OUR STAFF

Frank Escamilla
Director of School & Community Programs

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 Programs

    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.

    Art Quiros
    Recording Studio Director

    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
    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.

    Jaynese Poole
    Intern and Media Coordinator

    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

    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.

    David Sanchez
    Teaching Artist

    David Sanchez first met Street Poets when he joined their writing workshop in an L.A. County Probation Camp back in 2007.  Thanks to a Street Poets sponsorship, David went on to receive his high school diploma from Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Colorado, and later graduated from California Conservation Corps’ prestigious back country trails program. In addition to serving as a teaching artist with Street Poets, David is the proud owner of Seed & Sol, an organic gardening company he launched in 2014. He also works on the youth outreach staff at Wolf Connection, a unique educational sanctuary for rescued wolf-dogs and humans.  A long-time member of Street Poets performance group, David continues to share his original poetry and hard-won wisdom in a wide range of school, community and conference venues throughout the U.S.

    Alyesha Wise
    Teaching Artist

    Alyesha Wise is a published poet and veteran teaching artist with 10+ years of experience leading poetry workshops for youth and young adults.  In addition to her work with Street Poets, Alyesha has served as the Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge) Slam Team head coach, leading the team to the finals both years.  She also served as the L.A. (Get Lit) Youth Slam Team co-coach from 2014-2017. As a poet herself, she is a 2-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist. She and her poems have been featured on a wide range of platforms and publications such as Huffington Post, Bustle, Afropunk, PBS, POPSUGAR, Buzzfeed, Free Speech TV and more. She has collaborated with Brave New Films, and featured in the Google Interstellar Project, in conjunction with the release of the film Interstellar. Alyesha is the co-founder of Spoken Literature Art Movement (S.L.A.M.).

    Chris Henrikson
    Founder and Executive Director

    Chris has over 23 years of experience teaching poetry and mentoring youth and young adults within and around the Los Angeles County educational and juvenile justice systems.  He has served as a consultant and retreat facilitator for a wide range of companies and organizations including Snap Inc. and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, for which he leads homecoming retreats for formerly incarcerated adults.  Chris also has served as a keynote speaker and conference panelist exploring youth rites of passage, arts-based violence intervention strategies, creative community building, the healing arts and alternatives to incarceration. 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. He currently sits on the board of the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network and Wolf Connection, a wolf-dog sanctuary and educational retreat center one hour from downtown L.A.

    OUR BOARD AND PARTNERS

    Board of Directors
    • Chirag Menon, Principal at Third Settlements consulting group, Poet/MC, Former Street Poets Program Director
    • Don Flood, Photographer
    • Taylor Code Maxie Jr., Street Poets Alumnus
    • Nick Streets, Engineer, Snap Inc.
    • Susannah Grant, Screenwriter/Director/ Producer
    • Chenjerai Kumanyika, Assistant Professor, Media Studies, Rutgers University
    • Rona Mercado, Cashmere Agency
    • Robert Perrin, Attorney/Partner, Latham & Watkins
    • Sean Scott, Entrepreneur
    • Alison Tatlock, Screenwriter/Playwright
    • 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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