7 Diverse Chicago Spoken Word Poets With Inspiring Careers

Come celebrate Black History Month with our FindSpark community in Chicago, at our Black History Month Spoken Word Happy hour at Yelp on Thursday, February 8th. Get mesmerized by amazing spoken word performances, connect with other ambitious, diverse professionals and enjoy free food and drinks, on us. Tickets are free and limited, get yours today at findspark.com/black-history-month-happyhour-yelp

One of the biggest challenges that creatives face in their professional development is grappling with the canned and narrow preconceptions of what a creative career entails. The myth of the “starving artist” has scared many away from pursuing a career in the performing, written, plastic, or other arts. What the artistically inclined are seldom reminded is that we’re here to make our own experience and design our career, on our terms.

These seven, incredible spoken word artists are proof that, with passion and dedication, you can craft a creative career that’s all your own and right for you. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration to delve into the creative career of your dreams, you will no doubt find plenty below.

Jamila Woods

Poet and vocalist Jamila Woods was raised in Chicago, IL and graduated from Brown University, where she earned a BA in Africana Studies and Theatre & Performance Studies. Much of her writing explores blackness, womanhood & the city of Chicago. Jamila is also a vocalist & songwriter, focusing primarily on soul/hip-hop centered music. Her musical work has been featured in publications like Ebony Magazine, Spin and more.

The super-woman also serves as Associate Artistic Director of the non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors (YCA) where she helps organize Louder Than A Bomb, the largest poetry festival in the world and teaches poetry to youths in the city.

José Olivarez

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants, the co-author of the book of poems Home Court, and the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Marketing Manager at Young Chicago Authors. In 2016, José won the Poets House Emerging Poet Fellowship and, prior to that, the Bronx Recognizes Its Own award in 2015. His work’s been published in Vinyl Poetry and Prose, The Chicago Tribune, among others.

His first book, Citizen Illegal, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books. Learn more about José and connect with him on his website, and be sure to follow him on Instagram for more poetry and inspiration.

Nate Marshall

Nate Marshall is from the South Side of Chicago. He is the author of Wild Hundreds and an editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-HopWild Hundreds was awarded the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s award for Poetry Book of the Year, among other distinctions. Nate is also a recording rap artist. His last album, Grown came out in 2015.

Nate is also the Director of National Programs for Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival and has taught at The University of Michigan, Wabash College, and Northwestern University.

Seriously. So cool. Check out his website, right here.

Mojdeh Stoakley

Mojdeh’s the new Director for the National Poetry Slam, which will be in Chicago 2018 and the new Education Director for Poets with Class (k-college programs) through the Poetry Center of Chicago. She’s a firm believer that poetry helps heal individuals managing the effects of trauma, and has the power to effect social and cognitive change.

Learn more about Mojdeh’s work and connect with her on LinkedIn or through her website. 

Ainee Fatima

Ainee Fatima, currently a Teaching Artist at Olive Tree Arts Network, graduated from DePaul with a degree in Islamic World Studies and International Relations.

Ainee was a Louder Than A Bomb finalist in 2009, as well as a 2010 Duo Slam champion, and was recognized by Hilary Clinton in 2011 at a State Department dinner. She is also the first hijabi featured in Seventeen magazine. Check out Ainee’s beautifully curated Instagram right here.

Alessandria Rhines

Alessandria is a performer, writer and creative. She graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Digital Media and minoring in Writing-Intensive English at Marquette. Today, she’s a Development Intern at Smart Entertainment in LA. Her accomplishments include being featured in Huffington Post Black Voices. Learn more about Alessandria and follow her on LinkedIn.

Lamar Jorden

Lamar Jorden is an MC, poet, playwright, and performer from Chicago’s west side. He’s a many-time winner of Louder Than a Bomb, the largest slam poetry festival in the world, and is one of the stars in the 2010 documentary of the same name. He is also a recording artist and lyricist. Check out his music right here. Lamar has also been a long-time artist and teacher at YCA.

Know anyone we should add to our list of inspiring Chicago poets? Share in the comments!

Want to enjoy live spoken word performances? Celebrate black culture and heritage with other diverse pros in Chicago? Join us at Yelp’s Chicago office on Thursday, February 8th for our Black History Month Spoken Word Happy Hour. Free food and drinks will be served: findspark.com/black-history-month-happyhour-yelp

About the Author

Recent UPenn graduate from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Background in PR and Media Production. Things I love: bringing bold ideas to life, trolling the web + great sushi. Let's make things happen!

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