2015 VERVE Grant Recipients
Sol Ras Assanti is an unapologetic rebel warrior spirit that has been reminding communities that the key to their liberation is within their ancestral story. Throughout her 23 years on this earth and her past lives on other dimensions in planets, Sol has been mastering the art of healing through Earth, Herbs and words. Sol has facilitated, curated, and performed freedom in all space. Currently Sol is building the "get free" collective. A series of works and events with artist encouraging enlightenment through freedom expressed in; art without boundaries, healing circles and popup open mics.
Joe Davis is a dreamer born of the poetic diaspora. Son of a persnickety Jamaican immigrant mother and hardworking Chicagoan father, he inherited a story-colored soul and an unrelenting desire to love. As a writer, performer, and teacher, he travels in search of metaphors to paint canvases of the imagination with joyful revolution. His latest adventure has led him to the edge of the human heart, learning how to dance in rhythm with the ancestral echoes of our origin.
Nimo H. Farah is part butterfly and part cat (MEEOOW!). Her current undertaking is to get the different parts of herSELF to get along while also researching the history of the words that are used to give her journey meaning. She uses language to express things she finds too confusing. Sometimes taking the liberty to redefine the definitions of words. She looks forward to developing her skills as an orator while blending Somali and English. She thinks of herself as charming and hilarious in the Somali language, often making herself laugh (hahaHA!). But rarely does that humor translate into English. It'll be magical when she learns to fuse the two languages together seamlessly. She currently resides in Minneapolis and imagines traveling to the moon or maybe peacefully living in Mogadishu (where she was born). Nimo is a 2014 Bush Fellow and the co-Founder of SALLI Arts. Her most recent work is curating "Saved by Faith & Verse", the poetic voices of the Somali Diaspora at the Loft Literary Center through the Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship.
Khem Clan is a spokenword-infused hip-hop group who's members include ShaVunda Horsley and Farrington Llewellyn. Their focus is to inspire the recognition of power that lies within us all and to challenge 2-dimensional images of blackness perpetuated by the dominant culture.
ShaVunda is a 2012 alumnus of the University of Minnesota/B.F.A. Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. She has a minor in African and African American Studies which she integrates in theatre/spoken word workshops across the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public School Districts upon request. She is the Poetry Slam Winner of The 2010 Farrago Freshers' Slam at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and is one half of the duo that won the What it Do? 2010 Peace Fest and Hip Hop Competition in Dallas, Texas. She's been an aspiring writer since she was 10 years old and her work primarily speaks to issues regarding race and love in times of socio-economic disparity and building self-esteem among young black women.
Farrington is a multi-media storyteller and organizer. His art is a blend of video, music, installation and performance art. His most recent musical project "Farr Well" is a hip-hop story about quitting rap and creating new images of blackness. He uses his video art to reach new levels of clarity around issues; to convey messages that can't be taken out of context. His "Black Identity Series" is a collection of interview montages on subjects relating to black people, which he uses to guide his public discussions on race. He incorporates all of these forms into his organizing work. Creating programs like "Meat & Greet" to connect with community and bring people together.
Brittany "Miss Brit" Lynch is a multidimensional performer with a passion for telling narratives through a sociological perspective. She has a degree in the Sociology of Law: Criminology, and Deviance with a minor in African and African American Studies. She emerged on the spoken word scene in 2009 through Voices Merging, a group dedicated to educating and empowering the community through spoken word and the urban arts. Brittany served both as a board member and performer for several years before serving as the President from 2011-2012. In 2014 she returned to writing with the artist collective "Meeting of the Mindz", and was commissioned by Youthprise to perform at Orchestra Hall for their annual Youth Summit. Her goals for 2015 and beyond include developing an identity as an artist that is her own. She is in the process developing artistic content to release several more spoken word videos and to publish her work in physical form. She is also in the process of curating events and performances that combine her skills in spoken word with her passion for music, theater, and activism, using her art as a tool for restorative justice, media accountability, and transformative healing.
Rest In Power: Andrew Ronnell Julian Thomas
It is with great sadness and heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of 2015 VERVE grantee and cohort member, Andrew Thomas. Andrew was a spoken word poet, rapper, community activist, organizer, social justice leader, and all around beautiful human being.
He received a 2015 VERVE grant and has been a member of our cohort for the past year. Andrew was 25 years old; his poetry and radiant smile brought light and love and energy to every room he was in. Our community and our VERVE cohort have lost a loved friend, joyful presence, and inspiring artist.
