Aja-Monet
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Aja-Monet

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Spoken Word A Capella

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We believe 2013 is a time of great transition. An opportunity to boldly rediscover and redefine what matters most. On June 13th, you're invited to join us for the first installment of TEDxNewYorkLive; a full-day experience combining the magic of a private salon with exclusive live-streaming talks from TEDGlobal... before they're available to the public.

What is TEDGlobal?
Each year, TEDGlobal gathers the most inspired thinkers, doers and change agents to share ideas on a world stage. This year's conference is especially relevant as the TEDGlobal theme is Think Again. While TEDGlobal takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, TEDxNewYorkLive offers a full-day experience for New Yorkers to enjoy these talks and spark meaningful conversation.

The Experience
If you've ever attended a TEDxNewYorkSalon event, you're familiar with our style of connecting individuals through idea sharing and collaboration. As a result, you will be challenged to push boundries and explore possibility in a community of motivated self-starters.

Our Host
We are thrilled to announce the host for TEDxNewYorkLive, Aja Monet. An internationally acclaimed poet, educator and spoken word artist, her work is a testament to the TEDGlobal 2013 theme:Think Again. - Parris


CHORUS is the anthem of a new generation of poets unified by the desire to transcend the identity politics of the day and begin to be seen as one. One hundred voices woven through testimony and new testament. It is the cry of the unheard. The occupation of the page itself. It embodies the “speak-up” spirit of the moment, the confidence propagated through hip-hop, and the defiant “WTF?” of the now. It is the voice that comes after the rebellious voice that once cried, “I want my MTV!” branded back to where punk was, slammed up and beyond it. A combination of trash, heart, and craft. An anthology in rant.
CHORUS is what all modern-day losers chant. - MTV BOOKS/SIMON & SCHUSTER


One of America’s most accomplished and respected young poets will be sharing her talents with local poetry lovers tonight at Chewstick’s Neo-Griot Lounge.

Aja Monet burst into the spotlight as a member of the first youth team from New York City to win the renown Brave New Voices, youth poetry competition.

At age 19, Ms Monet became the youngest person to ever win the grand slam champion title at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 2007. She also went on to perform at the NAACP Pre-Inauguration Event for US President Barack Obama.

She will be performing a collection of her poems in a spectacular show tonight at Chewstick, starting at 8pm. Local poets Ron Lightbourne, Yesha Townsend and members of the ChewSLAM Teen Poetry group will also be showcasing their skills.

Chewstick spokeswoman Deidra-Lee Bean said it will be a night “not to be missed”.

“It will be filled with a velvety smooth delivery of conscious poetry of the highest calibre that is guaranteed to soothe the senses,” she said.

“Ms Monet is a prolific poet, who for six years, has served as a youth mentor, poetry mentor, and poetry slam coach (2009) for Urban Word NYC, working with at-risk youth in inner-city New York.

“For the past three years [she has also] worked with Odyssey House as poetry/performance programme coordinator, teacher, and mentor.”

Ms Bean said Chewstick first came in contact with the artist when she took part in an event organised by Bermudian poet and author, Ms Townsend, in 2009.

Since then, they have kept in contact with Ms Monet and were able to coordinate their schedules so she could come back to the Island.

The well-known poet will also be one of the guest facilitators at The Chewstick Foundation’s Summer Retreat, taking place on Paget Island from Friday until Sunday.

The retreat is described as an “empowering, transformative and fun learning experience” and is a great way for people to connect with one another and learn, while breathing in the natural beauty of Bermuda.

“Participants are invited to not only take part in workshops, which range from knitting and African Mask making to poetry and song writing, salsa dance and more,” Ms Bean said.

“But they are also invited to lead a gathering on a particular passion of theirs, all with the backdrop of beautiful Paget Island and all the fun summer traditions that herald the start of summer.” - Nadia Arandjelovic


With just five days to the US elections, our reporters head to the city of Las Vegas which has the highest unemployment in the country; a place where, for many, the American Dream has become the ultimate nightmare. Annette Young and her panel discuss how fixing unemployment is dominating this election campaign.

Christopher Dickey, Paris Bureau Chief, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Aja Monet, Poet, Co-Editor of the Book "Chorus"; Youth Mentor;
Tim Kane, Chief Economist, Hudson Institute and Founder of the social networking firm StoryPoint;
Doug Hanks, France 24 Correspondent.

