Curtis Harris, – MPA Founder/Executive Director
Curtis Harris is the founder and visionary of “Green Earth Poets Café”, a 501 (c) (3) non profit community based organization providing literacy development for youth, and an opportunity and performance stage for youth, spoken word poets and other artists. Since August 2013, Curtis has been passionate about helping people, especially youth, increase literacy, find their voice, and express their voice through poetry and the arts.
The youth in our communities are currently dealing with many issues, from lack of jobs, lack of recreational facilities, broken homes, inadequate housing, inadequate education, rampant gun violence, mass incarceration, as well as stop search and frisk. 75% of our elementary and middle school students in our community are reading below their grade level, and many high school students are dropping out.
Curtis is committed to helping reverse these negative statistics through Green Earth Poets Café in- school, after-school and weekend literacy program “Our youth are slamming” and “TEEN Spoken Fiyah”. These literacy programs are dedicated to bringing the power of poetic expression to at-risk teens through a standards based curriculum aligned to Common Core Standards. Contact us to implement “Our youth are slamming” or “TEEN Spoken Fiyah” curriculum in your school.
In addition, the number of children in prison is on the rise with many 16 and 17 year old boys and girls being incarcerated. Green Earth Poets Café’s program “No more silent voices” helps young people to learn new tools for coping with stress, moving past trauma, and learning to take responsibility for their actions and their emotions. “No more silent voices” seeks to establish a productive forum for self-expression for teens and young adults in the alternative and transitional environments.
Curtis believes that literacy, education and the arts are the keys to a person’s personal growth, success, development and liberation. He works to encourage reading and creative writing, critical thinking, public speaking, advocacy, and performing. Our Spoken Word Open Mic Poetry Series is the vehicle that will allow Green Earth Poets Cafe and now Green Earth Poetry Theater to impact the lives of countless at-risk youth and adults.
Curtis is an accountant with over 40 years experience, the majority of which is in the nonprofit industry. Curtis holds a Bachelor of Science degree (Cum Laude) in Accounting from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY. Curtis is a former student President of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), and was inducted into Delta Mu Delta an International Honors Society for Business Administration.
Curtis a former member of his local community board# 8 in Brooklyn, NY where he served on the Housing/Land Use, Youth, Seniors/Aging, and Public Safety committees. Curtis also holds a Masters degree with honors in Public Administration (Nonprofit Administration) from Bernard Baruch College, (CUNY).
Diane McNeil – Board Chair
Diane McNeil, formerly from Shreveport Louisiana, now a Brooklyn NY native, is a consummate dancer and stage performer. A member of the Belly Dance troupe Pure Onyx Movement Diane has studied under Arianna Al Tiye at Mark Morris Studio, Tamar at Restoration Dance Theatre , Zuri Dance of Jorday dance studio, and Angela Lambert (Noora) at the Greek Cultural Center.
Diane’s experience with performing artists is truly an asset she brings to Green Earth Poets Café. Her performances have been seen at various Haflas, BAM cafe, and many other POM events.
Zulma Rodriguez, LCSW, CASAC
Zulma is passionate about helping clients to gain insight, tools, and support needed in making positive changes necessary to improve their lives. Zulma believes that change happens when people are given the coaching and support they need to draw on their own strengths and realize their potential to live fulfilling happy lives.
Zulma is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Credential Alcoholism Substance Abuse Counselor. In her 18 years in the field. Zulma has worked as a Substance Abuse Counselor at South Oaks Hospital, was the Director of a mental health and substance abuse facility for MCMH, and was the Deputy Director of Greenhope Services for Women. Zulma also taught various addiction courses for The CASAC Resource group located in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Zulma’s passion has always lied in the fusion of addictions,and eating disorders. Her approach encompasses a combination CBT, DBT, Relational therapy and 12-step approaches. Zulma’s professional experience has included working with children, adolescents, individuals, groups, couples and families. Zulma has extensive experience in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, co-dependency, and trauma as well as substance abuse.
Zulma is both a CASAC and Clinical Social Worker, receiving her Master’s degree from Adelphi University. Aside from her clinical experience, Zulma is a Certified Fitness Instructor, Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Spin Instructor. Zulma has performed and taught Ballroom Dancing.
