By Rikki King Herald Writer
EDMONDS — Rahwa Beyan, 17, is a senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School. She is a singer and spoken-word performer who takes the stage every month or so. In January and February, she performed at church and community events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and for Black History Month. She is part of ACT-SO Snohomish County, a part of the NAACP. ACT-SO stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics.
Question: How did you become a performer?
Answer: “I just always was good at it so I was always doing it anyway. I think I was 10 when I decided I might want to take it seriously.”
Q: You moved here from Georgia in tenth grade. Tell me about where you grew up.
A: “Most of my childhood was spent in Georgia, and I think that’s where I got a lot of my characteristics. … Over time, I realized (moving) was a good thing. … In ninth grade, I had a choir class, and that’s when I really started singing. There was a lot more to it, and everyone has a different style and voice. I just kept self-teaching and then I moved up here and now I’m in ACT-SO.”
Q: Your piece from Black History Month: Why spoken word?
A: “The piece that I’m doing is a tribute to Trayvon Martin. … It talks about the stand-your-ground law and the general culture around business and crime and the black community. I think I go toward this more because it’s what I’m grounded in. From my perspective, in black youth, the stories I hear, Trayvon Martin, that easily could have been someone I knew. … I’m just glad that I’m able to find a community that welcomes that and was eager to have youth come and create the platform for our voice.”
Q: You’re performing publicly about once or twice a month now?
A: “Whether it’s an NAACP event or sometimes a school event out in the community, once a month, there’s usually something going on.”
Q: What are your plans after high school?
A: “I’ve been applying to some colleges. Hopefully, if everything works in my favor, I’ll get accepted to Georgia State University. If not, I’ll probably stay within Washington and end up going to Western.”
Q: Do you have an after-school job?
A: “I work at Family Fun Center. I work there two days a week. I’m an attendant so I’m either helping people on or off the rides and starting up rides or working at the prize center.”
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: “I do IB, International Baccalaureate. It’s sort of like (Advanced Placement), but it’s a full program. All my classes are IB plus an extra class that I take before school. (That class) is over now, because it was first semester, and you also have to do 150 hours of community service and a 4,000-word extended essay.
Q: You mentioned you’re in the Black Student Union. Are you in any other clubs?
A: “I’ve been a member of BSU since sophomore year, and this year I am president of BSU. I’m also vice president and cofounder of Verbal Expressions. It’s kind of like a performance club, any sort of art.”
Q: What are you interested in majoring in, in college, and what careers interest you?
A: “I want to get a degree in public relations. I’m really into planning and coordinating and all of that. It’s kind of why I ended up in BSU. We put on a lot of events. I think it’s because all of the clubs I’m involved in, that’s why I like coordinating so much.”
Q: Tell me about your name and where it comes from.
A: “I’m Eritrean, which is East African. It’s right next to Ethiopia. The two countries are like brother and sister. I’m East African, and the name is kind of hard to translate into English, but it means something like ‘good happening.’ People say, ‘I hope you have Rahwa in your life.’ It means something positive happening, like your wish is coming true. I guess I have a pretty positive name.”
Q: What are some of your interests outside of school and the performing arts?
A: “I like swimming. I was on swim team in the fall. I really just enjoy sunlight. Everyone who knows me knows I have an obsession with sunlight. I just love lying in the sun. I think singing and swimming and hanging out with family and friends, I like hanging out with friends and hanging out by the pool and reading.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.