Andrew Ronnell Julian Thomas (1990-2015) was a performance poet, recording artist, actor, teaching artist, facilitator, activist, and a Community Organizer-in-Training via the SPEAC program hosted by HOPE Community. He was also a Graduate of the Theater and Drama Department at the University of Wisconsin -Madison as well as the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Program. The content of his work ranges in a myriad of topics, such as: love and loss, liberation, the struggles of being black, low-income, and educated, to list a few. He toured and performed across the country as a Rapper and Spoken Word Artist, featuring at venues such at Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam (Chicago, 2009) and The Schomburg Research Center for Black Culture (Harlem, NY, 2013). He shared the stage with the likes of Prof, Big Quarters, Doomtree, Wale, Ludacris, Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Rafael Casal, Black Ice, Lemon Anderson, Amir Sulaiman, and numerous others. Andrew was born, raised, and lived in South Minneapolis: Powderhorn Park to be precise.
Kyra Crawford-Calvert is a silver-tongued time traveler who depends on her flux capacitor — that which makes time travel possible — and catalogs the lessons of her navigation through script[ure]. Her soul-mission is to water the Seed of Divinity ever present in herself and her fellows, especially those with skin from crimson to midnight, before we all head back to the future.
Gabriella Anais Deal-Márquez is a community organizer and interdisciplinary artist trained in poetry and music who sees storytelling as key in creating community dialogue around social change. Classically trained in violin from the age of 5 and cello from the age of 9 as well as in Mexican folkloric traditions, her musical interests bridge improvisation with cultural traditions of music across the U.S./Mexico border.
Her poetry and spoken word look at voices of women responding to violence, immigrant identities in different spaces, and language across borders. Anais is the founder of the Border Voices Poetry Series, which uses storytelling and performance to create a space where our local poets can speak their immigrant truths as a way to build community. This series is about expressing the joy, pain, displacement and everything in between found at the root of our family histories of crossing borders. Her poetry has been published in [Id]entidad: A Collaborative Literature and Arts Journal.
Hasani Harris enjoys writing. Along with writing he is a spoken word artist. He was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota for all twenty-two years of his life. He hates cold weather, loves hot coffee, hooded sweaters and sound of silence in the winter. Hasani always wanted to be a comedian but realized early his jokes were not that funny so he writes sad poetry insteadnow. When enjoying poetry the parts of poems that he enjoys the most are the parts in which he feels like home (even if those feelings are horrible). He doesn't believe home is where the heart is but more where you can laugh, cry and fart as loud as you want without embarrassment. He is steadily hoping one day all of his laughing, crying and farting will shine in his poetry, so readers and listeners can feel at home too.
A 2012-2013 Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant Program Awardee and 2013 Intermedia Arts Beyond the Pure Fellow, R. VINCENT MONIZ, JR. writer, Minneapolis, Minnesota, is honing his writing skills in poetry, poetic monologue, and spoken word performance. His graphic art and art performance can be seen in video and print collaborations with Visual and Digital Efx Artist Jonathan Thunder and Author Heid E. Erdrich.
An enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation of Fort Berthold North Dakota R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (NuEta) hails from thePhillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis Minnesota. He has been part of the Twin Cities artistic community for over two decades as an actor, However, he has only shared his poetry a handful of times which includes 3 performances at The Loft Literary Center‘s highly Acclaimed, Equilibrium Series. At the E. Donald Two River Memorial Indigenous Spoken Word SLAM World Championships Vincent was crowned and is their current and reigning champion, this was the first slam competition he ever entered. Most recently he has he co-directed with Heid E. Erdrich and performed his poetry in a show presented by Pangea World Theater and Intermedia Arts entitled Artifact Traffic, a show that included live performances, poetry films, contemporary dance, with live music and singing. Vincent is a frequent special guest at, Equilibrium: Spoken Word at the Loft and also performs throughout the region. You can see many of Vincent’s performances on his website, Redoubted.com.
Hieu Minh Nguyen was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, by a single, Vietnamese-American, mother. He is a Kundiman fellow, and the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). He is a curator for "Inside Voices" a reading series presented by Button Poetry, an organization dedicated to publishing, producing, and promoting poetry. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as The Journal, PANK, Anti, Muzzle, decomP, Indiana Review, and other journals. He also works at a haberdashery.
Toki Wright is the Department Head of the United States first fully accredited Hip-Hop Studies program by the National Association of Schools of Music at McNally Smith. He was recently chosen by the US State Department as an arts ambassador performing in Sierra Leone, West Africa. His VERVE project will be constructing a series of spoken word pieces focusing on mental health in communities of color. He has incorporated spoken word poetry into his Hip-Hop recording projects through Rhymesayers and Soul Tools Entertainment.
2012Sam Cook is a National Poetry Slam champion who resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sam received a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and is a Co-Founder of Button Poetry, which co-produced and cast the Poetry Observed video series. He is the Director and Coach of the two-time national champion St. Paul Soapboxing poetry slam team, and he has coached the University of Minnesota and Macalester College slam teams to numerous Finals Stage appearances and awards over the past three years. Sam is committed to reaching out to youth in Minnesota and nationwide, through poetry, performance and a deep love for tomfoolery.
