Named for a song by Jackson Brown, Jamaica is a strong voice on the Hawaiian team. She grew up studying hula and every Wednesday she would work hard in the taro patch of her school's lo'i (Hawaiian garden). A self-described "mixed mutt" in ethnic background, Jamaica says, "I'm Hawaiian, Chinese, German, Portuguese, English, Irish and French. I am almost a quarter Hawaiian and definitely identify mostly as a Hawaiian."
Jamaica's strong cultural identity comes from her dad. "He's the reason I went to Hawaiian immersion school and learned about Hawaiian things," she says. "He's the one who pushed me to write about Hawaiian issues and these wrong things that are happening. Like the housing market—Hawai'i is really expensive and it's really sad that so many Hawaiians can't afford to live here."
Jamaica brings raw emotion to her poetry. She explains, "I hate to cry so much, but when you cry, you're being truthful; you're being honest. Good is gonna come from these tears."
Writing is a key part of Jamaica's ambitions. "This writing we're doing today is helping me grow," she says. "If I continue along this path to become a politician, it's going to help me relate to people who don't know how to convey their ideas. Changing words about so people can understand —that's really what poetry is. This is my most powerful weapon for change."
Bound for Stanford, Jamaica is a confident and emotive poet and musician. Her commitment to the legacy of her Hawaiian people is marrow-deep, a perspective she's proud to bring to mainland America for the Brave New Voices festival.