We (Too) Are Philly: Schools, Not Prisons



Feature Poet: Becky Birtha



Becky Birtha is an American poet and children’s author who lives in the greater Philadelphia area. Her poetry was featured in the acclaimed 1983 anthology of African-American feminist writing Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith and published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. She has won a Lambda Literary award for her poetry. She has been awarded grants from the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to further her literary works. In recent years she has written two children’s historical fiction picture books about the African-American experience.


Cortney Lamar Charleston



Cortney Lamar Charleston is originally from the Chicago suburbs. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a BS in Economics from the Wharton School and BA in Urban Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences. While attending Penn, he focused on the intersection of business and government and the physical and sociological construction of cities. Additionally, it was during this time he began writing and performing poetry as a member of The Excelano Project.

Charleston’s academic background, coupled with his upbringing spent bouncing between Chicago’s South Side and its South and West suburbs undoubtedly influence his written work. Charleston’s poems grapple with race, masculinity, heteronormativity, class, family, faith and how identity is, functionally, a transition zone between all of these competing markers. Said differently, his poetry is a marriage between art and activism, a call for a more involved and empathetic understanding of the diversity of the human experience. This same line of thought frames his philosophy as Poetry Editor at The Rumpus. He also currently serves on the Alice James Books Editorial Board.


I.S. Jones


I.S. Jones is a writer, educator, and hip-hop head hailing from Southern California. She is a second-year fellow with The Watering Hole, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Callaloo. I.S. is very Blk & loud about her joy. She received an honorable mention from the Academy of American Poets, her work has received two nominations for the Best of The Net Anthology and in 2016 was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

As a historian and an architect with the written word, each of her poems are lyrical meditations on race, love, familial dynamics, poetics of witness, and the uses of rage while often employing mythos and engaging sociopolitical commentary. She has been praised by Rachel McKibbens as a “god-lit marvel”.

She is the Assistant Editor at Chaparral, a literary magazine  based in Southern California. Her works have appeared in The Harpoon Review, Fat City Review, Qua Magazine,The Blueshift Journal, SunDog Lit, Matador Review, Wusgood.black, forthcoming in great weather for MEDIA, the Black Voices Series with Puerto Del Sol, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Hofstra University. I.S. is running for Poet Laureate of the Moon.


Kenyatta JP Garcia



Kenyatta JP Garcia currently resides in Albany, NY after spending their youth in Brooklyn and Queens.  They spent ten years as a cook after graduating from SUNY Albany with a  BA in English/Philosophy.  Since leaving the restaurant business, they have received a second BA in Linguistics and work the graveyard shift where they spend my nights putting boxes on shelves. They’re also the author of Slow Living (West Vine Press), Yawning On The SandsEnter the After-Garde, and This Sentimental Education.  And, an editor at Rigorous. And follow them on Twitter @KJPGarcia.


Oskar Castro



Oskar Pierre Castro is an artist/analyst/non-violent activist/father & husband with over twenty years of service in the non-profit sector working on youth development, career development, peace activism, and labor rights. Oskar is a 1992 graduate of Rowan University where he majored in Law & Justice. The human rights part of the curriculum stimulated his belief in working for social justice when it is absent. Oskar’s non-profit experiences include things like leading a national office program at the American Friends Service Committee and helping talented youth-of-color navigate corporate America with INROADS. Originally from South Jersey, Oskar moved to Philadelphia in 1994, and as a multi-faceted artist there he employs music, poetry, and graphic art to communicate his ideas about the world creatively. A member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Oskar is married to a like minded soul, has two children, the best dog ever, and a cat.