LISTEN: Sam Cook reading at the final VERVE showcase
Sierra DeMulder is a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion hailing from upstate New York. Write Bloody Publishing published her first full-length manuscript, The Bones Below, in 2010, followed by her second book, New Shoes on a Dead Horse, in January 2012. Sierra has featured at hundreds of venues, performing her poetry and facilitating writing workshops in high schools, colleges, prisons, and shelters across the country. When not writing poetry, she enjoys playing ukulele and waxing on and on about feminism. She lives in Minneapolis with her dog, Fidelis.
LISTEN: Sierra DeMulder reading at the final VERVE showcase
As a Artist, Performer, Poet, Educator, Spoken word artist, dancer, and director Antoine Duke is indeed a man of many hats. As a 19 year old Performer and teaching artist he has received grants founded companies and has competed nationally as a spoken word artist. He has Founded No Projection, a company that teaches literacy through spoken word and social justice theater, Shaking Fences Hip Hop Dance class, Gages Photography and Dopeimgeclothing. He chooses Social Justice Education through theater and art because he believes that art cannot only teach creative and powerful practices, but also because it can educate us on how to become better human beings. “Art allows you to listen to the world around you and take in other perspective which is not easily done, especially in today’s society.” Antoine got his start in the performing arts, the first time he saw Michael Jackson on “Motown 25th: Yesterday, today, forever: on March 25th 1983.” As he watched through his television in his living room, he was hooked to dance, creating and performing anywhere he could. Since then he has attended conferences and performed in Los Angels, San Francisco, Detroit, Washington DC, Arkansas and Minnesota. He has gone on to teach spoken word and theater in schools (Washburn, Brooklyn Center High), and he has founded “8 Stages,” a program at Pillsbury House Theater in which through theater and spoken word teach youth the culture of violence and how to prevent it. He aspires to found his own Organization “Urban Speaks” which will teach spoken word and social justice theater to youth around the twin cites.
Dylan Garity is a College National Poetry Slam Champion, and a 2012 graduate with honors from Macalester College, where he founded the Macalester Poetry slam. The Macalester Slam is now one of the most highly attended poetry shows in the Twin Cities, and among the premier college slams in the nation. He was a member of the 2010 , 2011 and 2012 Macalester Slam teams, which placed 3rd, 1st and 2nd in the nation, respectively. He was namedBest Poet at the 2012 tournament. He was also a member of the 2011 SlamMN! team, which placed 5th nationally at the adult National Poetry Slam. In addition to his slam career, he helps run Button Poetry, an organization dedicated to producing and promoting poetry media nationwide.
LISTEN: Dylan Garity reading at the final VERVE showcase
Adam Gabriel Napoli-Rangelaka SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE, is a Chicano Artist who is an experienced lyricist, poet, educator, actor, and visual artist. He has worked with diverse populations for the last decade in music and education, both as a professional performer, recording artist, and producer and as a mentor to youth in communities in the Twin Cities and Chicago. He is known as a creative, passionate and thoughtful leader and collaborator in the Midwest Hip Hop and Spoken Word scenes. SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE presents perspectives of Culture, Community, Social Justice and Heritage with an effortlessly spiritual approach and infectious, upbeat humanism. This multi-disciplinary artist captures the imagination with a genuine zest for craft, progress and
life to captivate crowds with substance without giving up any fun in the meanwhile. SEE MORE has done years of youth work through hip hop and spoken word dealing with social justice, identity, and community engagement issues, has performed at countless venues and festivals and spoken and facilitated workshops at various schools, social justice conferences and retreats.
LISTEN: SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE reading at the final VERVE showcase
Misty Rowan is a poet/activist who's writing style is all message, and who views spoken word as a storytelling medium that is designed to entertain, educate and inspire. "To me, art and activism are the same thing." Since moving to Minneapolis, she has been involved in many community efforts as both participant and performer, and as a member of the Anti War Committee (.org) she has played an active role in local progressive movements such as The Peoples Bailout Coalition, The Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and Occupy Wall Street. She was a featured artist at the Twin cities run-off magazine's Storyteller Showcase during Art-a-whirl last year, and she was published in Dark Highlands Anthology, Vol. 3 She enjoys volunteering with kids/arts projects and spending what time she can at her community garden. You can check out her blog at: MissTeaTree.Blogspot.com
LISTEN: Misty Rowan reading at the final VERVE showcase
Cole Sarar was the founder of the Minnesota Microphone blog and calendar, and Punch Out Poetry Slam. She was a contestant in Literary DeathMatch Twin Cities, where she “captivated with a series of work that left the audience's collective jaw hanging.” Her poem “Eating Our Words” was published in Write Bloody's “Aim for the Head”. She was a winner of a 2010 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in Poetry and served on the 2012 grants panel for the same grant. Cole believes in art that breaks rules, defies expectations, surprises, and inspires. She enjoys artistic cross-pollination, intellectual stimulation, civil discourse, citrus fruit, bicycles, and logic puzzles. Her poetry explores science, fairytale, physical spaces, social dynamics, and identity. She has helped to create interactive art with a posse of playful musicians, artists, programmers, installation artists, and innovators. Cole grew up in South Dakota, but has been living in the Twin Cities for the past fifteen years. She is a first-generation Turkish-American, and suffers from a genetic predisposition to gardening, passed down on her mother’s side. She works for the Independent Natural Foods Retailers Association, an association of independently owned grocers who specialize in natural and organic foods.
