Climbing PoeTree is the expression of a growing movement for radical social change. Poets, performers, print-makers, dancers, muralists, and designers, Alixa and Naima have sharpened their art as a tool for popular education, community organizing, and personal transformation. With roots in Haiti and Colombia, Alixa and Naima reside in Brooklyn and track footprints across the country and globe on a mission to overcome destruction with creativity. Each with her own impressive background in performing, teaching, and activism, Alixa and Naima made their debut as a duo in July of 2003, when they launched a four-month tour across the nation with a riveting multi-media dance and poetry performance about the effects of the War on Drugs on the people of America’s ghettos and Colombia’s farmlands. In its premier year, Climbing PoeTree also released its first album Stethoscope, and founded Fashion Statement, their sought-after line of sweat-free silk-screened clothing.
Upon return to New York, Alixa and Naima joined Blackout Arts Collective and propelled their 2004 and 2005 Lyrics on Lockdown tours, conducting workshops and headlining performances in prisons, detention centers, and communities most affected by rampant incarceration. In 2004, Alixa and Naima also began co-teaching poetry, visual arts, break-dancing, and leadership classes to children of incarcerated parents and youth in the New York City school system, launching them into a fertile career as resident artists and guest facilitators at schools, youth programs, and juvenile correctional institutions across NYC and the nation.
Among many highlights of 2004, Naima was a featured poet and panelist alongside Sonia Sanchez and Jessica Care Moore at the National Spoken Word Symposium in Iowa City, and Alixa was chosen as the “Ground Breaking” poet to represent the U.S. in a televised cultural exchange hosted in South Africa by LoveLife. Other televised appearances include HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and BET’s The Next. And Climbing PoeTree starred alongside National Slam Champion Bryonn Bain in the hit music video Ancestors Watching, produced by Warrington Hudlin of House Party.
In 2005, Climbing PoeTree launched its second national tour “Migration” and initiated S.T.I.T.C.H.E.D.-a folk-media project where Alixa and Naima invite their audience participants to write their Stories, Testimonies, Intentions, Truths, Confessions, Healing Expressions, and Dreams on squares of fabric that are sewn together into colorful prayer flags showcased at every Climbing PoeTree show. S.T.I.T.C.H.E.D. is now close to 3000 submissions long, and as it multiplies Alixa and Naima use it to catalyze collective healing, anti-oppression, and media-arts workshops in communities across the country.
2006 began for Climbing PoeTree with a journey to Cuba and Jamaica to execute the largest murals Alixa and Naima have created to date. In the same season they produced their highly-anticipated second LP, Ammunition, whose release party in Brooklyn drew crowds from as far as Detroit, D.C., and Toronto. Tracks from this brave new album have been broadcast coast to coast, and Alixa and Naima have been featured on numerous radio shows from Hard Knock Radio on Berkeley’s KPFA to Wake Up Call on New York City’s WBAI.
From 2006 to present Climbing PoeTree has continued to rock crowds, open hearts, and incite action across the continent, delivering their mind-opening message via a poetic craft they have reinvented and mastered. Among numerous successes of recent years, highlights include an artist residency at the University of Illinois, a three island tour in Hawaii raising funds for young single mothers, and three powerful keynotes: “The 23rd Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference” at UC Berkeley, Resource Generation’s “Making Money Make Change,” and the
“Bioneers 2007 Conference” at UMASS Dartmouth. Numerous magazines and literary journals- among them Clamour, Colorlines, and African Magazine-document the shockwaves of the soul-sister co-conspiracy of warrior poets who moonlight as street artists and infiltrate public schools and prisons with infectious ideas of how people can shape their own destinies.
In five self-organized independent tours, Climbing PoeTree has catalyzed over 500 crowds in more than 70 cities from Oakland to Atlanta, Johannesburg to Havana with artists such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Danny Glover, The Last Poets, and Dead Prez. Alixa and Naima have led more than 100 arts-based political education, anti-racism, and entrepreneurial workshops in institutions from Cornell University to Rikers Island. And they have painted murals on walls from the Bronx to Santiago, Toronto to Jamaica. Through compelling artistry, these multi-talented, tireless, and driven young women expose injustice, help us heal from violence, and make a better future visible, immediate, and irresistible.