OUR STAFF

Kahlil Almustafa Gasper, Executive Director
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Kahlil is known as the People’s Poet, whether for a mass rally of hundreds of people, a nightclub, church, university or a backyard family reunion. Almustafa served as a Teaching Artist, and Program Director of Street Poets before stepping into the executive role at the beginning of 2018. At Street Poets, Kahlil integrates education and experiences as an arts educator and professional poet. Almustafa is the 2002 Nuyorican Grand Slam Champion and the author of four books of poetry and his CD CounterIntelligence. Almustafa has more than a decade of experience as an Arts Educator working in various contexts, from public, charter, and other community spaces. His collection of 15 years of poetry, Growing Up Hip-Hop, is used in more than forty classrooms nationally. He has an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College and is a doctoral candidate in Loyola Marymount University’s Educational Leadership for Social Justice program (exp. May 2018) where he is researching the financial lives of Teaching Artists and critical arts education in public school classrooms.

 

Krystal Huff, Senior Director of Operations and Programming

Krystal Huff, an activist-scholar driven by her passion for liberatory education, serves as our Senior Director of Operations and Programming. She is intimately connected to South Central Los Angeles as a proud product of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Krystal holds a dual Bacherlor’s degree in Women Studies and African American Studies from UC Riverside, and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Boston College. Krystal became involved with the national youth empowerment movement at YouthBuild USA, where she oversaw 190 affiliated organizations and played an integral role in helping to organize the network’s first annual national day of advocacy. Upon returning to Los Angeles, she served in various capacities centered around education and community empowerment, including her three-year term as Board President of a youth empowerment organization known as LEAD Inc.. Krystal is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University and holds national positions with the American Research Education Association and the University Council of Educational Administration. Her doctoral research focuses on critical mentoring of opportunity youth, and how education can function as a mechanism to strengthen liberatory relationships in the lives of youth.

 

Natalie Patterson, Lead Teaching Artist
 

For the past 14 years, Natalie Patterson has traveled the country teaching and performing at universities, colleges, high schools and in corporate settings. Poetry is the lens she sees life through, which supports her work as a teaching artist.  Natalie leaves no topic untouched from inspiration to social justice.  She was the first female producer and host of the nation’s largest poetry venue, Da Poetry Lounge and has worked extensively in non-profit, education and with major brands like Sephora and SoulPancake. Natalie is a gifted talent able to use her love of poetry to connect people to a deeper level of thought.  Natalie is currently President of Sister Support, a non-profit committed to the advancement of women and when she is not serving women, she has newly joined the Street Poets team, teaching poetry as a healing art to incarcerated and under-resourced youth. Learn more about her at Natalieispoetry.com.  

 

Frank Escamilla, Director of School & Community Programming
Teaching Artist & Community Outreach Coordinator

Known in the streets and open-mic venues of Los Angeles as “Bus Stop Prophet” for his propensity to bust rhymes in unexpected places, Frank has been deeply engaged in creative peace-making work for over 15 years, both here in LA, and as far away as South Africa. A gifted poet, spoken word-artist, open-mic host, community-builder and teacher, Frank first connected with Street Poets in 2013 and has been working with us ever since. In his capacity as an SP teaching artist, Frank facilitates writing workshops for everyone from Compton elementary school 5th graders to formerly incarcerated adults at Homeboy Industries. In any setting, his passion for the healing power of poetry is truly infectious.

 

Matthew Cuban Hernandez, Director of Camp Programming

    Matthew Cuban Hernandez is a poet, educator, and teaching artist from Jacksonville, Florida. He is the co-coach of the Get Lit-Words Ignite Youth Slam Team and the Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge) Adult Slam Team, who recently made finals in the 2017 National Poetry Slam. Matthew has traveled around the world, from Duval to Abu Dhabi, performing, teaching poetry, and coaching slam teams to great success. Matthew has also served as the Lead Instructor for New Earth, working in youth detention centers across Los Angeles county. He has opened for artists such as Wu-Tang and has performed for platforms such as BuzzFeed. Matthew brings his artistic and educational background to Street Poets Inc. where he continues to empower opportunity youth as the Director of Camp Programming.

    Drew Lucas, Program Development Coordinator

      Drew is a poet, mentor, and a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran working closely with our youth in schools throughout the South Central Los Angeles area. He holds a B.S. in Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality Management at California State University, Northridge. As the Program Development Coordinator, Drew spearheads Street Poets’s involvement with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network Re-Entry effort. Drew has been apart of the Street Poets community over the past five years, and participated in grassroots events such as Battle Class, an annual Veteran Day tribute concert. He has since facilitated workshops working closely with organizations including the Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Operation Engage America and The Soldiers Project. He continues to pursue his passion through poetry and building the bridge between service members coming home from war and the release of incarcerated members of Street Poets community. 

      Art Quiros, Music Program Coordinator
      Recording Studio Supervisor & Youth Outreach Coordinator

      A rapper, poet, sound engineer and music producer, Art first stepped inside a recording booth at age 16, and fell in love with the process of making music. Today, Art’s creative passion is matched only by his passion for inspiring youth to realize their full potential. Art has recorded, produced and performed on all of Street Poets’ compilation albums since 2007. Over those years, he has travelled with Street Poets as far away as Belize, Sweden, Finland and the Apache reservation in Arizona – sharing his poetry, music and gifts as a teaching artist. A mentor to many youth, Art oversees Street Poets’ recording studio program and Poetry in Motion van outreach. He also continues to write, perform and produce music for Los Angeles’ underground hip-hop scene. Once incarcerated for a year at the age of 18, Art embodies the redemptive spirit of the Street Poets community he serves so well.