Jeri Baskerville is a project management and process improvement professional and entrepreneur with a business dedicated to elevating minority owned small businesses through process and operational development and company branding and imaging services with complimentary consultation services to focused on the individual professional image.
Even with such a technical training background her lifelong love of words has always been at the epi-center of the things that ‘make Jeri happy”. Raised in a home with a mother who recited Edgar Allen Poe and Langston Hughes while preparing dinner, listened to the albums of The Last Poets and Gill Scott-Heron while her parents entertained, and where books of poetry from Maya Angelou and Ntozake Shange were given as gifts right alongside those must have toys is where her admiration for the art of poetry and the spoken word was nurtured. It is a gift that she is grateful for every day.
Understanding the power and impact that the use of words in prose had on her Jeri jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Green Earth Poets Café and its mission to reach out to our youth and be a place to help them claim their esteem, power, and their voices through the art of poetry.
She believes that if a young man or woman can hear or write that poem that keeps them forever strong, like Invictus does for her; it is that vision presented through the Green Earth’s Poet Café that captured her support. What was seemingly a small step to contribute in some small way lead to a treasured partnership with the founder Curtis Harris. The rest is literal history as they say.
Tina Callender, MS
Tina Callender is a New York State and New York City Certified Librarian. Employed by the New York City Department of Education for 30 years, she has worked as a liaison for parents of children attending special education schools, taught English Language Learners, Literacy to Young Adults, and developed a library program for detained and sentenced adolescents for the school programs on Rikers Island.
Currently a retired high school librarian in Brooklyn. She received her Masters degree from The Pratt Institute in Library and Information Sciences and her Bachelor of Arts from College of New Rochelle.
Genesis Valdez is a New York City native poet and spoken word artist. She is currently a student at Baruch College pursuing a Bachelors degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications with a minor in Journalism. She has been performing since the bright age of nine years old and has been a featured artist at a few local open mic events throughout the years.
She has also performed at Bowery Poetry Club as well as an art series at Barnes and Nobles. Writing has always allowed her to feel in tune with her emotions and create change. When she isn’t writing, Genesis is finding other means of self-expression and creating works of art.
NAJMAH53 * – Project Manager- Green Earth Poets Café & Green Earth Poetry Theater
Najmah means Star
Nicole Najmah Abraham aka “Najmah53” a spoken word artist, motivational speaker, writer, radio personality, event promoter and entrepreneur. She is a proud New York native representing Brooklyn, New York who started writing short poems at the age of 8. By age 11, her love of hip hop culture, lead her to start rapping and doing graffiti art.
When her family moved to South Carolina, she continued to hone her artistic and lyrical skills. By high school she was rapping in talent shows, on the local radio stations and in clubs.
At age 17, after returning to New York, Najmah53 was offered a recording deal and an opportunity to be the hip hop member of an R&B female group touring Europe. This also meant changing her image to fit in with the current trends of wearing hair weaves, fake nails, short skirts and selling sex. She refused to compromise who she was and quickly turned down the deal. Najmah53 eventually decided to give up the headaches of the mainstream hip hop industry.
After her conversion to Islam, she started to write more positive verses and spiritually-conscious poetry.
She quickly began getting invited to colleges to tell her story and share her thought-provoking pieces tackling difficult subjects like racism, sexism, female body image, bullying, and Islamophobia to name a few.
She has performed several pieces against war, also being invited to rallies to perform her famous poem entitled “They Shooting” against the Iraqi War. She has shared the stage with Abiodun Oyewole, legendary founding member of The Last Poets, who is quoted as describing Najmah53 as “Deception…unassuming and innocent, then she gets on a mic, and rips those words up!”. She has also shared the stage with Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey), Freeway, Amir Sulaiman, Kindred and the Family Soul, Black Women Rock‘s Jessica Care Moore and many more.
For the past few years Najmah53 has been on hiatus to complete a degree in Fashion Design, start her own digital media business (Najm Designs) and raise her family. In 2010, she decided she missed one of her first loves, Poetry, and started writing again. She started professionally performing in 2012, releasing her debut CD entitled “Put The Stars into Alignment 1.2” in February of that same year. Her long-awaited sophomore project “The Nebulae Project “- a series of EPs addressing a multitude of topics, starts with it’s first release, “Tarantula”, drops in Fall of 2015.