(Watch video on site)

Programme prepared and produced by Shamira Mohammad, Sara Bertilsson and Mary Colombel - France 24


If it is a poet's job to inspire, to make one whole by the expression of their muse, to give insights that deepen our ability to be human, and to do all of this with grace, a generous smile, and the humility of a prophet, then I would easily say Aja Monet is one of the best poets I know. Not only can she break a person’s soul open with a cache of sharp and well aimed words, but within all of this it feels to me she honors the deepest job of a poet, which is more than literary entertainment or honing a craft, but to remind us what it means to love, to walk with an open heart and keen eye, to appreciate the suffering and the joy that is the greater alchemy of our human experience.

I have known Aja not only as a fellow poet, but also as a student in her workshops. Her Surrender to the Metaphor workshop allowed me to explore some of my most hidden secrets as an author, and to finally give a voice to them. And these same workshops have born fruit among the staff here at Omega Institute where she has been teaching for several years.
- Brett Bevell


Du 14 septembre au 10 novembre, Dorothy's Gallery soutient le candidat démocrate américain en organisant l'Obama's America : une série d’événements culturels afin de mettre en lumière la diversité artistique des États-Unis. Aja Monet, poétesse afro-américaine, fait partie des artistes programmés. Interview.

Comment êtes-vous arrivée à la poésie ?

Je suis devenue poète à 14 ans, mais j'écris depuis l’école primaire. C’était l’un des seuls domaines où l’on me disait que j’avais du talent. Cela dit, écrire un roman m’effraye encore. La poésie ouvre de nouveaux horizons et renvoie aux questions existentielles. Elle crée du sens dans ce monde complètement tordu.

La poésie peut-elle avoir une visée politique ?

Bien sûr, elle touche le cœur des hommes et pénètre dans les esprits. Des milliers d’artistes engagent leurs arts dans la politique. Ils n’ont pas le choix. Nous ne sommes plus une classe à part. L’artiste est aussi là pour aider les gens à faire face au système. Mais il faut être précis avec la définition du politique. Cela ne se réduit pas à aller voter pour un démocrate ou un républicain. Lorsqu’un jeune Noir marche dans la rue et que les autres éprouvent à son égard de la peur ou du dégoût, c’est politique.

Votre participation à l'Obama's Day ?

Une manière d'encourager les gens à avoir des discussions critiques sur la manière dont la politique affecte nos vies. Je ne sais pas encore quels poèmes je réciterai. Certains parleront d'amour, d'autres de la jeunesse. Je suis sûre d'une chose : les gens ont faim de poésie mais ne le savent pas encore.

Aujourd'hui, nous sommes moins dans une lutte des races que dans une luttes des classes. Prendre part à cet événement, c'est chercher une issue à l'affrontement qui se profile. Je crois en la force des mots comme Liberté ou Egalité. Or aujourd'hui, des enfants meurent dans l'Ohio parce que leurs parents ne peuvent pas payer leurs soins. Je ne voudrais pas devoir quitter les États-Unis pour la France, juste pour me soigner. Nous méritons d'être traités comme des êtres humains, de bénéficier de soins médicaux, aussi bien les riches que les plus pauvres.

Nous allons également évoquer la condition de la culture et de l'art, méprisé aux États-Unis. De nombreux créateurs se retrouvent à vendre des T-shirts pour survivre. L'art est devenu un travail comme un autre qui doit rapporter. Si on ne gagne rien avec ses œuvres, on est obligé de trouver un petit boulot au plus vite. À Paris, vous avez encore des artistes à chaque coin de rue. Chez nous, l'art se meurt.

L’exposition est sous-titrée : les mille visages de l’Amérique...

Ce titre montre que l’Amérique n'est pas figée. Il y a plus d'un millier de visages aux États-Unis. Nous sommes tous fils ou filles d'immigrés. Il existe une diversité culturelle qu'on ne voit nul part ailleurs.

Quelles conséquences pour le peuple américain si Mitt Romney est élu dans quelques semaines ?

Je ne veux même pas y penser. Y croire serait admettre que cela peut arriver... Ce serait pire qu’avec Bush, pire que ce que vous avez connu avec Sarkozy.

Obama était un symbole. Une métaphore. Il avait besoin d’exister pour que l’on sache que les leaders pouvaient venir d’une autre culture, avoir une autre couleur. Tout le monde pensait qu’après son élection, il y aurait un grand changement. Ce n'est pas arrivé, mais il a essayé. Les gens ont pu réaliser que ce n’était pas à cause de la couleur de sa peau qu’il a échoué, mais parce que le système mis en place est figé. Une mécanique qui favorise le corporatisme et la finance. Il ne faut pas oublier qu’Obama n’est qu’un homme, ni meilleur ou pire qu’un autre. Ce n’est pas Jésus. Juste quelqu’un qui souhaite changer le monde. - Ludovic Clerima


