STAFF

  • Aiyana ‘Sha’niel’ Da’Briel
    Aiyana ‘Sha’niel’ Da’Briel
    Program and Administrative Assistant
  • Alyesha Wise-Hernandez
    Alyesha Wise-Hernandez
    Director of Program Development
  • Arturo Quiros
    Arturo Quiros
    Facilities and Studio Manager
  • Barbara Fant
    Barbara Fant
    Artistic Director
  • Chris Henrikson
    Chris Henrikson
    Executive Director
  • David Sanchez
    David Sanchez
    Teaching Artist
  • Frank Escamilla
    Frank Escamilla
    Director of School Programs
  • Jaynese ‘Ladybug’ Poole
    Jaynese ‘Ladybug’ Poole
    Lead Teaching Artist
  • Katy Henrikson
    Katy Henrikson
    Administrative Director
  • Matthew Cuban Hernandez
    Matthew Cuban Hernandez
    Director of Community and Probation Programs
  • Michelle Sorgen
    Michelle Sorgen
    Grants Director
Aiyana ‘Sha’niel’ Da’Briel
Program and Administrative Assistant

Aiyana Sha’niel is a creative writer and singer born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Aiyana started as a youth participant in a variety of Street Poets workshops including our Beats & Rhymes program, and she now helps host and organize these programs. She has performed and organized various open mics throughout her high school and college years. She is a 2021 graduate of the Community Literature Initiative program (CLI), a fellowship that helps poets create their own poetic collection of work. Sha’niel will be releasing her first book through World Stage Press, titled “Little Black Poetry Book” in late 2022.

Alyesha Wise-Hernandez
Director of Program Development

In addition to her teaching, performing, curriculum-writing and community-building work with Street Poets, Alyesha helps lead the all-women open mic “She Writes.” and a variety of other community events. The author of Carnival (NOT A CULT media), Alyesha Wise is a poet, teaching artist & TEDx speaker from Camden. She is the co-founder of Spoken Literature Art Movement (S.L.A.M.) and served as the Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge) Slam Team head coach, leading the team to finals both years, most recently to 2nd place. She also served as the Los Angeles (Get Lit) Youth Slam Team co-coach from 2014-2017. Along with other slam highlights, she is a 2-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist.

Arturo Quiros
Facilities and Studio Manager

Art is a music producer, engineer and rapper/recording artist with a passion for inspiring youth to realize their full potential. He began at Street Poets in 2007 as an intern through the Poet-in-Residence program and gradually expanded his skills and capabilities until on the responsibilities of recording studio engineer. He performs his poetry and music with Street Poets in a variety of public venues, and co-facilitates music production and rapping/writing sessions in the SP recording studio. Art is an interdisciplinary artist, writing and producing music and shooting video projects for Los Angeles’ underground hip-hop scene. As a teaching artist, he has over 12 years of experience mentoring youth in and around Los Angeles’ public high schools and probation facilities. Art is a graduate fellow of the National Juvenile Justice Institute’s Leadership Training program, and serves as Street Poets representative on the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network’s advocacy team.

Barbara Fant
Artistic Director

Barbara has been writing and performing for over 15 years and has over a decade of experience in nonprofit administration and management. For over 10 years, she had led healing-informed poetry workshops for both youth and adults who are incarcerated, those in community, adults in recovery, and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. In her role at Street Poets, she helps to oversee programs and assists the Executive Director with the overall artistic vision of the organization.
She has competed in 9 National Poetry Slam competitions and she is a World Poetry Slam finalist. She is the author of two poetry collections, Paint, Inside Out (2010) and Mouths of Garden (2022). Her work has been featured by Button Poetry and Def Poetry Jam, and has been published in the Academy of American Poets and Electric Literature, amongst others. She has received residencies from Idyllwild Arts in Idyllwild, California and Connect Arts in Havana, Cuba. She holds a B.A. from Ohio Dominican University, an M.F.A. from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a Master of Theology from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She is the founder of the Black Women Rise Poetry Collective and co-founder of The Senghor Project, West African International Artist Residency.

Chris Henrikson
Executive Director

The founder/Executive Director of Street Poets Inc., Chris has over 25 years of experience teaching poetry and mentoring youth and young adults within and around Los Angeles County’s educational, youth probation and adult prison systems. Through his ongoing work with Street Poets, Chris has served as a consultant, trainer and retreat facilitator for a wide range of companies and organizations including Snap, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. He has facilitated over 10 homecoming retreats for California State Prison parolees at Wolf Connection Ranch, as well as poetry workshops for law enforcement, gang intervention experts and community leaders in Los Angeles and beyond. 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.

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.