As a radio personality for the national internet channel American Muslim 360 since 2011, Najmah53 hits the airwaves once a week on her own show, “SPOTLIGHT Hosted by Najmah53” where she discusses Islamic educational topics and interviews prominent figures from the all over the U.S. and abroad.
As the event promoter/coordinator of 53 Productions since 2004, Najmah is well known for her community events, mainly for Women and Teens. She has coordinated fashion shows, lectures, fundraisers for charities, Dawa’h Iftars (Islamic Education Dinners), Youth Mentoring and of course Poetry events. Najmah53 performs nationally, as a Motivational Speaker, Mentor and Teaching Artist.
People have been motivated through her unique journey and powerful messages of inspiration. She also mentors young girls and teens ages 12-18, doing positive workshops on art, creative writing, self-esteem, business and girl power.
Najmah53 is a social activist and humanitarian at heart. She is a very vocal and vital figure whose goal is to continue using her talents to spread powerful messages and foster positive changes in her community.
“If I remained silent and you remained silent, then who will teach the ignorant” -Ibn Taymiyyah
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Sweet Aminata – Programs Coordinator
Sweet Aminata is a St Louis native who has happily resided in Brooklyn, NY for the past 34 years. Her work explores emotional connections through art, heart and energy! She is a poetry performance artist whose poems put into words the many similar emotions and common experiences humans are connected through, but are not always able to verbalize.
Some of her most recent performances have been in the Martin Luther King Jr. Concerts Series (featured poet opening concert 2014), The Center for Black Studies (Northern Illinois University), The Center for Women in Transition (St. Louis, Mo.), New York Organ Donor Network Luncheon and United Nations International Women’s Day Celebration to mention a few.
She participates in open mics around New York City and beyond as well. For many years she was honored to be the resident “Poet” at PS261. During this time she visited classrooms once a month and wrote and performed a poem at each grade school graduation. These experiences she will always hold dear to her heart, for they have helped create the poet she is today.
In addition to her live performances, she has artfully captured her variety of poems in multi-media art pieces that are called “Poetic Statements” which are for sale. Contact via email: Greenearthpoetscafe@gmail.com for more information. She continues to aspire to touch one heart at a time by sparking soul stirring sensations while sharing words of hope and comfort!
Quindell “Quev” Evans – Poet/Program Director
Quindell “Quev” Evans is a Spoken Word poet musically influenced by hip-hop, jazz & soul. His mysterious demeanor is complimented by his edutaining (entertaining & educating) performance presence which is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on any audience. Born in the Bronx, NY and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Quindell’s poverty stricken upbringing is embanked with experiences worth a story to tell.
Passionate about performing since age 11, Quindell has been dedicated to sharing his story with those who need uplifting as he sometimes did. Being extracurricularly involved in his community led Quindell to receive the “Community Service Award 2007″ from Van Dyke Houses of NYCHA.
Moreover, Quindell enhanced his performance skills at Buffalo State University by participating in dozens of talent shows like poetry slams, pageants, open-mics & various competitions. Defined by his combination of his harsh and pleasant experiences, his poetry describes struggle and hardship but with an underling theme of breakthrough to provide uplift & inspiration to his listeners, readers and observers.
Quindell is a great example of blessings through life’s lessons being that he stresses to everyone to learn from their experiences.” We could sit back and speak about how dumb people are these days or we could stand up and each one teach one.”-Quindell Evans
Jherelle Benn – Poet/Program Director
Jherelle Benn (better known as Relle) is a Trinidadian-born poet currently making NYC her home. She considers herself a writer for a revolution that has not yet begun. She is passionate about inspiring the young people and plays an active role in the LGBT and African-American community while also involving herself in various projects to empower troubled youth.
Her poetry often borders on song (influenced by singer/songwriters Lauryn Hill and Meshell Ndegeocello) and ranges from provocative tales of forbidden love (a la her favorite poet, Staceyann Chin) to self proclaimed identity, liberation, and insightful observations of world events.
