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A Voice for Refugees

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

3/13/2019, 6 a.m

Teen Poet Belise Nishimwe, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, is the 2019 Oregon Poetry Out Loud state champion. PHOTO COURTESY OF OREGON ARTS COMMISSION

A Portland student with a passion for social justice and immigrant law won the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition Saturday, making her a contender for the nationwide competition. Belise Nishimwe, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy, was born and raised in a refugee camp in Tanzania before moving to America at the age of five. Now a U.S. citizen, she has dedicated herself to being someone who can create a platform that gives voice to immigrants and refugees and the representation they need. “This is everyone’s victory,” Nishimwe said. “I wanted to do Poetry Out Loud because when I was younger I wanted that representation that I rarely ever saw. I wanted to see other immigrants like me participate in a variety of activities and succeed, so that I could know that I could achieve that too.” Poetry Out Loud is organized in Oregon by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Nishimwe will advance to the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., at the end of next month.

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