LISTEN: Cole Sarar reading at the final VERVE Showcase
MICHAEL LEE has been gracefully crashing through life in Minnesota since 1988. He is a poet, performer, fiction writer, and youth worker. He owns the fanciest hats. He writes poems on their brims because that makes sense. He can describe a dead horse astoundingly well. If more contests were about describing dead horses he would win more things. He writes poems and sets them on fire to hear what they sound like. He is loud. Poems have wheels. He can pedal good. Grammar chimney for sale. Moreover, since 2010 Michael has reached Final Stage twice at collegiate nationals (CUPSI) representing The University of Minnesota placing third in the country in 2010 and then fourth in 2011. During the 2011 tournament he was selected as the “Best Individual Poet”. Michael also won the 2011 Great Plains Poetry Pile Up, and placed top 20 in the world at the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam. Michael was the youngest finalist for the 2010 LOFT Literary Centers' Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose, and most recently was the 2011 Minneapolis grand slam champion. Michael also performs and conducts poetry workshops at rehabs, homeless shelters, colleges and high schools. He is currently a youth counselor at Avenues For Homeless Youth, a homeless shelter located in Minneapolis where he learns far more than he teaches; here is blessed to be able to conduct bi-weekly poetry workshops and share his passion with others willing and excited to share their talents and stories. Michael writes and performs out of love and passion, yes, but also necessity. He is constantly filling up with hot water. His fingers are faucets. His mouth is a faucet. He believes everyone’s ears and eyes are tubs and that he must travel the world emptying himself so others are full and all are well.
NAADIRAH THA GREAT (aka Libby G.reenthumb, government name Libby Edelston) is a fierce mc/poet/revolutionary/spoken word artist/entrepreneur from North Minneapolis. Born and raised in the now demolished housing projects, Naadirah knows firsthand what it is to struggle. Yet, she has never let her adversities hold her back. To quite the contrary, she has allowed her struggles to become her inspiration to create. Growing up, Naadirah's mother played such soulful greats as Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Roberta Flack and Curtis Mayfield (to name a few). Their tremendous gifts inspired Naadirah to harness her own. Naadirah began writing in the form of short stories as a little girl, which evolved to poetry as a teenager. At 18, she realized her gift for writing rhymes (hip-hop songs and spoken word). This was nothing short of an epiphany- and Naadirah has been rhyming ever since. Though poetry was her beginning; hip-hop is definitely her passion. However to simply label her a rapper would be an injustice. Yes, Naadirah is absolutely a prolific mc, but she is also a very powerful & profound poet. And she has been gifted with the wit to combine street science with high science; going as far as identifying these dualities with individual names. Her positive, pan-Afrikan, revolutionary side is Naadirah; while the harsher, criminal-minded side she has coined as Libby G.reenthumb. In addition to being an artist, Naadirah is a natural teacher. She has worked for the past six years with the students of We Win Institute in Minneapolis in developing their own writing abilities. Naadirah's versatility makes her appealing to all generations. She does shows consisting exclusively of poetry and spoken word, as well as rap concerts and hip-hop open mics. She performs at various clubs and venues in Minneapolis, St.Paul and Chicago. She also frequently performs her spoken word at several Minneapolis Public Schools and school-related functions; and has performed at five consecutive Annual Spokesman-Recorder Graduation Celebrations and eight consecutive Annual We Win Kwanzaa Celebrations. Naadirah successfully released her first mixtape in 2009 “Antiban; The Mixtape Volume 1”, which she sold in Minneapolis, Chicago and New York City, as well as on Itunes. In 2010, she made guest appearances on several national mixtapes, and collaborated with several national and international mcs. Currently, she is working on collaborations with several local and international artists, and beginning to work on her first official ep. Contact: email@example.com, www.facebook.com/antiban, www.twitter.com/antiban, www.myspace.com/antiban
AIMEE RENAUD strives to be full of joy. Winner of the Urban Griots New Spoken Word Artist of the Year Award in 2009, and proud member of the 2009 Twin Cities Youth Slam Team sent to compete at the Brave New Voices National Competition, Aimee sometimes likes to read her poetry out loud, and hopes to spend the next year learning how to effectively foster her creative tendencies. At the moment, her projects are focused on sparking dialogue around the subject of oppressive language and its role within performance art. When she isn't getting paid to sling espresso for motorcyclists, Aimee can usually be found playing with boisterous kittens, devouring the pastryarchy, daydreaming of the South, answering a crisis line, reading books and/or craigslist missed connections, serenading cute people with her ukulele, talking about gender/feminism/activism/TheFuture/magic, traveling everywhere, sending letters, and generally feeling free.