She once opened for the popular alternative hip hop group Digable Planets and featured at the famed Dixon Place, in the Hot! Festival’s Electrify Gender! – an evening celebrating the spectrum of gender and sexualities through burlesque, spoken word and performance art.
She also featured at the Inspired Word’s first ever out door event; a garden poetry showcase at 6th St. Garden in Manhattan, the acclaimed Tammany Hall, and other note worthy venues in NYC. While working toward a college degree, Relle has been racking up performance credits as a journalist, activist, model, stage actress, has appeared in Public Service Announcements and exploded on the downtown “Open Mic” circuit as a powerful poet/performer with a commanding stage presence and a uniquely crafted spiritual, emotional, and political persona.
She is not only a poet and activist but also a host and event planner having successfully organized several events in the downtown Brooklyn area. Most recently she has joined the Green Earth Poets Cafe in spreading inspiration in the form of spoken word to incarcerated youth at Rikers Island.
Falicia Griffith – Poet/Teaching Artist /Workshop facilitator/Mentor
Phoenix Reign has been writing for almost two decades. Though she may be new to a few of the veterans of the spoken word/poetry world, she isn’t a novice when it comes to writing her thoughts or letting her presence be known on stage. As an amateur in 2011, she entered the world of performing her craft and fell in love with it.
She joined her poetic family Gem Drop / Rough Diamondz in 2013, where she is an abstract piece to the puzzle, and in the summer of 2015, she joined Green Earth Poets as a Mentor. Phoenix writes from her personal obstacles, and challenges in society, down to jaw dropping erotica. She hopes to influence others to express themselves through the rapture of writing, instead of negative influences.
Phoenix is working on motivational speaking, and will work with young girls, teenagers, and women on emotional /domestic violence issues. She will show them how to uplift their confidence, bring focus to mental health, and find a way to express themselves through the arts, instead of using violence, self-harm, or falling victim to societies opinions and insecurities.
Phoenix performs at the events of her poetic family Gem Drop, and has merged with Green Earth Poets Cafe to perform for inner city youth, inmates at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, and local showcases throughout the 5 boroughs.
Follow Phoenix Reign
Facebook: Phoenix Poetically Inclined Reign
Devante Tate aka Black on Both Sides-Poet/facilitator/Mentor
Devante Tate who’s stage name is “Black On Both Sides” is a 23 year old community activist, youth advocate and spoken word artist from East New York, Brooklyn. He currently runs his own grassroots organization called Afrikans Helping Afrikans and also teaches Afrikan history and empowerment to inner city youth out of Medgar Evers College.
Devante was inducted into the 2015 NAACP History Makers list and have been on top ranks of the Black Lives Matter movement in NYC since 2014. He tries his best to reach out to youth and the community through the arts and also education. He recently won first place for the David B. Silver poetry scholarship in June 2016.
Leslie Sterling – Teaching artist/Mentor
Leslie Sterling (aka Aziza) is a Brooklyn-born freelance writer and Administrative Consultant. Her passion for the arts started early on with her first job through the Summer Youth Employment Program where she worked as an actress, writer and workshop facilitator for Street Theater Youth Company, an ensemble production company in White Plains, New York.
A highlight at STYC was collaborating as a writer and actress on a play commissioned by the Mental Health Association on autism, where she also conducted drama workshops for public and high school students.She was a member of an experimental theater production company called The Dragon Kings, where she honed her writing skills, began drawing, was immersed in literature and music, and performed all aspects of theater production work. Her most memorable experience with The Dragon Kings was performing at La MaMa Theatre in the East Village.
For 8 years she worked as Executive Assistant to the President/Office Manager at Yale Roe Films, Ltd.; a production company specializing in recruitment, sales and training videos for corporations, and fundraising videos for the non-profit sector. She has over 10 years experience working with cultural institutions and non-profit organizations; which includes serving as Assistant to the President/Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
As an Administrative Consultant, she has done work for historic Flushing Town Hall in Queens; working with staff, the board of directors and the Department of Cultural Affairs. She currently consults for Bodysculpt of New York, a 501(c)3 organization, on their annual Children’s Sports and Fitness Expo created to help combat childhood obesity, as well as their Six Weeks to Fitness programs.
