This blog is where I share notes about my journey—the professional and the personal, the travels and the people, the spiritual, the creative and whatever comes to mind…if you need a little more info, my bio is below:
Toni Blackman is a cultural ambassador and an advocate of improvisation. Her experiences as a diplomatic worker enable her to move through various communities (the arts, political circles, international gatherings, youth groups, academia, and the music industry) with ease. As America’s first Hip-Hop Ambassador, her work has consistently communicated that hip hop is the international platform to position the US as a good global citizen. DOVE selected her as a DOVE Real Woman in 2012 and honored her groundbreaking work. Blackman was on assignment in Turkey last May and currently works as a teaching artist mentoring/coaching teens at Carnegie Hall. She recently spoke to 900 employees at Hallmark Corporation in Kansas City, MO and will lead her first master class at the legendary Apollo Theater this fall.
Evidence of the ways that Toni’s work consistently challenges our ideas and perceptions of Hip Hop can be seen via her Meditation Mixtape Series which blends hip-hop and meditation concepts, the Lyrical Debate which she recently co-produced with the City Lore Foundation for the 2016 Presidential election and the Lyrical Meditation Workshop event she is presenting at Dixon Place.
Blackman has traveled and worked in 42 different countries including Senegal, Turkey, Ghana, Taiwan, Botswana, Norway, Swaziland, Ivory Coast, the DRC, Brazil, South Africa, Angola, and a host of places in Europe. Her diplomatic work encompasses peace and reconciliation, literacy, HIV awareness, and gender violence prevention. Highly respected as the founder and director of Freestyle Union, a cipher workshop that uses free styling as a tool to encourage social responsibility, Blackman’s work has held great influence in the world of hip-hop activism. This former Echoing Green Fellow has also been a fellow with the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute. A great deal of Blackman’s creative organizing efforts involved the Freestyle Union and its woman centric initiative Rhyme Like a Girl, which launched in partnership with Girls, Inc., and later partnered with the New School University.
Toni Blackman has transformed her passion for creativity and improvisation into a powerful presentation on “getting open,” being centered, and harnessing one’s own personal power from the inside out. She has performed and spoken at the Aspen Institute Summit in Oman, at the prestigious Pio Manzu International Conference in Italy, during the World Cup at the ManUp Summit in South Africa, and for the FORD Foundation and City Xpo Big Ideas Conference in Virginia. She has led workshops and trainings for the NBA, Craigslist Foundation events, Julliard, Ross School of Business-UM, Smithsonian Museum, Harvard, Girl Scouts “Beyond Bars” program for incarcerated mothers, Latin American Youth Center’s Gang Violence Prevention, MDGFive UN program for Maternal Health, and Institute for Policy Studies. A former adjunct professor of hip-hop at Binghamton University and a visiting professor at University of Michigan, Blackman served as a judge for the US Department of State’s American Music Abroad program and this year spoke and performed at the Extra Yard Summit for Teachers in Phoenix, AZ, at Rothko Chapel’s “Still Dreaming MLK Conference” in Houston, TX with David Banner and Bun B, Echoing Green Foundation’s Gala in New York City, at the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in D.C., and at Guttmann Community College; Columbia University Institute for Urban & Minority Education, St. Francis College Sista 2 Sista Youth Summit and Hostos College.
She toured Southeast Asia with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Musical Ambassador Program and has shared the stage with the likes of Erykah Badu, Mos Def, The Roots, Wyclef, Dougie Fresh, Wu Tang Clan, GURU, KRS One, Bahamadia, Dead Prez, Boot Camp Clic, Me’Shell NdegeoCello, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Jill Sobule, James “Blood” Ulmer, Vernon Reid, Youssou Ndour, and even Rickie Lee Jones. Toni performs for Lincoln Center Outdoors in July. Toni has appeared in a number of anthologies including Live Through This on SevenStories Press, Jay Z: Essays on Hip Hop’s Philosopher King and 360: A Revolution of Black Poets by Newberry Award Winner Kwame Alexander. Her first book, Inner-Course, was released in 2003 (Villard/Random House) and her next book, Wisdom of the Cypher, was recently completed. A graduate of Howard University, Toni was a scholarship competitor for the speech and drama team and earned a BA and an MA in communications. Toni Blackman is available for performance workshops, lectures, inspirational talks, and small group and private coaching.