Meet Our Team

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Mojdeh Stoakley

Director

Mojdeh is an award winning writer, poet, performer, photographer, & educator!  She’s performed in front of thousands, and lead slam teams to finals stages!  She’s been called “The Margret Cho of Poetry,” so you know you’ll laugh when she channels her eccentric immigrant parents and you will have conversations with your own empathy when she explores the resilience of a nerdy bi-racial child who was constantly afraid of impending homelessness.

She’s represented Chicago multiple times at the National Poetry Slam, Individual World Poetry Slam, Rustbelt, & Southern Fried Slam in addition to coaching youth competing in Louder Than A Bomb, and executive produced festivals like Lethal Poetry’s Nights of Sight & Sound, the world’s largest mobile art show Art On Track, and one of Chicago’s PSi certified slams, Lethal Poetry.

She burst into the performance scene at 14, sharing the stage with folks like Saul Williams, Pere Ubu, Genesis P Oridge, and John Legend since. Her photography, writing, and contributions as a community commentator have been published by Button Poetry, WBEZ, Vocalo, Alarm Press, Chicago Now, and Muzzle Magazine, among others. She’s released 5 albums of music & poetry independently and as a member of »radiant devices«, recently published her first book “born into dissonance,” and has an album on the way.

Mojdeh received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the founder of Interfaith Poets, Lethal Poetry Inc and LUCID Art Lab, and sits on the board of Surviving The Mic – arts organizations that activate artists as social servants. She is interested in how the arts can effect social and cognitive development among youth and populations who’ve experienced trauma. When she’s not being a creative savant and community leader, she is engaged in HIV prevention research at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health.

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Nikki Patin

Founder, Emeritus Executive Director

Nikki Patin has been writing for over two decades. She has taught hundreds of workshops on performance poetry, body image, sexual assault prevention and LGBT issues. Patin has performed, taught and spoken at elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities such as the University of Chicago, Adler School of Psychology, Northwestern University, Nancy B. Jefferson High School (located
within the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center), University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison and many others. Patin was featured on the fourth season of HBO’s Def Poetry
Jam, was voted one of 30 under 30 most influential LGBTQ people in Chicago by Windy City Times and took the gold medal in the 2006 Gay Games International LGBT poetry slam. Patin was voted “Best Standout Performer” in the Dunedin Fringe Festival while headlining a tour of her one-woman show, “The Phat Grrrl Revolution” throughout New Zealand and Australia. She has released several chapbooks, a full-length collection of writing and design, two EPs and a full-length album entitled “Bedroom Empire.” She is the creator of Surviving the Mic, an organization dedicated to creating safe space for the creation and telling of stories of survivors of all kinds of trauma, with a special focus on Black- and female-identified survivors of sexual and domestic violence who also identify as performing writers. Nikki Patin holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. Her work can be found at www.nikkipatin.com and www.phatgrrrlrevolution.com.

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Anjana Kirti Gupta

Board Director

Anjana is a London local and global accountant. Getting involved in activism through her work with Hindu and South Asian organizations at university, she has since become a member of Interfaith Poets and volunteers with Surviving the Mic and other nonprofit organizations. In her free time, Anjana starts fires with her moves at Latin dance ballrooms across the globe.

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Ona Wang

Board Director of Community Engagement and Organizing

Ona Wang is a writer, social practice artist, and restorative justice practitioner from Chicago. Ona uses narrative as a tool for healing and building solidarity. Ona holds leadership roles with Surviving the Mic and grassroots community-based organizations.

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Saunté Harden-Tate

Board Director

Saunté Harden-Tate (Sahn-tay) is a Black American Chicago Westside Native, creative writer, Advocate, Community Educator, proud mother of two, and wife. With a deep-rooted passion for healing, advocating, and educating the community on trauma, Saunté teaches the community about Sexual abuse, Sexual violence, body safety, and the rights of survivors as a Community Educator. Saunté has an affinity for uplifting and educating the community on the traumas and struggles that disproportionately affect the Black community.

