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Ashanti Files is City of Urbana’s next Poet Laureate

Ashanti Files has been named the newest Poet Laureate of the City of Urbana, per the announcement by the city today. Files is the city’s second poet to hold the honor, following the inaugural Poet Laureate Will Reger.

From the City of Urbana’s press release:

“Ashanti Files named City of Urbana’s Next Poet Laureate”

The City of Urbana’s Mayor’s Office and the Urbana Arts & Culture Program are proud to announce the second Poet Laureate in City of Urbana history, Ashanti Files.

Ashanti Files was born in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Urbana in 2004, where she lives with her husband, Ryan, and three daughters, Camille, Kayla, and Cadence. Files works as a registered nurse at Rosecrance in Champaign, where she works in mental health and addiction services. She has published her poetry and fiction writing in journals including, most recently, the Northern New England Review and their FRONT/LINES: Poetry of Nursing and Pandemic Perspectives and the For Colored Girls Graphic Novel (forthcoming 2021). In 2019, she published her own collection of poetry, Woven: Perspectives of a Black Woman. She is the Founder of Writers of Oya, a writer’s program for middle school girls of color in Urbana School District #116 exploring intersections of poetry, spoken word, mental health, social issues, and resilience. Through her mentorship, Writers of Oya participants have performed on, Poets in the Park, Pygmalion Poetry Marathon, A March for Nonviolence, and most recently, Station Theater’s #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence. The girls have also appeared in Luminous magazine, Art Now! mini-documentary series, Talks with Tari on 104.5 Radio Free Urbana, and the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center’s Sounds Like Community. Participants in Writers of Oya are publishing their first collection of poetry, Unmasked (forthcoming 2021).

“The jury was drawn to Ashanti Files’ dynamic proposal and her documented history of developing writing programs with youth and marginalized groups in the community,” said Arts and Culture Coordinator, Rachel Storm, “The fact that her efforts have grown during this global pandemic in which she is also working as a registered nurse makes her all the more remarkable.”

Her one-year term begins January 13th, 2020. Files was selected through a competitive application and interview process by a panel of literary experts. The poet laureate receives a $2,000 honorarium for the one-year term, funded by the City of Urbana’s Arts and Culture Program.

The City invites the public to a virtual reception to celebrate Urbana Poet Laureate, Ashanti Files on January 21st, 2021 at 5pm (register to attend at

Top image provided by City of Urbana.

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