Born in High Point, North Carolina, Jeffery the Artivist has exhibited his creative spirit from a very young age. The son of a New York Times bestselling author, the gift of gab is in his genes. A multi-faceted, award-winning children’s book illustrator artist and internationally known, spoken word poet / MC, Jeffery received his Master of Fine Arts from Howard University in May of 2016. Since graduation, his debut title, You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen has been making notable waves in the children’s book realm. His lifestyle as an illustrator recently got him invited to Ghana and Senegal on an international tour where he taught youth about being an illustrator and performed his poetry for the community every chance he got. He was given the name ‘Yaw Ngyabo Aja I’ by an elder named Revelations while on his tour of the motherland in Ghana, which translates to “Thursday born word witch” because of the power in his tongue and how his words are mesmerizing to those that hear them. Jeffery / Yaw teaches that HIP HOP is an acronym for “Higher Infinite Power Healing Our People” and uses his artistic voice as an MC to be an eloquent voice for the voiceless and oppressed. A diverse spoken word artist, MC, social media expert, as well as the founder and chief of the global hip hop collective, TRiiiBE Worldwide, Jeffery / Yaw has been steadily adding to his accolades. From clothing design, to music, opening up for the Wu Tang Clan, Azealia Banks, Dave East, Oshun, and many more, to poetry, to visual arts, Yaw is making a name for himself globally. He was recently on his second international tour in the United Arab Emirates, teaching the youth about African American Culture, Hip Hop, and Spoken Word! Jeffery is truly a force for positive change!
Born in the South Bronx, Ivan Velez has used cartooning to help create social change for over 40 years. ‘Tales of the Closet’ was one of the first publicly distributed interventions for LGBT youth. Starting his pro comics career at the multicultural MILESTONE, he wrote several mainstream comics series and helped install diversity of color, gender and orientation. His work continued for Marvel and DC Comics and has been included in several award-winning comic anthologies, and is translated and shown in three continents. Ivan is also a teaching artist for New York libraries and museums, and is proud to be the creator of The Ballad of Wham Kabam, a comic series funded by the 2015 Creative Capital Visual Arts grant.
Jassmine Parks is a Detroit slam poetry champion that has performed internationally. Using language as a catalyst to time travel through storytelling, Jassmine believes thoughtful introspection on past experiences in present time allows one to access our agency, creating a future in which we exist as our best selves. Jassmine has created a safe space program for youth and a literary series for black girls and women in Detroit. Jassmine’s work focuses on the intersection of identity and actively identifying, naming and healing trauma and has been published through SlamFind, All Def Poetry and Wusgood? Magazine.
Rosangelica Lopez is Latin America’s response to Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. She is the caged bird who chooses to sing and inspires others to use their voice. An artist born and raised in The Bronx, Rosangelica is active in her community as a teaching artist, poet, singer, songwriter and musician. She received her BA in English and Creative Writing from City College in June 2018 and is currently working on her third project.
Leah Lakins is the founder and chief creative officer of Fresh Eyes Editorial Services. As an experienced editor and writer, she specializes in creating books and other non-fiction publications. She is a proud native of Baltimore, Maryland and an even prouder alumna of two of its finest institutions, Western Sr. High School and Morgan State University. She also holds a master’s degree in Publishing from The George Washington University. Now residing in Brooklyn, New York, she is passionate about mentoring the next generation of content creators and empowering others to share their stories
Gilbert Ford holds a BFA in illustration from Pratt Institute and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY where he has illustrated many New York Times bestselling middle grade novels and also award-winning picture books. He is the author/ illustrator of non-fiction picture books The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring and How the Cookie Crumbled. His debut middle grade novel he wrote and illustrated, entitled The Treasure Inside, will hit the shelves in 2020. His books have been selected by the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Silver Medal, Bank Street Cook Prize Honor, Bank Street Irma Black Honor, Orbis Pictus Honor, NSTA Best Stem Book, and others.
Mariam Bazeed is an Egyptian immigrant, writer, and performance artist living in a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn. An alliteration-leaning writer of prose, poetry, plays, and personal essays, Mariam received their MFA in Fiction from Hunter College in 2018. Mariam’s award-winning play, Peace Camp Org—available in anthology from Oberon Books, UK—has been presented at La Mama Theater, NYC (2017); the Arcola Theatre, London (2018); and The Wild Project, NYC (2018). To procrastinate from facing the blank page, Mariam curates and runs a monthly(ish) world-music salon and open mic in Brooklyn, and is a slow student of Arabic music.
Adelia Davis is a Detroit native who graduated from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor where she studied biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience. She received the Wallenberg Fellowship that allowed her to carry out a global self-directed service project. She chose to spend a year in Cape Town, South Africa observing the similarities of black representation in children’s literature in comparison to the United States. She ran reading clubs and empowerment programs to promote a positive self-image in black youth in Cape Town, and has since returned to Detroit and begun similar youth programming around mentorship, storytelling, self-esteem, and literacy.
Matthew L. Thompson is a poet from Cleveland, Ohio, and an MFA candidate in Poetry at The New School. He wants his writing to fight, cry, moan, grieve, listen, shout, and be a varied and full communication of his interior. You can find his work in The Seventh Wave, Juked Poetry, James Franco Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and is getting his life. Join him on his blog, Unlearning Monday.