       

      Matt Sawaya, Teaching Artist
      Teaching Artist
      Matt (a.k.a. Matre) is an accomplished recording/performing artist with a focus on social justice, personal and cultural healing (Matre has recorded 6 studio albums and performs internationally). As a teaching artist with Street Poets Inc., he works primarily with youth in schools and juvenile detention facilities throughout the Los Angeles area. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on “Sacred Art” from U.C. Berkeley and continues to explore the power of the creative process, and of hip hop culture, in supporting individual and collective growth and wellness. He has also taught English as a Second Language to adults; and is a member of ShadeTree Multicultural Foundation, a mentoring and community-building organization. For more information about Matre and to hear his music visit www.mcmatre.com.

       

      Mandeep Sethi, Teaching Artist

      Mandeep Sethi is a global shapeshifter utilizing film and music as mediums to create change, with a specific focus on the 5th element of Hip-Hop Culture: Knowledge. Sethi has toured internationally, sharing the stage with the likes of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Chuck D, Wu Tang Clan, Ziggy Marley, and many more. Mandeep’s most recent accomplishments include becoming the first emcee to appear on Coke Studios @ MTV India with Tabla virtuoso Karsh Kale, releasing his first visual documentary entitled SIKLIGAR about the original weapons makers of the Sikhs, as well as being featured in the Smithsonian Museum’s upcoming Indian American Heritage Exhibit. Mandeep recently completed the tour of his latest documentary, entitled FOLK LOK, a cultural initiative project in collaboration with the American India Foundation and the US Department of State. Mandeep is currently working as a teaching artist at Street Poets, building with the youth within the LA Juvenile Detention System and working with them to create poetry and hip hop music that reflects their emotional and spiritual process as well as resonates their story with the world. Mandeep will be representing on behalf of the Sikh American community on the upcoming 2018 Season of “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell” on CNN.

      Jaynese Poole, Teaching Artist and Media Strategist

      Jaynese ‘Ladybug’ Poole from South Central, Los Angeles and Compton, California is a spoken word poet, dancer and screenwriter. She hosts, performs, organizes community events and holds safe spaces for youth throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. She has been an involved with Street Poets Inc. for over 7 years, as a youth and is now a teaching artist and media strategist. Jaynese has worked closely with the Los Angeles LGBT center as an OutSet alumni (a filmmaking program for LGBTQ young people between the ages of 16-24, created by Lifeworks and Outfest) performing spoken word with Pen Pushers LifeWorks program at Models of Pride 2016 and The Future is Black: Reclaiming Our Power event in honor of Black History Month. She is also a member of 4CLab, a non-profit, providing opportunities for young creative visionaries to share their stories through artistic expression.

      Michelle Sorgen
      Grants Manager & Teaching Artist

      Michelle Koukhab Sorgen is a poet and teacher with extensive experience teaching English, American Literature, Creative Writing and Poetry at a wide range of high schools. She’s been facilitating workshops for Street Poets for the last 11 years. She helped design our poetry curriculum and a resource book of poetry and writing exercises. Michelle holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Maryland and BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan.

      Chris Henrikson, Founder and Board Member
      FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

      Founder of Street Poets Inc., Chris Henrikson has over 20 years of experience teaching poetry and mentoring highly at-risk youth and young adults within and around the Los Angeles County educational and juvenile justice systems. Originally from Boston, Chris is a graduate of Duke University (B.A. English) and the American Film Institute (M.F.A. Screenwriting). He worked as an arts journalist in New York City and later as a screenwriter in Hollywood before a volunteer teaching stint in a Los Angeles County juvenile detention camp in 1995 inspired him to create Street Poets. Chris has served as a keynote speaker and on numerous conference panels exploring youth rites of passage, arts-based intervention strategies, multicultural community-building and alternatives to incarceration. Over the past decade, his efforts to initiate young people into lives full of meaning, passion and purpose have led him into the study and practice of the indigenous healing traditions of Africa and the Americas.

       

      OUR BOARD AND PARTNERS

      Board of Directors
      • Neal Anderson, Co-Founder/Managing Partner, The Propellant Group
      • Katie Fragen, Owner, Katie Moss Landscaping & Design
      • Don Flood, Photographer
      • Susannah Grant, Screenwriter/Director/ Producer
      • Christopher Henrikson, Founder, Street Poets/ Consultant
      • Chenjerai Kumanyika, Assistant Professor, Media Studies, Clemson University
      • Rona Mercado, Cashmere Agency
      • Loren Montgomery, Attorney/CEO, Montgomery Clark Advisors
      • Robert Perrin, Attorney/Partner, Latham & Watkins
      • Sean Scott, Entrepreneur
      • Alison Tatlock, Screenwriter/Playwright
      • Bill Anderson, Founder/CEO, First Beverage Group
      • Julie Arias Young, Attorney/Partner, Young, Zinn & Bate
      Alumni Profiles:
      Alumni Profiles

      David Sanchez   Street Poet David Sanchez shares his story (and poetry) at Do Lectures USA at Campovida in Hopland, CA, fall 2013.

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