Since 2013, the Off/Page Project, a collaboration between The Center for Investigative Reporting and Youth Speaks, has experimented with ways to blend youth voice and spoken word through the analytical lens of investigative journalism. And today, we are delighted to welcome Niema Jordan to help refine that approach and shape the project’s ongoing evolution.
As Off/Page’s new program manager, Jordan will work between our organizations to find radical new ways to empower youth through an experimental mix of poetry and fact-based reporting, building on the “sourced storytelling” model pioneered by inaugural Off/Page director José Vadi.
With deep roots in poetry, storytelling and journalism, Jordan is the perfect fit for this new role. Her relationship with Youth Speaks goes back to her days as a student at Oakland Technical High School, where she participated in her first poetry slam. After serving on Youth Speaks’ Youth Advisory Board, SPOKES, her first poetry CD, “Based on a True Story,” was released under Youth Speaks’ imprint, First Word Press.
Her passion for storytelling led her to attend Northwestern University, where she earned a degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Her career has included working at Essence Magazine, a stint as the assistant director of the Jewish Music Festival and teaching at Youth Radio. She’s currently working toward master’s degrees in documentary film and health and social behavior from the University of California, Berkeley.
“I am beyond excited to work with Off/Page,” Jordan said. “This position will allow me to combine my love for performance art, journalism, community engagement and, most importantly, supporting youth as they work to change the world.”
Before Jordan gets up and running with Off/Page, we asked her three questions to help get to know her better.
What are two issues that interest you the most right now, and why do you think they are important?
It’s very hard to pick two areas that interest me because so many things are interconnected. But I would say that my current projects are mostly about health in underserved populations and diversity in higher education. Both center on issues of access and influence the well-being of communities on multiple levels.
What’s the last great piece of journalism and poetry you encountered, and what made it resonate with you?
This weekend, I saw Dahlak Brathwaite’s show, “Spiritrials,” at Z Space. He used hip-hop, theater and poetry to talk about his experience with the criminal justice system. The power of his personal account, the questions it raised and audience reaction all stuck with me. I was also moved because I met Dahlak as a teen through Youth Speaks, so seeing how he has evolved as an artist was very inspirational.
On the journalism end, I just rewatched “When Loud Music Turned Deadly,” a New York Times op-doc by Orlando Bagwell. The short piece is about the murder of Jordan Davis. It reminds me why it is important to tell other people’s stories, and that we as journalists must be careful when we do.
What are you most looking forward to by getting involved with the Off/Page Project?
I am really looking forward to being able to work with youth. There’s nothing quite like the energy of young folks who are stepping into, honing and owning their voices. It’s inspiring.
To learn more about the Off/Page Project, visit our website, where you can watch our latest production, “This Is Home: The Play.” You also can join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. Follow Jordan on Twitter: @niemajordan.