OUR STAFF

Chris Henrikson
FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Founder and Executive Director 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.

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Marjorie Joseph
Associate Director

Marjorie brings her passion for the healing power of the creative process to her work managing the administrative, accounting and human resource operations of Street Poets. An actor, dancer, writer and producer, Marjorie is the primary organizer for Street Poets’ fundraising and community events, while also serving as a mentor to many of our young women. In addition, Marjorie has played a leadership role in the development of a Street Poets Women’s Circle, as well as an annual healing retreat for girls in collaboration with our partners at Youth Mentoring. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University (B.A. Political Science), Marjorie is a devoted mother, a spiritual seeker/guide, and a true blessing for all those who are privileged to know her.

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Art Quiros
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.

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Taylor Code
Teaching Artist & Restorative Justice Advocate

Taylor Code first connected with Street Poets almost 20 years ago as a 16-year-old participant in their writing workshop at an LA County juvenile detention camp. Today, Taylor serves as a teaching artist, restorative justice advocate, and proud father of four beautiful children. An accomplished poet and rapper, Taylor is a founding member of Street Poets’ spoken-word performance group, and has shared his redemptive story and creative work at criminal justice conferences, high schools and concert venues throughout the state of California and beyond. An expert in the field of gang intervention & recovery, Taylor has served as a speaker, panelist and presenter at numerous conferences, webinars and retreats. He currently attends Pasadena College, while teaching and advocating for more restorative rehabilitative practices within the criminal justice system. He also sits on the member board of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.  Taylor’s personal music can be found here.

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Mayda Del Valle
Program Director

A widely acclaimed poet/performer, Mayda appeared on six episodes of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO and was a contributing writer and original cast member of the Tony Award-winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. She was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences. Oprah’s “O” Magazine selected her as one of 20 women for their first ever “O Power List”, a group of visionary women making a mark in business, politics, and the arts. In 2009, she was invited to perform at the White House for President Obama and the First Lady. A master facilitator and gifted mentor, Mayda has served as a teaching artist with Street Poets since 2011, leading workshops in high schools and probation camps throughout Los Angeles and beyond. She is also a dancer and vocalist with the LA-based Afro-Puerto Rican bomba group Atabey. A graduate of Williams College, Mayda is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at California Institute of The Arts.
For more information about Mayda and her work, visit www.maydadelvalle.com.

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Jesse Bliss
Program Coordinator

Jesse Bliss is an international playwright, published poet, director, producer, actress and veteran arts educator with roots in New York City women’s theater. Her plays have been produced in a wide range of world-class venues from the United Nations and Edinburgh Festival to the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles. She has taught, developed curriculum and/or conducted teacher development workshops with Center Theatre Group, Geffen Playhouse, Inside OUT Writers, Skirball Cultural Center and Inner-City Arts. Her graphic book and Companion Manual created for incarcerated girls, I Love Myself Golden, is Core Curriculum in Occidental College’s “Lyrics on Lockdown” Course. She is a featured artist in the documentaries LA Woman by Kate Crash and Yahoo Shine.  She is Co-Producer of KPFK’s Think Outside the Cage 90.7 FM and Founder and Artistic Director of The Roots and Wings Project.

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Matt Sawaya
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.

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Frank Escamilla
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.

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Michelle Sorgen
Grants Manager & Teaching Artist

Michelle oversees the development of Street Poets’ foundation and government grant database. She is in charge of researching and developing new financial opportunities for Street Poets, in addition to maintaining our relationships with current funders. She is also a poet and former teacher with extensive experience teaching English, American Literature, Creative Writing and Poetry at a wide range of high schools, including Campbell Hall and New Roads (Los Angeles). At Street Poets, Michelle also helped design a 12-week poetry curriculum specifically geared toward pregnant girls and teen mothers, and created a comprehensive 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. She brings to Street Poets a vast knowledge of contemporary and classical poetry.

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Chirag Menon
Teaching Artist

Chirag (a.k.a Chee Malabar) is a recording/performing artist, writer, and educator. A gifted teacher and facilitator, Chirag currently oversees and coordinates Street Poets’ school-based workshops, probation camp programs, and community outreach efforts. As an artist, he has recorded and released 8 albums, both solo and with hip hop groups Himalayan Project and Oblique Brown. He continues to perform his music and speak at universities and colleges around issues of American identity and race. He was featured in the landmark South Asian-American documentary ‘Brown Like Dat’, and his lyrics and work are the subject of the book Hip Hop Desi’s and a Global Race Consciousness by Northwestern University professor Nitasha Sharma. More recently, he was invited to return to his home country of India to speak and perform at the Goa Literary Festival. Since 2011, In Chirag also has been facilitating retreats at colleges throughout the U.S. via the Posse Foundation. Chirag himself is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University (B.A. Political Science) and holds an M.F.A. in Fiction from Brooklyn College. He is currently working on a debut novel. For more information about his music and work, visit www.cheemalabar.com.

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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
  • 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:
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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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