Aja in Wonderland: Aja Monet on poetry in social transformation and Tupac Shakur

The rabble podcast network offers an alternative take on politics, entertainment, society, stories, community and life in general. All opinions belong to the podcaster; however, podcasters are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new podcasters -- contact us for details.

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

For the second episode of the New York series, I have the current "cool girl" of spoken word poetry, Aja Monet, the youngest winner of the legendary Nuyorican Poet's Café Grand Slam. Since winning the coveted title, Aja has performed all over the United States, France, the U.K., Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bermuda, and Cuba.

In 2012, she collaborated on a book with iconic poet and musician Saul Williams, called Chorus: A Literary Mixtape and has smoothed into music, producing her first album, Scared to Make Love, Scared not To. For this episode, Aja talks about living in Paris, the role of the poet in social transformation, music and Tupac Shakur.

Bio

"The true definition of an artist" is how the iconic Harry Belafonte describes Aja Monet who  is a poet, performer, and educator from East NY, Brooklyn. She is best known as the youngest individual to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title. An internationally established poet, she is recognized for combining her spellbound voice and powerful imagery on stage, captivating audiences across the United States, France, the U.K., Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bermuda, and Cuba.

She has showcased at world-renowned venues including On Broadway at the Town Hall Theater, Apollo Theater, Paradiso in Amsterdam, and countless others. Aja Monet was invited by the UN Youth Delegates to perform for ambassadors, national politicians, diplomats, and directors of various agencies at the United Nations in New York City. As well, she was invited to perform for NAACP’s Barack Obama Inaugural event in Washington, D.C.

Aja Monet's work has philosophical impact on perspective and critical thinking as she seeks to pose questions about the power of the imagination and metaphor in developing transformative visions on internal worlds and how we engage with global issues. Largely influencing the spoken-word community, Aja Monet uses poetry to empower and encourage holistic healing in youth education. She works with inner-city youth as a Teaching Artist for Urban Word NYC as well as Urban Arts Partnership in NYC where she encourages her students to delve into creative outlets to harness meaning in the world and to transform it by transforming selves. She was invited by Cook County Commissioners of Illinois to perform for elected officials and visited numerous youth institutions, developing voices as an alternative to violence using poetry as a transformative force.

Influenced by all areas of the arts, Aja Monet has worked closely with visual artists as well and was invited by contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas and scholar Deborah Willis to speak at Musee du Quai Branly for NYU's Black Portraitures Conference in Paris, France where she addressed international scholars, artists, and performers on the role of the poet in contemporary society.

A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College (2009), Aja Monet received her BA in Liberal Arts and was awarded the The Andrea Klein Willison Prize for Poetry which was established to recognize undergraduate students whose work in poetry "effectively examines relationships among women, especially in the context of justice for everyone." She then went on to receive an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011). Her graduate thesis was also her first compilation of music and poetry. Entitled Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To, it is a testament to her creative lens and a social commentary on the discussion of love.

Aja Monet independently published her first book of poetry, The Black Unicorn Sings (2010). In 2012, she collaborated with poet/musician Saul Williams on a book entitled, Chorus: A Literary Mixtape (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster). She is currently working on new music and a ebook of poems to be released online June 1st, 2014 entitled, Inner-City Chants & Cyborg Cyphers.

ajamonet.com

Intro/outro music:  "Rainbow" by Emilie Simon.  Remix from the original.

Additional music: "A tua choradeira é meio salário em lenços" by Stealing Orchestra & Rafael Dionísio.  Remix from the original.

"She Sweats" by Aja Monet.  Directed and produced by Camovement for The ArtWorks Collection.

"Us" written and produced by Aja Monet, from the album, Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To.

 

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.