Join Urban Word NYC’s Board of Directors as we support the important work of Urban Word NYC, which serves 25,000 teens annually with creative writing and performance, youth leadership, and college prep opportunities.
The evening begins at 6:30 pm with a cocktail hour on The Rooftop at the Manny Cantor Center, followed by a light dinner and evening program in the adjoining event space. In addition to celebrating the important work of the benefit's 2017 honorees, Urban Word NYC students will illuminate the night with spoken word performances and student achievements. It promises to be an evening to remember and we hope you will join us in celebrating the inspiration of New York City youth and their partnership with Urban Word NYC.
2017 Urban Word NYC Honorees
The youngest individual to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet's Café Grand Slam title—Aja Monet is a Caribbean-American poet & educator from East NY, Brooklyn.
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she received her BA in Liberal Arts and was awarded the The Andrea Klein Willison Prize for Poetry established to recognize poetry that "effectively examines relationships among women, especially in the context of justice for everyone." She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Ms. Monet independently published her first book of poetry, The Black Unicorn Sings (2010). In 2012, she collaborated with poet Saul Williams on a poetry anthology of this generation's social and political anthems entitled, Chorus: A Literary Mixtape (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster).
In 2014, she was awarded the YWCA of the City of New York's "One to Watch Award"—an award established in honor of Monet's work: for women under the age of 30 who exemplify the mission to empower women and eliminate racism. She was an active member of Justice League NYC, a rapid response organization created by Harry Belafonte's Gathering for Justice to end youth incarceration and to eliminate the racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
Co-founder of Smoke Signals Studio, Ms. Monet currently lives in Little Haiti, Miami and dedicates her time merging arts & culture in community organizing with the Dream Defenders and Community Justice Project. She is spearheading an arts & activism initiative, "Voices: Poetry for the People" that provides free poetry workshops for grassroots leaders & organizers in South Florida.She continues, as well, to organize artist delegations, cultural, and political exchanges with disenfranchised communities at home and abroad.
Her first full collection of poems is available on Haymarket Books entitled, "my mother was a freedom fighter."
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include THE PLAYBOOK: 52 RULES TO HELP YOU AIM, SHOOT, AND SCORE IN THIS GAME OF LIFE; the picture books, ANIMAL ARK, OUT OF WONDER and SURF'S UP; and novels BOOKED, HE SAID SHE SAID, and the forthcoming SOLO.
Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program. A regular speaker at schools and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love: Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, and recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education's Inaugural Dorothy M. Carter writer-in-residence. The Kwame Alexander Papers, a collection of his writings, correspondence, and other professional and personal documents is held at the George Washington University Gelman Library.
Dr. David E. Kirkland is the Executive Director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools. He has also been described as an activist and educator, cultural critic and author. Dr. Kirkland earned his PhD from Michigan State University and his JD from the University of Michigan.
A Detroit native, his trans disciplinary scholarship explores intersections among race, gender, and education. With many groundbreaking publications to his credit, he has analyzed the cultures, languages, and texts of urban youth, using critical literary, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic research methods to answer complex questions at the center of equity and social justice in education.
Dr. Kirkland taught middle and high school for several years in Michigan. He's also organized youth empowerment and youth mentoring programs for over a decade in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and New York. He currently leads efforts to enhance education options for vulnerable youth throughout New York City, and beyond.
Dr. Kirkland has received many awards for his research and educational advocacy work, including the 2016 AERA Division G Mid-Career Scholars Award, the 2008 AERA Division G Outstanding Dissertation Award. He was a 2009-10 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2011-12 NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and is a former fellow of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation's "Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color" program.
A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Black Males, the fifth book that Dr. Kirkland has authored, is a TC Press bestseller and winner of the 2015 Daniel E. Griffiths Research Award, the 2014 AESA Critics Choice Award, and the 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. He is also co-editor of the newly released Students Right to Their Own Language, a critical sourcebook published by Bedford/St. Martins Press.
Named by Ebony magazine as one of the most brilliant scholars in the US, Dr. Kirkland has been a pivot intellectual voice behind education.