2015 VERVE Grant Recipients

Sol Ras Assanti is an unapologetic rebel warrior spirit that has been reminding communities that the key to their liberation is within their ancestral story. Throughout her 23 years on this earth and her past lives on other dimensions in planets, Sol has been mastering the art of healing through Earth, Herbs and words. Sol has facilitated, curated, and performed freedom in all space. Currently Sol is building the “get free” collective. A series of works and events with artist encouraging enlightenment through freedom expressed in; art without boundaries, healing circles and popup open mics.

Joe Davis is a dreamer born of the poetic diaspora. Son of a persnickety Jamaican immigrant mother and hardworking Chicagoan father, he inherited a story-colored soul and an unrelenting desire to love. As a writer, performer, and teacher, he travels in search of metaphors to paint canvases of the imagination with joyful revolution. His latest adventure has led him to the edge of the human heart, learning how to dance in rhythm with the ancestral echoes of our origin.
Nimo H. Farah is part butterfly and part cat (MEEOOW!). Her current undertaking is to get the different parts of herSELF to get along while also researching the history of the words that are used to give her journey meaning. She uses language to express things she finds too confusing. Sometimes taking the liberty to redefine the definitions of words. She looks forward to developing her skills as an orator while blending Somali and English. She thinks of herself as charming and hilarious in the Somali language, often making herself laugh (hahaHA!). But rarely does that humor translate into English. It’ll be magical when she learns to fuse the two languages together seamlessly. She currently resides in Minneapolis and imagines traveling to the moon or maybe peacefully living in Mogadishu (where she was born). Nimo is a 2014 Bush Fellow and the co-Founder of SALLI Arts. Her most recent work is curating “Saved by Faith & Verse”, the poetic voices of the Somali Diaspora at the Loft Literary Center through the Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship.
Khem Clan is a spokenword-infused hip-hop group who’s members include ShaVunda Horsley and Farrington Llewellyn. Their focus is to inspire the recognition of power that lies within us all and to challenge 2-dimensional images of blackness perpetuated by the dominant culture.

ShaVunda is a 2012 alumnus of the University of Minnesota/B.F.A. Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. She has a minor in African and African American Studies which she integrates in theatre/spoken word workshops across the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public School Districts upon request. She is the Poetry Slam Winner of The 2010 Farrago Freshers’ Slam at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and is one half of the duo that won the What it Do? 2010 Peace Fest and Hip Hop Competition in Dallas, Texas. She’s been an aspiring writer since she was 10 years old and her work primarily speaks to issues regarding race and love in times of socio-economic disparity and building self-esteem among young black women.

Farrington is a multi-media storyteller and organizer. His art is a blend of video, music, installation and performance art. His most recent musical project “Farr Well” is a hip-hop story about quitting rap and creating new images of blackness. He uses his video art to reach new levels of clarity around issues; to convey messages that can’t be taken out of context. His “Black Identity Series” is a collection of interview montages on subjects relating to black people, which he uses to guide his public discussions on race. He incorporates all of these forms into his organizing work. Creating programs like “Meat & Greet” to connect with community and bring people together.

Brittany “Miss Brit” Lynch is a multidimensional performer with a passion for telling narratives through a sociological perspective. She has a degree in the Sociology of Law: Criminology, and Deviance with a minor in African and African American Studies. She emerged on the spoken word scene in 2009 through Voices Merging, a group dedicated to educating and empowering the community through spoken word and the urban arts. Brittany served both as a board member and performer for several years before serving as the President from 2011-2012. In 2014 she returned to writing with the artist collective “Meeting of the Mindz”, and was commissioned by Youthprise to perform at Orchestra Hall for their annual Youth Summit. Her goals for 2015 and beyond include developing an identity as an artist that is her own. She is in the process developing artistic content to release several more spoken word videos and to publish her work in physical form. She is also in the process of curating events and performances that combine her skills in spoken word with her passion for music, theater, and activism, using her art as a tool for restorative justice, media accountability, and transformative healing.

Rest In Power: Andrew Ronnell Julian Thomas
It is with great sadness and heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of 2015 VERVE grantee and cohort member, Andrew Thomas. Andrew was a spoken word poet, rapper, community activist, organizer, social justice leader, and all around beautiful human being.
He received a 2015 VERVE grant and has been a member of our cohort for the past year. Andrew was 25 years old; his poetry and radiant smile brought light and love and energy to every room he was in. Our community and our VERVE cohort have lost a loved friend, joyful presence, and inspiring artist.

Andrew Ronnell Julian Thomas (1990-2015) was a performance poet, recording artist, actor, teaching artist, facilitator, activist, and a Community Organizer-in-Training via the SPEAC program hosted by HOPE Community. He was also a Graduate of the Theater and Drama Department at the University of Wisconsin -Madison as well as the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Program. The content of his work ranges in a myriad of topics, such as: love and loss, liberation, the struggles of being black, low-income, and educated, to list a few. He toured and performed across the country as a Rapper and Spoken Word Artist, featuring at venues such at Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam (Chicago, 2009) and The Schomburg Research Center for Black Culture (Harlem, NY, 2013). He shared the stage with the likes of Prof, Big Quarters, Doomtree, Wale, Ludacris, Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Rafael Casal, Black Ice, Lemon Anderson, Amir Sulaiman, and numerous others. Andrew was born, raised, and lived in South Minneapolis: Powderhorn Park to be precise.