Woodie King Theater Presents “She Speaks: Love, Resilience, Revolution” Poetry Jam

2021 Poetry Jam, "She Speaks: Love, Resilience, Revolution," a virtual evening of poetry
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Photo: New Federal Theatre

NEW YORK -- On November 19 at 7:00 PM, Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre will present its 2021 Poetry Jam, "She Speaks: Love, Resilience, Revolution," a virtual evening of poetry featuring Sasa Aakil, Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Bayan Founas (Bayan the Poet), Angela Jackson, jessica Care moore and Dionne Tenhue (aka Luna the Poet).

Toi Derricotte, co-founder (with Cornelius Eady) of Cave Canem, will receive the Woodie King, Jr's New Federal Theatre Lifetime Achievement Award honoring her work as a poet, educator and activist. Ms. Derricotte will receive tributes from Yusef Komunyakaa, Terrance Hayes, Sharon Olds, Hermine Pinson and Cornelius Eady.

Entertainment also includes singer D.K. Dyson and spoken word artists The RGB Girlz.

The evening will be emceed and curated by Rev. Rhonda "Akanké" McLean-Nur. Director is Petronia Paley, an award-winning actor, playwright and director. Stage Manager is John Scutchins and Editor is Natalie Morrow.

Attendance is free and unlimited, but $10 donations will be appreciated. Audience members must RSVP by going to New Federal Theatre’s website.



Toi Derricotte, together with poet Cornelius Eady, founded Cave Canem, an organization committed to furthering the artistic and professional opportunities for African American poets. Cave Canem won the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Derricotte was chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012-2017. Her books of poetry include "The Empress of the Death House," which draws on her early experiences at her grandparents’ funeral home in Detroit; "Natural Birth Captivity Tender," winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize; and "The Undertaker’s Daughter." She has also published a collection of prose, "The Black Notebooks," which won the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.

O F F E R I N G  T R I B U T E S

Yusef Komunyakaa, recipient of 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for "Neon Vernacular" and Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; Terrance Hayes, recipient of 2018 National Book Award for Poetry, The Whiting Award and MacArthur Fellow; Sharon Olds, recipient of National Book Critics Circle Award and Pulitzer Prize; Hermine Pinson, publisher of three collections of poetry as well as critical essays and fiction; Cornelius Eady, Co-Founder of Cave Canem, publisher of over six volumes of poetry, recipient of Lamont Poetry Prize, nominee for Pulitzer Prize.

F E A T U R E D  P O E T S

Sasa Aakil is an 18- year- old multi-media artist, writer, and the 2021 Montgomery County Youth Poet Laureate. She is a co-author of "I Am The Night Sky and Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth" and the artist behind the "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday" Project. She is also a brown belt in Tung Su Do. Her work can also be found in the 2018 Scholastic Best Teen Writing anthology. She has been active in the DC art community since age 13 and is now pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at Montgomery County Community College. (www.sasaaakil.com)

Gha'il Rhodes Benjamin is an award winning spoken-word performance-recording artist, AUDELCO winning actress, self-empowerment speaker and educator. Her "Tiddies Ain't Everything/ for Sarah the Butterscotch Sunflower Queen" is featured in the 2020 African Voices Magazine Spring edition. She has appeared in The Appel room of Jazz at Lincoln Center in collaboration with Senakwami's Studio with pianist Julius Rodriguez and his band. She is host and performer in Fort Greene's annual Juneteenth Arts Festival Celebration in Cuyler Gore Park. Her collaboration with Jeff Haynes on the CD "Storm King" with Pete Seeger was Grammy nominated and won The Audio book of the Year Award (Publishers Weekly), The Nappa Silver Award and The Audio Files Earphone Award. (www.ghailrhodesbenjamin.com)

Bayan Founas (Bayan the Poet) is an educator and poet in metro-Detroit. A daughter of Algerian immigrants, she earned degrees from University of Michigan and created a creative writing and arts program, “Writing for Freedom,” in 2016 for youth of color to creatively and collectively heal. She teaches high school English in Detroit, is a writer-in-residence with InsideOut Literary Arts, creating and leading youth poetry programming across the city. Her 2018 book, "Diary of a Daughter in Diaspora," is a collection of her poems on diaspora, love, healing and teaching. She is a founding member of two poetry collectives in Michigan.