Frank Escamilla
Director of School 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 16 years, both here in LA, and as far away as South Africa and Sweden. 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. As our Director of School programs, Frank oversees Street Poets school partnerships, community events and outreach. In his capacity as a master 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 and storytelling is truly infectious.

Jaynese ‘Ladybug’ Poole
Lead Teaching Artist

Jaynese is a spoken-word poet, dancer and screenwriter. She hosts, performs and organizes community events and holds safe spaces for youth throughout Los Angeles County and beyond. She has been involved with Street Poets Inc. for over 7 years, first as a youth participant, and now as a teaching artist and media strategist. Jaynese has traveled as far as Sweden to share Street Poets methodology with youth and youth workers worldwide. Jaynese has also worked closely with the Los Angeles LGBT center as an alum of OutSet (a filmmaking program for LGBTQ youth) 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 nonprofit providing opportunities for young creative visionaries to share their stories through artistic expression.

Katy Henrikson
Administrative Director

Katy joined Street Poets as Interim Administrative Director in March 2020, loved it and stayed. She has more than a decade of experience in nonprofit management and advocacy, as well as a dozen years of work experience as a contract attorney, editor, writer, translator, and writing coach out of Bogotá, Colombia and Los Angeles. With a passion for systems – particularly the human aspects of these – and the arts, Katy enjoys working with our poets to build and streamline creative practices that fit the organization as we change, learn and grow from recent global challenges, launch new virtual and in-person projects, and dream big to picture our next 25 years. As founding full-time attorney at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, California, Katy launched the immigrant rights clinic of an agency that has since grown to 18 attorneys serving thousands of clients. Katy holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and a B.A. in Anthropology and Fine Arts from U. Penn. She is bilingual in Spanish.

Matthew Cuban Hernandez
Director of Community and Probation Programs

Matthew is a celebrated poet/spoken-word artist and educator from Jacksonville, Florida. Matthew has over 10 years of teaching and mentoring experience in schools and youth detention facilities, including the past three as a program director and lead teaching artist with Street Poets. In addition to being a two-time winner of the Southern Fried Poetry Slam Competition, Matthew served as the co-coach of the Get Lit-Words Ignite Youth Slam Team and the Hollywood (Da Poetry Lounge) Adult Slam Team, a finalist in the 2017 National Poetry Slam. Matthew has traveled around the world, from Duval to Abu Dhabi, performing and teaching poetry, and coaching slam teams to great success. He has opened for artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, and has been featured on a wide range of live stages and platforms from KPFK radio to BuzzFeed.

Michelle Sorgen
Grants Director

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 M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland and B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She brings to Street Poets a vast knowledge of contemporary and classical poetry.

BOARD

  • Alison Tatlock – Los Angeles, CA
    Alison Tatlock – Los Angeles, CA
  • Chenjerai Kumanyika – New York, NY
    Chenjerai Kumanyika – New York, NY
  • Chirag Menon – Los Angeles, CA
    Chirag Menon – Los Angeles, CA
  • Don Flood – Rancho Mirage, CA & San Miguel de Allende, MX
    Don Flood – Rancho Mirage, CA & San Miguel de Allende, MX
  • Jake Falby – Venice, CA
    Jake Falby – Venice, CA
  • Julie Arias Young – Santa Monica, CA
    Julie Arias Young – Santa Monica, CA
  • Nick Streets – Los Angeles, CA
    Nick Streets – Los Angeles, CA
  • Ricardo (Ric) Torres – Los Angeles, CA
    Ricardo (Ric) Torres – Los Angeles, CA
  • Robert Perrin – Santa Monica, CA
    Robert Perrin – Santa Monica, CA
  • Rona Mercado – Los Angeles, CA
    Rona Mercado – Los Angeles, CA
  • Sean Scott – Los Angeles, CA
    Sean Scott – Los Angeles, CA
  • Susannah Grant – Santa Monica, CA
    Susannah Grant – Santa Monica, CA
  • Taylor Code Maxie, Jr. – Houston, TX
    Taylor Code Maxie, Jr. – Houston, TX
  • Travis Heath – San Diego, CA
    Travis Heath – San Diego, CA
Alison Tatlock – Los Angeles, CA

Alison is a tv writer/producer and playwright. She has extensive experience as a community organizer and served for many years on the staff of Street Poets, where she facilitated a writing program for teen mothers.

Chenjerai Kumanyika – New York, NY

Chenjerai Kumanyika is an assistant professor in NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. His research and teaching focus on popular culture and social justice. Alongside a variety of other scholarly and journalistic writing, scholarly work, Professor Kumanyika specializes in using narrative non-fiction audio journalism to critique the ideology of the American historical myths about issues such as race, the civil war, and policing. Professor Kumanyika was the Co-Executive Producer and Co-Host of Uncivil, Gimlet Media’s Peabody award-winning podcast about the Civil War. He is also the Collaborator for Scene on Radio‘s Season 2 “Seeing White,” and Season 4 on the history of American Democracy. Professor Kumanyika is currently working on a podcast with Crooked Media about the history of the police in American popular culture. In addition to his work on the Street Poets Board, Dr. Kumanyika also serves on the Board of the Moth, and on a number of other advisory boards for organizations working through arts and advocacy.