RODRIGO SANCHEZ-CHAVARRIA is a writer and spoken word poet of Peruvian heritage heavily involved with Palabristas, a local Latin@ poets collective. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and an involved activist in the Latin@ community. He writes about fatherhood, the duality of two cultures in English, Spanglish and Spanish, and issues pertaining to his community and life experiences. He has performed with Yellow Rage, Los Nativos, Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word and Big Quarters. He also takes the power of his work to local high schools, colleges, and universities, both in the Metro Area and in Greater Minnesota, in which he engages in conversation with students in regards to the art of spoken word and how they can use it as tool of liberation. He released a spoken word CD in 2006 titled “Desconocidos” with the collaboration of other local poets and is featured in the Palabristas Chapbook titled “Outside the Lines.” His most recent publication is the “Writing Life” Chapbook, in collaboration with photographer, Andrew MacDonald, with support from a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mnwordslinger.com
JAKE VIRDEN is a writer, performer, organizer and aspiring educator. Performing in the Twin Cities as a poet and mc for 6 years has provided Jake the opportunity to share space with amazing people from all walks of life. Jakes passion is participating in popular education as means for iunderstanding the problems facing out communities and envisioning pathways toward people power.
Born in 1984 East St. Paul and being raised in North Minneapolis CHAUN WEBSTER is a son of the city and has been shaped by her ruff edges and bold colors. Being only twenty-six years old yet mentored by Poet/Activist Ewuare Osayande Webster finds the frame for his poetry as much in the Black Arts Movement as in Hip-Hop. July 2009 marked the launch of Free Poet’s Press, the small publishing company Webster began in order to create space for Black and Brown artists to produce work unentangled by the traditional funding streams. Truly guerilla media, Free Poet’s Press is committed to radical poetry, politics and people power. In Osayande’s introduction to Webster’s debut book of verse, fuck poetry: bread is the politik of the hungry, he states, “At times his poems call for retribution and utter visions of battle-cries, bullets and blood. At other times they convey a palpable frustration of being powerless to defend against the everyday acts of violence by the ‘Leviathan’ that violates our senses, if not our very bodies, on the daily. At all times, they offer us an authenticity in expression and execution that leaves us inspired or convicted or both.” Webster and his wife Verna Wong currently live in Brooklyn Park with their two sons Taj Amiri Zonghao and Zion Sundiata Haki. For more on Chaun and Free Poet's Press visit www.freepoetspress.com
ANDREA JENKINS is a poet, writer and multimedia visual and performance artist. She has been a part of the local poetry community for several years, earning awards, fellowships and commissions during that time. She currently works full time as a Senior Policy Aide to the 8th Ward City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden and serves on the boards of OutFront Minnesota, Forecast Public Art, and SMARTS. She has one beautiful daughter, Nia, and an equally beautiful granddaughter, Aniyah. Andrea co-curates the Queer Voices Reading Series with John Medeiros at Intermedia Arts. Most recently Andrea was selected to be a Naked Stages Fellow, supported by the Jerome Foundation, to produce a one-woman show loosely based on her manuscript Black Pearl.
CYNTHIA FRENCH received her MFA in Writing from Hamline University. She has been working as a teacher, performer and event organizer in the Twin Cities spoken word community for over 12 years. Her career thus far has involved being a member of multiple poetry slam teams, coordinating the 2002 National Poetry Slam in Minneapolis, touring nationally and internationally, and developing multiple spoken word series. She was the 2010 Minneapolis Women's Poetry Slam Champion and the 2006 Minneapolis Grand Slam Champion. Her poetry was included in the spoken word anthology, Spoken Word Revolution Redux. She is utilizing the VERVE grant to help her transition into full time work as an artist by developing a web site and marketing tools to promote herself as a performer and teacher.
