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Ashanti Files

Poet Laureate of Urbana, Illinois, 2021-2022

Ashanti Files was born in Chicago. She earned a BA in nursing from Chamberlain College and a BA in political science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Files is the author of Woven: Perspectives of a Black Woman (2019), which she self-published. In 2021, she released Awaken2, a personal workbook that promotes self-reflection on identity and emotional regulation.

Files’s work has appeared in the Krannert Art Museum exhibit Pandemics as a Portal to Change, and Poet’s Choice Realm of Emotions (Poet’s Choice, 2021), among other publications. 

Files has been selected as a Martha’s Vineyard Voices of Color Poet Fellow, as well as a presenter at the National Guild for Community Arts Educators Ground Work 2021 Conference. She has been awarded a grant from the Urbana Arts and Culture Program for three consecutive years, as well as an Illinois Humanities grant for her program, Writers of Oya. In 2021, she was named Best Mentor and Advocate for Young Poets by SmilePolitely arts blog.

In 2021, Files was appointed Urbana, Illinois poet laureate and has led numerous workshops and programs that address the impact of identity on mental health.

Files currently resides in Chandler, Arizona where she is a registered nurse working for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Center for Resilience and Wellbeing. In 2022, Files received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.

Ashanti Files
Photo credit: Rachael Storm
Poet Laureate Project
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Laureate Project
Poet Laureate of Urbana, IL

Poet Laureate of Urbana, IL

In 2022, Ashanti Files was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Files will expand the Writers of Oya program, which teaches the art of spoken word poetry to teenage girls struggling with trauma and provides a safe space for them to reflect on their struggles. Files will partner with local libraries to lead bimonthly workshops over a sixteen week period that will use poetry to open the hearts and minds of young women, facilitate dialogue about mental health, and empower the youth to speak their truth in their communities. After the workshops, Files will work on a book that features the work and provides insight into how local programs tailored for girls of color can decrease negative outcomes and how the art of spoken word poetry aids in mental wellness.