How spoken word poetry empowers Hannah Flores to inspire others.

by Alison Rattle, Associate Editor

Photo source: Hannah Flores

The day Hannah Flores found out about spoken word poetry was the day her world changed.

“Growing up, I was a very shy kid. Speaking in front of strangers was not something I enjoyed,” Flores remembers. “My impression of what poetry was supposed to be was Shakespeare and haikus, and these really rigid rules.”

But after her elementary school teacher showed her a spoken word poetry performance, she was hooked. Channeling her writing through spoken word helped her come out of her shyness. She quickly joined a team at her school, immersing herself in the world of spoken word. Flores wrote about anything and everything—things she felt, things she was passionate about, things she saw on the news. She was especially drawn to the advocacy potential of spoken word, where she could write about topics ranging from climate change to her racialized identity. Writing was not only a creative outlet for her, but also a tool to call for social change.

With her elementary school days behind her and more than eight years of experience under her belt, Flores is still using her artistic talent for good. These days, when she isn’t busy with her Life Science classes at UofT, you can find her collaborating with organizations such as DOVE, FIFA, and the City of Toronto to inspire other young people. 

One of her most significant career highlights to date includes her collaboration with Nike and The Toronto Raptors in a commercial, “Never Done Shining”. An inspiration to young women in sports, the promotional video follows different female athletes and trailblazers with an original poem performed by Flores. As clips flash by—the sparkle of hoop earrings, small hands dribbling a basketball, the crowd erupting after a winning basket—the narration of Flores is melodic yet striking, somehow as soulful as it is electric. With her commanding storytelling at the helm, the commercial is a thrilling testament to female empowerment. As she looks ahead, Flores hopes to continue to encourage others to be themselves and foster meaningful change. Particularly, she looks forward to performing at TedxUofT’s annual conference on Jan. 28, 2024 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

The Tedx performance will consist of two original spoken word poems with an accompanying original short film playing in the background. The two poems, “No Sabo” and “To the Only Black Person in the Room”, delve into the complexities of being a mixed-race individual. 

“No Sabo” is a completely new poem that follows Flores’ experience of being half-Latina yet struggling to find confidence in speaking Spanish. “To the Only Black Person in the Room” comes from a racialized perspective, expressing the discomfort and impostor syndrome that comes with being the only visible minority in a certain space. These poems, along with the short film, detail her story on navigating her mixed-race identity and on belonging. 

Speaking to what she hopes the audience will take away from her upcoming performance, Flores says “It’s important to make sure everyone in a space feels seen and welcomed. A lot of these spaces have not been designed for certain groups, or historically, they have been designed to keep certain groups out. More work needs to be done.” 

Flores contributes to this work: she uses her words to illuminate a path toward a more inclusive future. She is enthusiastic about continuing to combine her artistry and advocacy in years to come. 

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