THADRA SHERIDAN is a spoken word artist, promoter and teacher from Minneapolis, MN. She has performed all over the country in venues ranging from bars, coffee houses, and art galleries, to large theatres, like the State in Minneapolis, the Fitzgerald in St. Paul, and the Paramount in Seattle. She has been published in the Star and Tribune, the Skyway News, and Moxie Magazine, and has won awards for her writing from the Faulkner Society and the National League of American Pen Women. She has been a member of three Minnesota Slam Teams, winning the MN Grand Slam in 2002, has coached 2 teams for the Midwest Slam League, and won the first ever all-female Redhots Slam in LA in March of 2004. Since moving to California, she competed on the 2006 San Francisco Slam Team, which placed 6th in the nation that year and secured another number 6 the following year coaching the renowned Berkeley Slam Team. She recently taped for the 2005 season of HBO's Def Poetry and brought down the house at the first ever poetry slam at San Quentin penitentiary. She has a bachelor's degree in theater, and a background in film, stand up comedy, and acting. She has run 2 monthly shows in Minneapolis, was on the planning board for the 2002 National Poetry Slam, coordinates a slam residency program in twin cities high schools and community centers, co-organizes a slam program in local colleges, and organized the 2002 Op-Ed slam, sponsored by the National Writer's Union. She has taught performance poetry in high schools, colleges, and art centers across the country, has toured extensively through the West Coast and the Midwest, and has produced several large spoken word events throughout the Twin Cities. Her work is vicious, hilarious, and blunt. “At alternate turns, Sheridan is a feminist, activist, memoirist, humorist, satirist, and blasphemist. She is also an emerging local star among performance poets.” The St. Paul Pioneer Press
ALICE SHINDELAR is a fresh voice in the Twin Cities spoken word community, who is already turning many heads with her bold wordplay, strong subject matter and deceptively coy delivery. Alice is also a filmmaker and aspiring screenwriter. She attended Perpich Center for the Arts Education for literary arts during her junior and senior year of high school and graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris with a degree in French and Film Studies. She began performing at slams and open mics around the Twin Cities in 2008 and is a regular at the all-woman's slam, Punch Out Poetry. Alice hosts a bi-weekly workshop called Talk Story Salon for poets, storytellers, emcees, and performance based writers of all kinds and is a volunteer editor for the erotica magazine Whole Beast Rag. For more information on Alice Shindelar, please visit her website.
JEFFREY SKEMP was raised on a farm in western Wisconsin. As a writer, performer and photographer Jeffrey has been involved in various artistic endeavors within the Twin Cities since the early 1990's. Currently, he is a member of the Bosso Poetry Company, a diverse collective of poets and musicians. He is also honored to be the recipient of the 2010 Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation. His debut spoken word album "Spent" is forthcoming in early 2011.
M. COCHISE ANDERSON, from the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations of Oklahoma, is a professional actor, playwright, spoken word performance artist, storyteller, traditional Native and blues musician and Native American cultural arts educator. He has presented his one-man performances at the Open House Arts Festival at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art in Washington DC, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC and New York City and as a performer and as guest M.C. at the Lincoln Center “Outdoor Series – La Casita,” in NYC. He teaches creative writing, storytelling and performance within various Native American communities across the country. Mostly recently Cochise taught at the Oneida Nation Tribal High School in Greenbay, WI and at the Anishinabe Academy in Minneapolis. Cochise will be using the Verve Grant to write a new multimedia performance piece, METHODS OF MASS DECEPTION, based on his spoken word track, that can be heard at www.RavingNativeRadio.com. He will then be incorporating the Naked Stages Fellowship he recently received to collaborate with other artists, Native and non-Native, in premiering this new, autonomous and vital spoken word performance piece.
KYLE “GUANTE” MYHRE is an emcee, spoken-word poet, activist, writer and educator based out of Minneapolis, MN. He's been slam champion of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Madison, and most recently took first place at the 2009 National Poetry Slam as a member of the St. Paul slam team. As an emcee, Guante is signed to indie label Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records and is a multiple Independent Music Awards nominee, Urb Magazine "Next 1000" artist and one of City Pages' "Artists of the Year" for 2008; he's shared bills with some of the biggest names in independent hip hop, including Talib Kweli, Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Zion I, Sage Francis, dead prez and many more. On top of these artistic endeavors, Guante has also found time to write for nationally recognized music blog CultureBully.com, facilitate university-level social justice courses, spearhead the "Hip Hop Against Homophobia" concert series, teach writing and performance workshops through the MN Spoken-Word Association and serve as arts coordinator of the Canvas, a St. Paul youth center. In 2009, Guante was awarded a VERVE grant for spoken word poets by Intermedia Arts. For more information, check out www.guante.info.
TOU SAIKO LEE is a spoken word artist, mentor and hip-hop organizer. Lee is the MC for the socially conscious, funk/hip hop band PosNoSys (Post Nomadic Syndrome) and has been organizing a monthly all-ages open mic event called I.C.E. (Innovative Community Elevation) since 2004. Lee occasionally teams up with his grandmother, Youa Chang, who practices the traditional Hmong art of kwv txiaj (Hmong poetry chanting) and the duo performs together as “Fresh Traditions.” A mentor for youth at schools and community centers across the country, Lee speaks about human rights, diversity, racism, gang violence and arts for social change. Lee is a 2009 Intermedia Arts VERVE grant recipient and the co-founder of “The H Project” a compilation music CD inspired by the human rights violations of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos.
KHARY JACKSON. “I'm a teaching artist, playwright (with a play opening in Chicago in April) and nationally ranked slam poet (currently 3rd in the country). I am a native of Detroit, currently repping the Twin Cities. I love animals, and my favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That has little to do with my poetry, but it says a lot about me.”—Khary. Jackson is a 2009 Intermedia Arts VERVE grant recipient and recently took first place at the 2009 National Poetry Slam as a member of the St. Paul slam team.