In 1995 she won the Other Voices/Routes Magazine Poetry Award, presented in honor of James Weldon Johnson, and has done numerous poetry readings, as well as her own one-woman show, “Dreaming Myself Home.” Her latest project, “To Whom It May Concern: Views From The Bridge,” is a collection of her poetry, prose, drawings and photos.
She serves on the Brooklyn Mental Health Council’s Creative Art Therapy Committee which is dedicated to educating the public and promoting Creative Art Therapies as healing arts, while providing a sustainable community for personal and artistic growth. She is a volunteer Fitness Instructor for Shape Up NYC, working toward her personal trainer/group fitness instructor certifications.
As a Teaching http://www.greenearthpoetscafe.com/mission/staff-bios/Artist/mentor for Green Earth Poets Cafe, she deeply believes in the power of the performing arts to promote literacy, develop communication skills, and enhance confidence in young people.
Jason Haynes – Poet/facilitator/Mentor
Born on the islands of Trinidad & Tobago then moving to Brooklyn, New York at the age of ten. Jason Haynes is a poet, author, spoken word artist and accomplished musician. After receiving Honorable Mention at the Queen’s College Cultural Heritage Competition in 1999, he went on to attend Nyack College for Music Performance, participating in various orchestras and chamber ensembles.
His background as a classically trained flutist and proficiency in various genres such as Hiphop & Jazz, coupled with life’s trials and adversities soon became the impetus behind his debut work, The Prodigal Son. A book which creatively weaves childhood anecdotes with short stories of tragedy, homelessness, prison & depression providing a powerful narrative of hope and redemption for all.
He currently lives among the quiet residences of New Jersey, yet his pulse is still close enough to the heartbeat of New York City.
Taneeka Wilder – Mentor/Workshop facilitator/Teaching Artist
Self-published author of “On the Precipice of Love Illuminated” Taneeka L. Wilder uses the power of words to penetrate and nourish hearts for the purpose of healing, inspiration, and reflection. Upon the release of her book, she was interviewed on Progressive Radio PRN.FM , along with one of her book selections being featured on the radio program Midnight Meditations with CharLena.
She has also performed at Sister’s Uptown Bookstore, The New Yorker Hotel, St. Marks Church in the Bowery, and is co-editor of her company’s newsletter, The Windy Graham. Her work is also showcased on her blog, ResurrectedMind1127@Wordpress.com. Receiving her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from the City College of New York, Taneeka L. Wilder is currently working on her second book around themes of motivation, inspiration, and what gives people the courage to live.
She currently lives in the Bronx where she enjoys working with vulnerable children and their families. ” On the Precipice of Love Illuminated & quot; can be found on Amazon.
Ms. Reign Taylor – Poet/Actor
Theresa “Ms. Reign” Taylor is a conscious hip-hop artist, music producer and motivational poet from Queens, NY. She has appeared in dozens of shows across the East Coast including the Harlem Book Fair and the 2014 US Open Tennis Tournament.
Known for her assertive voice and poetic flow, she was the featured spoken word artist in a Nike shoe commercial. Her talents have also led her to be named as a nominee for best hip-hop song by DC Rap. Never one to forget her humble beginnings, Ms. Reign takes time to give back to her community through the arts.
Over the past two years, she has produced a bi-monthly music & poetry concert in New York called “Unspoken” from which a percentage of the profits is donatedto non-profit organizations on the East Coast. In 2016, she has taken the initative to join the Green Earth Poets Cafe in their mission to promote literacy, self confidence, communication, community, and educational development among the youth of New York City.
Zoe Sumner – Poet
Zoe Sumner is a spoken word poet from Brooklyn, NY. She performed in first poetry slam in the 6th grade where she fell in love with the art form. Zoe draws her inspiration from God, family, friends, world news and her contagious love of being Black.
In her spare time, this Stony Brook University graduate is an English teacher at a Brooklyn charter school and a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Zoe is also a Green Earth Poets Café slam champion.