Angela Jackson is the Poet Laureate of Illinois, an award-winning poet, novelist, and playwright who has published three chapbooks and four volumes of poetry. Born in Greenville, MS and raised on Chicago's Southside, she was educated at Northwestern and U. Chicago. Her collections of poetry include "Voo Doo/Love Magic" (1974); "Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners" (TriQuarterly, 1993); "And All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems Selected and New" (TriQuarterly, 1998), which was nominated for the National Book Award; and "It Seems Like a Mighty Long Time" (TriQuarterly, 2015), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Open Book Award and a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Milt Kessler Poetry Prize. Jackson received a Pushcart Prize and an American Book Award for her chapbook "Solo in the Boxcar Third Floor E" (1985).

jessica Care moore is an internationally renowned, award-winning poet. She is Executive Producer and Founder of the 17-year-old rock & roll concert and empowerment weekend, Black WOMEN Rock! She is a 2018 Joyce Award Winner, a 2019 and 2017 Knight Arts Recipient, a 2016 Kresge Art Fellow, a 2013 Alain Locke Awardee and winner of the 2015 NAACP Great Expectation Award. In the 90's she won the legendary “It's Showtime at the Apollo” competition five times in a row with a poem. Her poetry and voice are prominently featured on the fourth floor of the Smithsonian's New National Museum of African American History. She created Moore Black Press Publishing in 1997, and began publishing her peers including Saul Williams, asha bandele, Danny Simmons and Newark Mayor and poet Ras Baraka, among others. Her fifth book, "We Want Our Bodies Back" was published by Harper Collins in March. (Note to editors: the spelling of her name is stylized.)

Dionne Tenhue aka Luna the Poet has been a featured poet at Busboys & Poets, Spit Dat (DC's longest-running Open Mic), Spirit & Lyrics, and various other venues up and down the East Coast. Although she hasn't performed abroad (yet), her poetry was recently selected to feature in Paris Lit Up, a literary magazine in Paris. She is also an expert crocheter who created a line of handcrafted Psychosensory Therapy items called TH3F33LZ and makes yearly donations of TH3F33LZ items to patients at Children's National Medical Center. She has self-published two collections, "Welcome Me" and "Remember Me."

S P E C I A L   A P P E A R A N C E S

D.K. Dyson is a vocalist, composer and musician who travels comfortably through Jazz, R&B, Pop, Rock and World Music, defying boundaries. Her band EYE & I broke down racial and musical stereotypes with a sound that married heavy Rock and Funk with Jazz smarts. Last year, Dyson was nominated by the NY Music Awards as Best New Female Vocalist. She has worked with Debbie Harry and Bette Midler, among others.

The RBG Girlz are a NYC group of gifted, fierce young Afrikan women of various ages from elementary school through college who use radical spoken word accompanied by mainstream instrumentals to encourage the concept of Afrikan love and unity. Their goal is to help change the narrative of Hip-hop by using all platforms to reach other youth as well as bridge the gap between them and our elders.

E M C E E  &  C U R A T O R

Rev. Rhonda "Akanké" McLean-Nur (Emcee, Curator) is an actress, arts educator, founder of visionary youth arts programs and an interfaith minister. She is a board member of New Federal Theatre and the Laroque Bey School of Dance.


Petronia Paley recently directed last year's poetry jam and New Federal Theatre's production of "Looking for Leroy" by Larry Muhammad (2019), a play about LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka that won six AUDELCO Awards including Best Direction and Best Play. She has also directed at EST, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Cherry Lane Theater and National Black Theatre Festival. Well-known as an actress, she has appeared in classics, modern plays and TV. Her one person show "The Way to Timbuktu," won an AUDELCO Award. She is author of three plays, a book of monologues and a children's book and a member of The Actors Studio.

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