TISH JONES. Latisha “Tish” Jones is a Spoken word Artist, Activist, Educator, and Organizer based out of St. Paul, MN. Recognized for her work by local publications, Jones was named one of the City Pages “Artists of The Year” along with mention in the Star Tribune as an “Artist on the Verge” in 2007. In 2009, Jones received a VERVE grant for spoken word poets from Intermedia Arts. Co-producer and host of “Tha Remix” open mic series in north Minneapolis, Jones has performed on many stages, both locally and nationally as both an Independent Artist and as a member of a Minnesota state slam team in 2006. Also, the founder, executive, and artistic director of a developing non-profit arts organization, TruArtSpeaks, Jones teaches performance art and creative writing in schools throughout the Twin Cities area as well as in prisons and other facilities with youth programming.
WONDER DAVE (aka Dave Crady) is a writer and performer living in the Twin Cities. He is currently co-slam master of the SlamMN Poetry Slam in Minneapolis at Kieran's Pub. He was a member of the 2007 SlamMN Team. At the National Poetry Slam in Austin TX he earned the title of 3rd most Erotic Poet in the Nation despite being lanky, pale and having played Dungeons & Dragons on several occasions. Dave has performed as poet and an actor throughout the metro. If you visit www.myspace.com/wdpoetry you can listen to and read some of his current works. Dave is a firm believer that if you have something to say you should say it because nobody else is going to speak for you. He has a cat named Jack and is honored to have received this award.
Minneapolis native CHARLES J. HALLMAN started writing poetry at a young age, but started performing his work in 2006. After graduating from DePaul University in 2007 he moved back home where he performs spoken word regularly around the Twin Cities. There he renamed himself “MyndSet" because that is what he tries to reach. He also started his own poetry set called "Poetic Rivers" where he allows for anyone to come and be heard. Charles "MyndSet" Hallman prides himself in being truthful in his words and expressing himself in every stanza. "Mentally take a walk with me down a path of experience" - MyndSet
ROBERT FARID KARIMI is an interdisciplinary artist/poet from the San Francisco Bay Area and son of Iranian and Guatemalan parents. A UCLA graduate, National poetry slam champion, Def Poetry Jam performer, karimi received the Alliance of Artists Communities Midwestern Voices & Visions Award and a Minnesota State Arts Board Cultural Community Partnership grant. His work has been published internationally in Callaloo, Latino Literature Today, and Tea Party, recorded on 3 CDs around the world, presented online at e-poets.com, and most recently featured in Total Chaos: The Art and the Aesthetics of Hip Hop. He is artistic director of kaotic good productions, which has produced the critically acclaimed self (the remix) and the comedy cooking show: The Cooking Show Con Karimi y Castro. Karimi currently writes, teaches, performs, and directs, and makes a damn good vegan gormeh sabzi. For more, visit www.kaoticgood.com.
ZAKIYA TANNER was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where she first began to become interested in Spoken Word. She is an award winning poet and began writing in 1998. Following college Tanner joined AmeriCorps and traveled the country doing service mostly in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. She believes that Spoken Word is a powerful tool that can be used to bring about change. In 2007 she was a featured artist in Intermedia Arts' GLBT Reading Series. As an African American Christian Lesbian she feels that her story needs to be told. Tanner would like to be the voice that she struggled to hear and find as a young child listening to music that uplifted and degraded her at the same time. She believes that God has given her the ability to share herself with others through spoken word.
SOL TESTIMONY, aka Lisa Roberts. Since her first stage performance in 1999, Minnesota Music Award Nominee Sol Testimony has been featured at many local and national venues. She has graced the stage at venues including the Dakota jazz club with the great Debbie Duncan, the Quest with The Last Poet’s, the Loft’s Equilibrium series, Paisley Park, and First Avenue. Sol has also brought her powerful messages to many other stages in the Twin Cities area and beyond. Her dynamic performance combined with her entrancing stage presence captures audiences as she broaches topics including the continuing struggle for equality, artistic responsibility and sexuality. She is also an accomplished host / MC who is currently presenting the Soul Sounds Open Mic in northeast Minneapolis. Sol has also brought her unique and welcoming hosting style to open mics such as Jazzmine’s ‘Passion’ open mic, The Poet’s Groove at the Blue Nile, The People’s Open Mic and the Love Lounge at The Lounge. In 2004 Sol Testimony self published her first book of poetry entitled, “The Revolution of Love and Eroticism” that has been widely accepted and praised in the spoken word community. She is in the process of completing her first CD, which is slated to be available in the Fall of 2007. Sol Testimony was also nominated for a Minnesota Music Academy Award in the Spoken Word Artist category for 2006 and is the recipient of a 2006 VERVE Grant from the Jerome Foundation.