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Atena O. Danner

Board Director

Atena O. Danner insists upon Black liberation and boundless curiosity. Her poems range from kitchen-table specificity to universal relatability, covering topics including neurodiversity, human connection, and collective liberation. Atena has recently published poems in ‘Raising Mothers’ online, ‘Shelter in This Place: Meditations on 2020,’ ‘Struggle, Elevate, Celebrate: An Anthology of Women’s Voices’ and in the inaugural issue of ‘understory quarterly.’ She is an alum of the Hurston/Wright Writers Week, a former In Surreal Life Surreal Scholar, and has been a featured reader for The Guild Complex Presents Exhibit B series. Atena collaborates as a member of Surviving the Mic, a collaborative collective of survivors dedicated to creating brave and affirming creative spaces for survivors of trauma. In their home north of Chicago, near the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires and of the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations Atena lives with her partner and 2 free Black children. Her first poetry collection, ‘Incantations for Rest’ was released this summer.

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Cherlnell Lane

Board Director

Cherlnell Lane is an author, poet, speaker, advocate, and facilitator Cherlnell. Lane, “Bares her soul to heal yours” by using her words to create incredible worlds and stories that, change the minds of those around her. Dealing with topics most people won’t dare mention such as attempting suicide, living with STIs, and parenting a child with mental illness. Cherlnell uses her life experiences; to reach people with her blog, inspire people with her written work, and teach people with her curriculum. Cherlnell started writing and speaking at a very young age and hasn’t stopped since. Often called a storyteller, her poetry and other written work has transcended genres and covers a multitude of topics and emotions. She has performed all over Chicago, IL even hosting 2018’s National Poetry Slam’s Disability Open Mic and being a feature at Surviving The Mic, a poetry set started for survivors of sexual abuse.

In 2016, after seeing the horrible things happening around her Cherlnell started “Writing Through It Workshops” to help people learn to reveal, deal, and heal from negative emotions while commemorating and celebrating the positive ones. She also created “Healing Through It Summits,” all-day retreats focused on healing black women and girls. By dealing with or mastering a variety of topics by introducing or reinforcing different tools of healing. She also enjoys creating her blog, “The Infinite Evolution of Life, Learning, and Love”. It, like the rest of her writing, puts common faces on, what many may feel, are out of the world problems.

Her first two books; Confessions of the Other Woman (2013) and Tales of an Undiscovered Writer (2014) [E-Book], written under the pseudonym, Cookie Battles are collections of poetry and short stories are available on Amazon. You can contact Cherlnell by email, cherlnell@cherlnell.com or find out more information on Cherlnell’s website http://www.cherlnell.com. Cherlnell Lane is a roaring fire, under a cool demeanor, with a kind soul, that she shares authentically in hopes of healing the world.

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Dr. Erika Abad

Board Member

Erika Gisela Abad Merced, PhD is a Queer Latina poet, born and raised in Chicago. Assistant Professor-in-Residence in Gender and Sexuality Studies in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Beyond Puerto Rican, Latinx, and Gender Studies, she is a well-published essayist, poet, and fiction writer, most recently writing a poem and creative reflection to the Pulse-Orlando tragedy. She is also a regular writer for Women in Higher Education.

Erika has worked on the amnesty campaign of Puerto Rican political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera. She has continued her investment in working to create safe spaces for survivors of domestic and sexual violence as a medical advocate for RVA. Her poetry has been published in such journals as Dialogo, Mujeres de Maiz as well as online zines like La Respuesta. She started performing at the Batey Urbano on Division St in 2004, she has since performed in the Pacific Northwest, being a frequent performer at a sex & queer positive open mic called Dirty Queer.

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Jackson Santy

Intern

Jack is a senior at Loyola University Chicago working towards a BA in Women’s Studies & Gender Studies with minors in Political Science, Social Work, and Theology. Originally from Phoenix, AZ, Jack’s passion for writing started when he was six and published the first and only issue of “Super Gerbil” a hand drawn graphic novel about his pet gerbil, Boris. Today, Jack writes primarily spoken word poetry that focuses on body image, disability, and survivorship. When he’s not writing or performing, he is often found indulging in his other passions of coffee-drinking, Catholic Faith & Justice Ministry, and social justice tirades. Jack hopes to pursue a career in trauma informed creative arts therapy for other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.