Executive Artistic Director
Daniel Gray-Kontar is a poet, teacher, youth mentor, rapper, journalist, and education activist. He has worked as an advocate for social transformation in the city of Cleveland for more than 25 years. Gray-Kontar is an education consultant for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; writer-in-residence at MOCA Cleveland; the former chair of the Literary Arts Department at the Cleveland School of the Arts; and a former graduate school fellow at UC Berkeley's College of Education. His work in arts education has been showcased on PBS Newshour. Gray-Kontar has lectured at universities, public schools, arts organizations and scholarly conferences across the US. His Ted Talk discussing youth leadership in public school education has affected the ways public school administrators think about the inclusion of youth and their families in the process of re-making school cultures and curricula.
Assistant to the Executive Artistic Director
Mary Barrett is a dancer, poet, lecturer, student educator, and choreographer. She has performed at Cleveland Public Theater, Karamu, and the Cleveland Museum of Art among others. Her poetry merges critical race theory, feminist theory and hip hop cultural studies with spoken word aesthetics. She has also lectured at Ohio State University about literature and social justice. As a teaching apprentice at Twelve Literary Arts, she has co-facilitated poetry and writing workshops for middle and high school students across the Midwest region. Mary is the current artistic director of Six of Twelve, Twelve Literary Arts' youth performance poetry ensemble.
Lead Teaching Artist
Ephraim Nehemiah uses call and response, evocative narratives and an acknoweledgement of heritage to create a transformative experience that honors a cultural lineage for audiences across the nation. The work explores personal experiences to create inspiring dialogue around navigating trauma, and social injustice, and finding joy within the struggle. Ephraim is currently a teaching artist at Twelve Literary Arts in Cleveland, Ohio as well as the coach of nationally ranked teams placing in the top 10 at Brave New Voices and the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational respectively. A finalist performer in several regional and national competitions such as 2018 Individual World Poetry Slam and 2018 Rustbelt Poetry Slam, Ephraim has also performed in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, The Cleveland Foundation, TEDx Talks, Button Poetry, The Saul William's World tour and others.
Support Teaching Artist, Director of Six of Twelve Youth Performance Poetry Ensemble
Deija Vinson is a recent graduate of Cleveland School of The Arts, and has an unhealthy dependence on coffee. She is currently a support instructor for Twelve Literary Arts’ One Mic Open After School Poetry Fellowship and serves as the Artistic Director of the youth performance poetry ensemble, Six of Twelve. Deija has been accepted into numerous writing residencies and workshops across the country, seeking to find new ways to write and to find her pace in the tradition of American arts and letters.
Raja Belle Freeman
Support Teaching Artist
Raja Belle Freeman is a performance poet, visual artist, and flautist. She has worked with Twelve Literary Arts as an intern, a member of the Six of Twelve Youth Performance Poetry Ensemble, and is a two-year member of the One Mic Open Youth Poetry Slam Team. She is currently a student at Cleveland State University and she hates writing bios.