Chirag Menon – Los Angeles, CA

A recording/performing artist, writer, facilitator, educator and former Street Poets Program Director, Chirag now serves as a Principal with the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Consulting firm Third Settlements, while continuing to record and release music under the name Chee Malabar.

Don Flood – Rancho Mirage, CA & San Miguel de Allende, MX

Don Flood is a veteran photographer specializing in celebrity portraiture and beauty advertising. He also is founder and creative director of FliePaper, a photo-based wallpaper line that’s included in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Design Museum. He is a huge advocate of architectural preservation and is active in the architecture & design community near his home in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Jake Falby – Venice, CA

Senior Producer/Composer and multi-faceted musician (violin/viola) at New Math Music, Jake manages the bi-coastal music/sound company’s West Coast office, which has served as a “creative vacation home” and workspace for musically-inclined Street Poets youth over the past year. Jake also provides mixing and production support for the Street Poets Podcast and album projects. As a violinist, Jake has performed with the likes of Adele, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey among others.

Julie Arias Young – Santa Monica, CA

Julie is an attorney and founding partner of Young, Zinn, Pazzani & Sandhu LLP, a boutique employment litigation firm. Julie has served on the Street Poets board since 2014.

Nick Streets – Los Angeles, CA

Our board chair, Nick is a product design engineer in the consumer electronics industry and currently works at Snap Inc. on camera development. He helped to start SnapNoir which provides a forum for fostering cultural understanding, diversity, and professional development for people of the African diaspora at Snap and in the community.

Ricardo (Ric) Torres – Los Angeles, CA

Recently retired as a Partner and Portfolio Manager in the London office of Capital International Investors (a division of LA-based Capital Group Companies), where he worked for 28 years. He is active with the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School, and also Camino Nuevo Charter Academy where he chairs the college scholarships committee. Ric is Mexican-American and fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

Robert Perrin – Santa Monica, CA


Rob Perrin retired from the international law firm Latham & Watkins LLP in 2020, after a 23-year career, including 12 years as Chair of the firm’s Los Angeles Litigation & Trial Department. Rob has been a member of the Street Poets board since 2010. He is additionally the Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Committee of PEN America, and a member of the Board of Visitors of the UCLA Department of English.

Rona Mercado – Los Angeles, CA

Rona serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Cashmere Agency, a “Culture Agency” providing strategic marketing/PR/branding consulting for a wide-range of entertainment/media companies and artists.

Sean Scott – Los Angeles, CA

Despite his best efforts, Sean learned a lot about the shoe business at great brands like Nike, ASICS, and Vans. Later, he struck out on his own helping to build companies like TOMS, and now COMUNITYmade who are manufacturing great designs locally while serving the community. Sean believes that there are very few valid excuses not to be happy and he rides his bike almost everywhere.

Susannah Grant – Santa Monica, CA

Susannah is a screenwriter/producer/director. Her credits include such projects as Netflix’s Unbelievable, HBO’s Confirmation, Ever After, and Erin Brockovich.

Taylor Code Maxie, Jr. – Houston, TX

A founding member of Street Poets’ first performance group in the late 90s, Taylor later served as a teaching artist with the organization, returning to many of the same juvenile probation facilities that once housed him as a youth to mentor and facilitate writing workshops for our next generation of Street Poets. He is currently in the process of finishing up his college studies and professional certifications in Computer Science/Information Technology (specializing in Cyber Security).

Travis Heath – San Diego, CA

Travis is a licensed psychologist and is an Associate Professor at San Diego State University where he serves as Chair of the department of Counseling & School Psychology. Past work he’s been involved with looked at shifting from a multicultural approach to counseling to one of cultural democracy that invites people to heal in mediums that are culturally near. His most recent work involves incorporating the work of Black abolitionist scholars into psychotherapy, community healing, and uprising. His writing has focused on the use of rap music in narrative therapy, working with persons entangled in the criminal injustice system in ways that maintain their dignity, narrative practice stories as pedagogy, a co-created questioning practice called reunion questions, and community healing
strategies. He is co-author, with David Epston and Tom Carlson, of the first book on Contemporary Narrative Therapy released in June 2022 entitled, “Reimagining Narrative Therapy Through Practice Stories and Autoethnography.” The book is part of the “Writing Lives” series with Routledge publishing. Travis has been fortunate to run workshops and speak in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, India, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, and United States.