Article and Essay

Art as Activism: Asian Pacific Americans and the Spoken Word Scene

From Christine Fukushima at Pacific Citizen:

With his crazy hair and boundless energy, 41-year-old Regie Cabico doesn’t seem old enough to be the “grandfather of Asian American slam poetry.” But the self-proclaimed title is fitting.

“I like to say, and I will say, that I am the first Asian American slammer to win the top prizes of the time. I knew how to play the game,” Cabico said with his infectious smile.

Utilizing his theater skills, Cabico quickly became popular on the slam circuit after graduating from NYU in 1992. He found that he was usually the only APA performing at the famed Nuyorican Poet’s Café on New York’s Lower East Side.

“They’ve never had a young, gay Filipino person who’s off book. To this day I don’t think people know what to do with me.” He added, “I push the Asianness, I push the queerness.”

Cabico’s unique voice and perspective earned him spots on the ‘94 Lollapalooza Poetry Tour, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and MTV’s “Free Your Mind” Spoken Word Tour. He is also a three-time winner of the National Poetry Slam, the annual poetry slam championship tournament.

“To me spoken word is political theater and it’s the best way to get your point across,” Cabico said. He promotes this idea through his organization Sulu D.C., which provides emerging and established APA artists with a space to nurture their artistic growth, build their community and raise awareness of issues relevant to APA communities-at-large.

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