Toni Blackman is an award-winning artist whose steadfast work and commitment to hip hop led the U.S. State Department to select her as an American Cultural Specialist and one of the first Hip Hop Envoys. She recently served in Benin this past June. Her past tours have included Senegal, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Africa, southeast Asia and Brazil. She has traveled to 47 countries performing, speaking and teaching. So far, Toni has co-produced versions of Invisible Woman, a project conceived in the Congo, in Kinshasa, Kampala, Nairobi and Cotonou. Her Afro-Hip-Hop music collaborations preceded the current trend and Toni hopes to share the music in 2020. Honored as a DOVE Real Woman for her work building the self-esteem of girls, Toni is an Echoing Green Fellow, an Open Society Institute/Soros Fellow, creator of The Cypher Workshop (also known as the Freestyle Union) and Rhyme like a Girl, and author of Inner-Course, a collection of poetry and inspirational prose, released on Villard/Random House (2003).
Toni has led workshops at SXSW, Lincoln Center, PEN World Festival, the Kennedy Center, Harvard, NBC Universal, Hallmark, Adidas, Nike Hoop Forum, Coca Cola, the World Social Forum, Spelman College, Juilliard School, the Smithsonian, Girls Inc, Girl Scouts and led her signature Cypher Workshops with the National Boys & Girls Club, Sprite and Treehouse Studios. She has mentored hundreds of rappers and young spoken word artists, taught in hundreds of schools, community centers and juvenile detention programs. Toni has done two TED Talks, spoken at the World Social Forum in Barcelona, the ESSENCE Festival and the Aspen Institute in Oman.
Toni works with her band in New York and records with a small team of hip-hop music producers. Heavily influenced by the spiritual jazz movement of the 1970s, she has an extensive catalogue of inspirational hip-hop and a series of Meditation Mixtapes. Toni is currently shopping the material and seeking a new label and/or distribution deal. Her book, Wisdom of the Cypher, has strong interest from literary agents so Toni is in the process of reshaping the book for readers outside of the arts.
As a music educator, Toni spent two years as a teaching artist and hip-hop specialist at Carnegie Hall, worked extensively with the Apollo Theater education department and has served as a poet-in residence at Studio Museum of Harlem. Toni is currently a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s School of Music and Performing Arts in the Music Experience Design Lab and the first hip-hop music education scholar to hold the position in Music Education.
Blackman has opened for and/or shared the stage with Erykah Badu, Wyclef, trombonist Craig Harris, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), The Roots, Wu Tang Clan, Pharoahe Monch, Medeski Martin & Wood, Bahamadia, Boot Camp Clic, Me’Shell NdegeoCello, Dead Prez, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Charlie Hunter Quartet, Jill Sobule, guitarist Vernon Reid, Youssou Ndour, Burnt Sugar, Onaje Allan Gumbs, and Rickie Lee Jones. Her project, Rhyme like a Girl, featured at Lincoln Center this past summer.
Toni has shared the bill with several poetry legends including Nikki Giovanni, Billy Collins, Sonia Sanchez, Miguel Algarin, Don Matera, Philip Levine, Sekou Sundiata, Bob Holman, the Last Poets, Lucille Clifton, Haki Madhubuti, and Ethelbert Miller.
She has appeared in Forbes Magazine, on CENTRIC television and MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry Show, CBS morning news, MTV, VH1, on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, as well as, the NY TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, WASHINGTON TIMES, MARIE CLAIRE, SOURCE MAGAZINE, SAVOY, ESSENCE and on MSNBC, FOX, BET, CENTRIC, CBS, C-SPAN and radio all over the country.
Last year Toni received the Osceola Macarthy Award for Excellence in the Arts from Delta Sigma Theta, Westchester, featured in Senegal’s FESTA 2H, one of the largest hip hop festivals in Africa, toured Uganda in August with her Rhyme like a Girl project and curated/produced the hip-hop component of Restoration Rocks Festival Aretha Franklin Tribute in Brooklyn.
This year Toni had artist residencies with the University of Iowa School of Music, Dance Place DC, Ragdale Arts Foundation in Chicago and with TurningTables Kenya in Nairobi. As an artist she worked on the development of choreographer Gesel Mason’s new piece and worked as co-leader in the Girls Electronic Music Seminar at NYU this past July.
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