Announcing the 2018 DC Poet Project Finalists

This past weekend, poets Alan King and E. Ethelbert Miller selected DC poets Jeffery Banks and Monica Leak as finalists for the spring 2018 DC Poet Project, completing the grouping. At earlier events, John Johnson, Aiyi’nah Ford, and Shaquetta Nelson, were selected.

Join the finalists at the culminating event May 5th, 2:00pm – reserve tickets here. At the culminating event each finalist will read their poetry for fifteen minutes. At the very end, the audience will live vote to select the series winner, who receives a book contract including $500 cash prize.

Read about last year’s DC Poet Project winner, Susan Meehan, on NPR here.

Bios of the Spring 2018 Finalists:

John Johnson is a native Washingtonian and graduated from the University of the District of Columbia. He is a poet and playwright and has dedicated his work to capturing the narratives of African Americans that live in Washington DC. He recently has finished a project capturing the stories of residences east of the river called Anacostia Unmapped which can be explored at

Aiyi’nah Ford simplifies her life’s work as an endeavor to expose the truth of the collectively oppressed. A native Washingtonian, she has experience in social justice advocacy, community organizing, and art-ivist expression has helped raise awareness and change legislation on the local and federal level. She is Executive Director of The Future Foundation, where her leadership development and popular education facilitation help pave the way for leader-full youth in this city, and across the Nation. She is also Founding C.E.O. of STAND Omnimedia™, a digital media brand with a mission to “STAND with and amplify the voices and cultures that are often silenced.” She hosts “The One Mic Stand with SimplyNay” and has published “#SucessfullySingle: Confessions Of A Professional Dater.” When she is not fighting for our collective liberation, she is sipping loose leaf tea and wearing a #supportisFREE™ t-shirt.

Shaquetta Nelson, better known by her stage name R.E.I.L (real), is a poetic, creative visionary. Founder of R.E.I.L.4.R.U.D.D nonprofit organization, and Harmony’s Harmony wood burn collections. R.E.I.L started at local open mics such as Spit Dat, and Bus Boys and Poets. At 16 was 1/4 of Maryland first slam team competing in NYC for Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam. REIL seeks inspiration from past, and present life experiences to help the lives of other unsung souls.

Jeffrey Banks is poetically known as “Big Homey.” He’s worked with notable people such as the late Fred “Rerun” Berry of What’s Happening!, Gospel Singer Maurette Brown Clark, GRAMMY-Nominated Soul Singer and Television Star Syleena Johnson, New Jack City Actor and Singer Christopher Williams, Gospel Trailblazer Dr. Bobby Jones & others. He’s been featured in national media such as ESSENCE Magazine, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, Radio-One Inc., the CBS Early Show and BLACK ENTERPRISE Magazine. Big Homey’s album, Exposed-The EP, is the poetic testimonial of the trials & victories of a Christian Believer. He’s had the opportunity to perform across the USA & has done numerous engagements on East Coast college campuses. He’s also an event planner, and was named one of the “Top 40 under 40” American Meeting Planners of 2013 by Rejuvenate Magazine. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Speech Communication from Syracuse University, an Event Management Graduate Degree from the George Washington University and a Master of Divinity Degree from Howard University. He’s been a grant writer since 2008, and was licensed as a minister in 2010. He’s a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

Monica Leak is a graduate of Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders, South Carolina State University with a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology and North Carolina Central University with a Master’s of Library Science. She is the editor and a contributing writer of, Faith of our Founders 100 Daily Devotionals to Inspire, Encourage and Propel the Finer Woman. She contributed writings for lenten devotionals The Road to Calvary Surviving a Season of Suffering and Resipiscence, a Lenten Devotional for Dismantling White Supremacy. She currently works as a speech-language pathologist in southern Maryland, and as a seminary librarian in northern Virginia.

Space is limited. Reserve your tickets for the final event here.