Aja Monet
Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To
n/a : 2010
89
Aja Monet ain’t no joke. She’s no docile doll baby to be played with and discarded. But she’s also not void of love or of the void of love. She needs to be loved and held too, even if she does wield a deadly weapon, and walk with a straight back and a hip-sway, her lips, both snarling and puckering at the same time. At least, that’s what I deduce from her latest album, Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To – that she is a woman. Whole. Open. Closed. Free. Her. A nine-track celebration, Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To is made up of the sonic seduction that is Aja Monet’s voice and lyrics, over a variety of sounds, whether it be a sultry soul track, or an intergalactic (a motif Aja uses a bit on the record) Moog- splashed, Bootsy Collins circa “Munchies For Your Love” beat. The music, though different enough to stay interested, still comes across as cohesive, thoughtful and carefully executed.
But let’s be honest. People who know Aja (which is a lot of people) know her for her work as a poet. Her words are what people want more than anything. And my concern when I decided to review the album, is that she would try so hard to create something musical, that the integrity of her work as a writer would slip. I’m so glad I was wrong.
One of the strongest examples of Aja Monet’s word sorcery, is on the cosmic, non-sexual yet uber-erotic song, “Recess,” in which Aja Monet confesses in the chorus, Your a jungle gym in my chest/A playground in my soul. Her layered voice goes into a schizophrenic fit, of I want to rip our arm off and glue it to my lower back, and I want to use your moan as lotion on my skin, and I want to make your back my railroad and ride it to and fro work everyday. Recess indeed.
Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To is a manifesto about womanhood, love, freedom, and how all three could and should be synonyms for one another. What it’s not is another spoken word album, complete with heavy bass, boring under-produced music, and stale poem-raps about…whatever. Aja’s done a great job at doing the “Aja thing,” that her supporters know and love, even in the midst of her creative expansion into music which isn’t always easy to do. If you dig poetry, this is for you. If you dig music, this is for you. If you are a woman, this is for you. If you a man, yep, for you too. Hell, if you an alien…

- Jason Reynolds


“As I've gone through university, and later worked in the UN, for NGOs and for government, I have realized that too often the institutions responsible for promoting human progression seem to create an artificial and worrying chasm between intellect and feeling. Yet humans cannot create real change if we do not let things touch us personally. As Winston Churchill put it, "Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe."

I wanted to ensure that when I was at the UN I would remember to let myself feel and to believe, and would inspire others to do the same. I think this is the main role of a youth delegate - to tug at the red tape and remind everyone what they came here to do in the first place.”

“The main reason I am writing is to share a story that came from the conference.

At the conference, you may remember a young woman named Aja-Monet Bacquie, who performed a very moving poem. I was very affected by her performance and afterwards got to know her a bit and discovered recordings on the internet of more of her work.

Each year, the UN Youth Delegates host an event at the UN. This year I was the coordinator. Typically there are ambassadorial statements, then a discussion between people from various NGOs and UN agencies about youth participation. We had something along these lines this year, though tried to make it bolder and more interactive.

Then I introduced Aja. She spoke better than any of the VIPs we had along in my opinion. She noted the fact that poverty and Millenium Development Goals aren't just about the economy, they aren't just about finding more funding, they're also about communication - poverty is more than a lack of resources, it is a lack of control, of dignity. She painted a picture of the reality that had become abstracted in discussions of 'platforms' and 'targets' and 'lobbying'. Then she performed a very courageous, powerful poem she had written about youth At UN side-events, this kind of speaker and performance is very rare. I wasn't sure how people would respond, but I wanted Aja there to shake things up, to make our event different.




The event was yesterday and Aja was amazing. All afternoon I was flooded with emails from UN Missions - from ambassadors, national politicians, diplomats, directors of various agencies and others, and they all mentioned Aja. Perhaps more importantly, many of the young people in attendance have written to me telling me they feel re-energized. One UN intern wrote that this was the most memorable thing that had happened in an entire year interning at the UN.

I feel like something important happened, something that will hopefully influence the thinking of some key policymakers and negotiators. It feels great to be a part of that. Your conference sowed these seeds. It is something I will never forget.”
- Melanie Poole


Discography

Quotes:

“Aja is a passionate, talented, relentlessly dreaming, dedicated, walk-through-the-snow-in-flip-flops-to-get-to-a-reading kind of poet”
-Jeffrey McDaniel -

“A glutton for love and beauty… classically surrealist. I haven’t heard ‘a humming bird released from a mother’s ribcage’ before…wow.”

