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The Word is a spoken word poetry education program helping students learn to read, critique, write, and perform poetry created by New Haven hip hop poet & playwright Aaron Jafferis, in partnership with the Institute Library, the Future Project and New Haven Public Schools. The Word is celebrating its 8th year in 2020!

We work with middle school and high school students across the city of New Haven from over 8 different schools.

Artistic Director

Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright whose honors include a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute / Time Warner Fellowship, NEFA National Theatre Project Grant, and multiple MacDowell Fellowships.


His musicals Stuck Elevator, How to Break, Kingdom, Shakespeare: The Remix and No Lie have been produced by The Old Globe, American Conservatory Theater, Collective Consciousness and many others. A former Open Rap Slam champion at the National Poetry Slam Championships, Aaron teaches at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital and in middle schools and high schools in and around his hometown of New Haven. He has led poetry and hip-hop theatre workshops and master classes at Connecticut College, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Virginia Tech, the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Breadloaf, Vermont’s Governor’s Institute on the Arts, Wesleyan’s Center for Creative Youth, the Dublin (CA) Federal Correctional Institution and dozens of other educational, healthcare, and correctional institutions. More at

Sustainability Director

Shamain McAllister - known to most as Sha, represents Irvington/Newark, New Jersey. In May of 2018, she received a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management with a minor in criminal justice from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. Despite. Sha serves as a Program Curator for Elm City Lit Festival and LIT Fest podcast. Elm City Lit is an annual celebration of books, LITerature, and LITerary artists with the purpose of enhancing LITeracy while promoting awareness of local, regional, and global artists of the African diaspora. She is also the Community Impact Manager for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Through creativity, authentic partnerships, and innovative ideas Sha delivers poignant programming. Sha is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., a sisterhood rooted in scholarship, sisterhood, service, and finer womanhood.

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Managing Director

​​Beth has been working with nonprofits since 2001. She is passionate about poetry, spoken word, rap, hip hop and is excited to bring her nonprofit experience to The Word. Beth holds a MBA, MS, graduate Marketing certificate and a BA in Psychology. She has experience with grant research, budgets, reporting, authoring grants, operational management, staff development and supervision. She has worked with ages 3 to geriatric population assisting with health insurance, housing, food, utilities, specialized medical equipment, employment services and other need areas. Beth has both project and program management experience with many different populations., She has worked with individuals with mental illness, traumatic braIn injury, Intellectual and Developmental disabilities, physically disabled, legally blind and individuals with HIV or Aids. In her free time she spends time with her 2 dogs Athena and Ares and enjoys painting abstract art

Communications Intern

Ta’Nina Gatison is the Communication Intern and corresponds with The Word’s participants and members. She is currently attending Central Connecticut State University and is an English major. Ta’Nina says, “I believe in The Word’s mission of teaching youth how to become spoken word poets. I am excited to see their growth and how much of a positive impact The Word will have on their lives.”

Media Intern

Ashley Rivera Gonsales is the Media Intern and creates content for The Word’s social media pages. She is currently attending Gateway Community College and is a major in Business Studies. Ashley says, “I like interning at The Word because you always learn something new and get to hear different kinds of poems each week!”

Graphic Design Intern

Matthew Duhaney, the Graphic Design Intern, is updating The Word’s website and creating event flyers. He is a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, where he majored in Graphic Design. Matthew says, “The thing I’m looking forward to the most as an intern at The Word is meeting new people and being able to create new art.”

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