Essence Lamonde – Poet/facilitator/Mentor
“Queens born, Brooklyn raised. Began his Spoken Word journey in 2005 as an open mic’er, at The Sugar Shack in Harlem. From 2006 to 2007 he produced, promoted, and hosted his own weekly open mic called “The Essence Xperience” out of Food 4 Thought, in Brooklyn.
There he met, and featured many different artists from poets, to singers, to rappers, to comedians, etc. From 2005 to 2010 he worked with A.C.S. (Agency of Children Services) for their Black History Month Celebrations. There he hosted and performed for their ceremonies.
In 2010 he was a semi-finalist in the Amateur Night competition at the world famous Apollo Theater. Not easy to do as a poet. An original member of the poetry collective Untamed Talent. Essence was also a National Action Network Poetry Slam winner, and was featured on the Rev. Al Sharptons radio show. He has competed and won various other slams, including the Mcdonalds Summer Poetry Slam (2009).
With his unique style and diverseness, Essence has taken his talents to colleges and universities. From grade schools to, nursing homes, to domestic violence shelters, to even churches. He also has a naughty side, as he is often featured at passion parties, and erotic showcases. Doesn’t matter the event, or the audience, Essence always seem to have something for occasion.
Often times confused with, or accused of being a comedian. To Essence say it, “I am not a poet, I’m an entertainer. It just so happens, that I wrote some poems….”
M.A.Dennis – Poet
M.A. Dennis is the author of the book: “The Many Attitudes of Dennis: Spoken Word Poems.” His work has been published by The New York Times, Daily News, Madness Muse Press and The Pangolin Review. Many Attitudes of Dennis has a journalism degree from St. John’s University and is a man of Many Accolades:
* Winner of Sixth Annual Stories of Success Writing Contest
* Green Earth Poets Cafe Slam Champion
* National Writers Union Open Mic Host
* Mid-Island Y JCC Annual Poetry Contest Winner
* Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam Finalist
* Word Up! Festival Haiku Slam Champion
* Def Poetry Urban Radio Competition Winner
* Hottest Poets Erotic Slam Champion
* Rolling Out’s National Poet-Tree Contest Winner
M.A. Dennis has performed in Many Areas: Nassau Coliseum, Canada, Texas, Cleveland, The Apollo Theater, public libraries, New Jersey, Baltimore, District of Columbia, Hofstra University, the capitol steps in Albany, Brownsville Heritage House, Medgar Evers College, and Weeksville Heritage Center to name a few. Occasionally, you’ll find Dennis reciting his Many Attitudes poetry on the M, A, and D subway lines.
Dennis grew up in Queens and is currently a Staten Island-based writer, who co-hosts The Edgewater Reading Series and was featured on Cut + Paste Radio, as part of “The Staten Island 9.” His writing focuses largely on social justice issues and personal narratives mixed with his own unmistakable satirical humor–all of which he displays in performance poetry that is emotion-filled, energetic and forward-thinking.
M.A. Dennis is passionate about issues involving homelessness and advocates for housing as a human right. He also believes, very strongly, that a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream is only enough for one person.
You can delve deeper into Dennis’ Many Attitudes at:
M.A. Dennis (Facebook)
A Ready Writer, M.A. Dennis (Facebook Author Page)
Esther Aloba- Teen Mentor-Slam facilitator
Sylvester Naraine, CPA-Chief Financial Officer
Wayne Pearce – Webmaster
Wayne Pearce (Pearce Design) is currently working and living in Ft. Myers Florida. I studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts in NYC where I graduated. Back in the day, I was creating Flash sites but now it’s mobile and responsive so that’s where I am at now.
For small businesses, WordPress gives you control of your website. It allows you to market your business online and puts you on a level playing field with even the biggest companies. For bloggers, it’s a creative outlet to express expertise and opinions.
My strengths are UI/UX design and building e-commerce sites using WordPress, Shopify, Oberlo and WooCommerce. I am a consistent beginner because I learn something new every day.
I firmly believe that design is more than making something look pretty; It’s solving a problem. Maybe your problem is that your brand isn’t as professional or as memorable as you’d like it to be. Perhaps your website doesn’t produce the results you’re looking for. Maybe you’re just starting out, and don’t know where to get a kickstart in the right direction. If these are your problems, I have the solution. Let’s fix them together!