Watch Spoken Word become Social Change
Think there’s only one set path for your career? Kelly Tsai will tell you otherwise. Having rejected the notion that you have to choose one profession and stick to it, Tsai can tell you that the line you draw for your future will be anything but straight.
At first glance Tsai’s current job titles¬ — spoken word artist, writer, director, and producer — seem to contrast with the formative experiences on her résumé — community organizer, domestic violence counselor, oral historian, and youth worker. But she has found a way to make all of these roles intersect. Her first job choices were driven by her passion for social justice, but she also yearned for something that spoke to her creative side. A series of events ultimately propelled her toward a new career using art as a medium for social commentary.
Since transitioning to the performance sphere, the Chicago-born, now Brooklyn-based artist has toured worldwide. She has brought her unique voice to microphones at world-class venues including Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, House of Blues, and the Apollo Theater, as well as being featured on HBO and the multi-platform global music brand MTV Iggy. She is also an award-winning performer, recognized as one of the Top 40 New Yorkers Who Create Positive Social Change by Idealist.org and one of 20 National Leader Award winners by AmeriCorps Alums.
Tsai weaves her dedication to social justice into her work. By promoting political consciousness through poetry, her performances become a call for change. Such purpose is evident in her video “#SelfCentered,” a spoken word piece filmed in 360 degrees (allowing the viewer to pan around in any direction) that explores what the world would be like if it were run by five-foot-two tattooed Asian women. Whereas on the surface the concept seems to be satirical, Tsai’s video impugns the notion of who and what are at the center of power.
Name: Kelly Tsai
Occupation: Writer, Performer, Director, Producer
Education: Bachelor of arts degrees in urban planning (high honors) and comparative literature, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Kelly Tsai writes and performs to empower, and she wants to empower you.