-Bob Holman-

“She is the reason I stopped slamming… Aja Monet writes with a spirit that makes me miss Brooklyn”

-Saul Williams-

“She is the eye of the storm, the reason poets listen and reader’s pray. She is the future of us. Beautiful with life and hope”

-Mahogany L. Browne-

“There are people who come into your life, who come into this world with such velocity, bravery and beauty that whole hearts are changed, the whole world is moved… Aja Monet is one of those rare people in my world. She is a lyrical shape-shifter, an ancient infant, bravely falling up. Her search for compassion and truth is relentless and voracious. Her time here, her work, her life is our poem. Here.”

-Michaela Angela Davis-

“Aja Monet: Since the moment I heard her poetry has captivated the struggle of not just a people, but of humanity itself as and entity. The soulful female passion injected with controlled logic and emotion balance eacht other to bring a message. One that much like any form of our co-opted culture is difficult to commercialize but impossible to ignore. Caught at the crux of a world where words are slaves and the capacity to speak them in such a manner set people free…
Her destiny is in her hands only”

-Immortal Technique-

Photos

Bio

Actor, Singer, and Activist, Harry Belafonte, once called Aja Monet "the true definition of an artist" who - at the age of 19 - became the youngest individual to ever win the legendary Nuyorican Poet's Cafe Grand Slam champion title in 2007. Her craft is an in depth reflection of emotional wisdom, skill, and in depth activism. In her work with innercity youth, she uses poetry as a holistic healing tool.

Aja Monet received a BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College (2009) and an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011).

In 2010, she independently published her first book of poetry, The Black Unicorn Sings (Penmanship Books) inspired by Audre Lorde and her Brooklyn-bred experiences. In 2012, Aja Monet collaborated with poet/musician Saul Williams on a book of poetry entitled, Chorus: a literary mixtape (MTV books/Simon&Schuster), a concept where editors remixed selected poem submissions from around the world and created an original story of today’s generation.

Aja Monet’s first music project, Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To received an outstanding review from OkayPlayer and is a testament to her creative lens and a social commentary on the discussion of love addressed through her lyricism and sultry voice.

Aja Monet developed a recurring workshop for Staff and Faculty of Omega Institute: Center for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY where she teaches every summer. Known for an indomitable stage presence and voice that belies her appearance, she has performed at various venues, colleges, and universities across the US and Europe. Monet performed at notable international institutions such as American University in Paris and Science Po University etc as well as being invited by New York University as a Black Portraiture's conference guest speaker and panelist in Paris, France (2013).

Monet uses her poetry to address political issues directly affecting impoverished communities or disenfranchised groups. She 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 by the President of Cook County Commissioners in Chicago to speak before elected officials where she used poetry as a means of addressing youth violence in the metropolitan area after teaching workshops and performing in Juvenile Detention Centers, prisons, and rehabilitation centers. Aja Monet's poetry is provocative, altering, and heartfelt.

She is currently finishing a new book of poems. Aja Monet continues to travel and share poetry.

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List of Accomplishments:

• Won the reputable Nuyorican Poet's Cafe Grand Slam champion title at age 19 (2007).
• Performed and lectured at the United Nations Youth Delegates Conference in New York City (2008).
• Invited performer and participant at Omega Institute’s Annual Women and Courage Conference along with Isabel Allende, Christiane Northrup, Queen Afua and Loung Ung a.o. (2008).
• Invited performer at the NAACP’s Pre-Inauguration Event for Barack Obama’s Inauguration (2009).
• Commissioned by Cisco Systems to write a poetry piece on mobile technology (2011).
• Lectured/performed/panelist at universities across the US and Europe, the American University of Paris, France (2012) and the renowned Sciences Po University of Paris, France (2012) and Leuven University (2013).
• Invited by contemporary artist and scholar, Deborah Willis, to participate in New York University’s Black Portraitures Conference in Paris, France. Organized by Cornell University, NYU, Harvard University, EHESS Paris, Musee du quai Branly and Studio Museum Harlem (2013).
• Published in The New York Times for 2008 “Poem in Your Pocket Day.”
• Poetry and opinion appearance on numerous international television and radio programs (Austrailia’s SBS Insight and France 24 etc)
• Showcased at world-renowned venues such as on Broadway at the Town Hall Theatre, the Apollo Theatre, the Nuyorican Poets Café, Bowery Poetry Club, B.B. Kings, The Schomburg Center of Harlem (US), La Maroquinerie (Paris, France), Paradiso (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).
• Shared the stage and performed for a wide range of special guests such as Russell Simmons, Reverend Run, Wyclef Jean, Roxanne Shante, Paul Mooney, Amiri Baraka, The Last Poets, Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, and countless others.
• Teaches a yearly workshop developed for Omega Institute: A Center for Holistic studies entitled Surrendering to the Metaphor, a.o.