CAREI F. THOMAS has been associated for a number of years with the music, literary, visual arts, dance, recovery, neighborhood and Buddhist communities of the Twin Cities. He is known throughout the arts community for his spiritual energy, interdisciplinary vision and creativity. Carleton Macy, Music Professor at Macalester College, said, “Thomas’ compositions are unusual and multi-faceted; they encompass an historic range of musical styles, expressing social and personal experiences and observations. Carei brings with him an infectious sense of community and unity of purpose which is likewise communicated in his music.”
MARIA ISA PEREZ. Born to Newyorican parents and raised on St. Paul's west side, Maria Isa has been holding the mic since she was a little chica. At the age of five she started her performing arts education at El Arco Iris Center for the Arts in St. Paul, learning Afro-Puerto Rican and Latino folkloric art through music, song, and dance. In 2002, she and other advanced members at El Arco Iris formed the group, "Raices" to continue their mission in informing audiences about their roots through traditional dances of Bomba and Plena. Growing up around the sounds of classic salsa, jazz, soul r&b, and experiencing the sounds of hip-hop through each genre of music, Maria Isa wanted a part of the sceneMaria Isa is known for her activism as she portrays quotes of Puerto Rican Nationalist Lolita Lebron. Many believe Maria Isa to be a young woman with the rays of revolutionizing the next generations of singer/mc's. At just 18 years old, this mamita is tearin' it up.
SHA CAGE is a Twin Cities based multidisciplinary artist. Presently, she is the Managing Director of MaMa mOsAiC, a female of color theater company whose mission is to create and present socially conscious theatrical works representative and inclusive of women of color and the diversity of their experiences. With KFAI radio, she is co-producer of an annual spoken word series, Words Will Heal The Wound: A Celebration of Community Through Poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month. Shá is Executive Development Director of The MN Spoken Word Association (MNSWA) and Operations Director of Trú Rúts Endeavors. In addition to acting, producing with MaMa mOsAiC, and organizing with MN Spoken Word Association, Shá is a poet, film producer, and painter.
SARAH AGATON HOWES originates from the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) Nation and Nagachiwanong (Fond du Lac). Sarah recently moved back to the Rez from her hiatus in Minneapolis as an Urban Indian. She spent the last three years doing youth organizing on anti-racism, education reform, leadership development and Indian Uprising Native poet nights. Currently, she is organizing a Native spoken word event in Duluth, training on anti-racism and digging in her garden. Sarah believes in the “Native Pride Nation Wide” t-shirt movement and the curative power of pow wow sweat.
IBÉ: A Maninka born in Kankan, the capital city of the ancient Mandin Empire but now part of Guinea, Ibrahim “Ibé” Kaba grew up between Koindu, Sierra Leone; Evanston, IL; and St. Cloud, MN. Although his mailing address is in Eagan, MN, Ibé lives in what he calls “The Middle of the Atlantic,” and from there he uses poetry to tell the story of Africans in America. Ibé is the founder of Atlanticrock.com, a Web site designed to showcase and teach the world about Africans in America. A member of the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, Ibé is a 2004 Minnesota Academy Award Nominee for Best Spoken Word. Since he first got on the stage in 2003, Ibé has been performing spoken word for audiences in many venues around the Twin Cities including Jazzmine’s, Intermedia Arts, Barnes and Noble bookstores and the Communiversity monthly lecture series, Hamline University, William Mitchell School of Law, St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN and the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in New York.
EMMANUEL ORTIZ is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish American community organizer and spoken word poet residing in Minneapolis, MN. Emmanuel is a founding member of the Latina/o writers/Poets collective Palabristas: Latin@ Word Slingers. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Word is a Machete: Post-Pocho/Puerto Rican Poems of the Personal and Political, winner of the 2003 Bookstore of the Americas Book of the Year Award. He is currently working on his second self-published chapbook, Brown unLike Me: Poems From the Second Layer of Skin, due out this year. He has also co-edited and contributed to Under What Bandera? Anti-War ofrendas from Minnesota y Califas, a collection of poems against war by Latina/o poets in Minnesota and Southern California (Calaca Press, 2004). He has shared the stage with such poets as Miguel Algarín, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Olga A. Garcia and Amalia Ortiz. Emmanuel is working with writer/activist Aurora Levins-Morales (author of Remedios and Medicine Stories) to co-edit an anthology of writings by U.S.-based Puerto Ricans living outside the New York area and entitled OtheRicans: Voices from the greater Puetro Rican Diaspora. In his spare time, Emmanuel enjoys guacamole, futbol and naps.
RODRIGO SANCHEZ-CHAVARRIA is a spoken word poet of Peruvian heritage heavily involved with Palabristas, local Latino poets collective and Con Safos Radio at Hamline University. A recent graduate from the University of Minnesota and an advocate to Latinos in manufactured home parks through APAC. He writes about the duality of two cultures in English, Spangles and Spanish as well as issues pertaining to his community and life experiences. He is currently, working on a spoken word CD with collaboration of other local poets and MC's.
Frank Sentwali Gardner
Ed Bok Lee