latinos/ Latinas.

My name is Rodnisha Ford and I am the contributor to Terisa Siagatonu’s webpage. Currently a fourth year student at UCLA, I am pre-med and majoring in gender studies. Once I graduate I plan on continuing my journey to becoming a physician and achieving my long-term goal of opening free medical clinics. Though my true passion lies in medicine and helping others through healing, I also love art. The medium that I am most personally connected to is photography. I love being able to speak through photographs; capturing slight moments of time to savor them forever. I particularly focus on landscape and macro photography. I enjoy taking photos that range from something as large as a mountainous terrain to something as small as fruits and flowers. Though I love photography, I also love spoken word poetry. I believe that spoken word artist have a more challenging time being recognized as artist and making a name for their selves in the art world. Though this is true, I believe spoken word is a powerful art form that many individuals need to recognize and respect; hence the reason I chose Terisa as my artist of focus.