staff and board

The Urban Word NYC team consists of professional artists and administrators trained in both academic and creative spaces. In the past year along, UW staff and interns have helped to provide over 5,000 hours of free writing workshops, produce more than 100 sold-out events, and manage more than 120 organizational partnerships.

Michael Cirelli
Executive Director
Michael Cirelli is an writer, educator and arts administrator. He is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, two award-winning curricula, and his work and writings have been featured on a range of both local and national media news outlets, including HBO, CNN, and elsewhere. Michael is the co-founder of Street Smart Press, and teaches courses on critical literacy and hip-hop education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. As the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, Michael manages the organization’s financial development and strategic growth.

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Sofía Snow
Deputy Director
Sofía is a Boston-raised spoken word artist, educator, and community organizer.  Her work has been featured in a range of literary publications, as well as in The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Generation Progress, and elsewhere. Prior to her arrival in New York, Sofía was the Outreach Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin’s pioneering First Wave program, the world’s first and only full-tuition scholarship program for hip hop and urban arts. Sofia oversees all of Urban Word NYC’s day-to-day operations, including key program development, staffing, and organizational growth & strategy.

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Adam Falkner
Director of Special Projects
Adam Falkner is a writer, educator and consultant.  His work has appeared in a range of literary and academic journals, and has also been featured on HBO, NBC, NPR, TED, in the New York Times, and elsewhere. A former high school English teacher in New York City’s public schools, Adam is the Founder and Executive Director of the pioneering diversity consulting initiative, the Dialogue Arts Project, and an Arthur Zankel Fellow and PhD candidate in the English Education program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Adam helps manage all of Urban Word NYC’s day-to-day operations, and supports Deputy Director’s vision for organizational growth & strategy.

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Shanelle Gabriel
Program Director
Shanelle Gabriel is a poet, singer, and health advocate. She’s featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, The Rachel Ray Show, HuffPost Live, competed in the National and Individual World Poetry Competitions, and has toured internationally. As an advocate for Lupus, she has spoken for the National Institute of Health, performed at numerous Walks For Lupus, appeared in Women’s Health Magazine, and presently facilitates the South Brooklyn Lupus Support Group. In her role as the Urban Word NYC Program Director, Shanelle is responsible for managing our many partnerships, overseeing the organization’s core recurring programs, as well as the recruitment, contracting, and professional development of Urban Word NYC Mentors and teaching artists. 

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Sergio Jimenez
Office Manager
Sergio Jimenez is a spoken word artist with goals of succession. From being 3rd in the National Brave New Voices Slam Competition, becoming Poet-In-Residence of InspiredWordNYC, and an Ambassador of UrbanWordNYC, as well as being the President of the Brooklyn College Slam Team, Sergio has intentions of only growing in his craft. With a focus in poetry and performing arts, Sergio has performed in Theaters such as The Apollo, The Mist and The Snapple Theater. He is currently working on a book entitled 1,001 Prompts and his first Chapbook entitled, “Church Boy Cries Wolf”. Sergio continues his craft by teaching writing and performance workshops around the city.

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Willy Luperon De La Rosa
Media Coordinator
Willy Luperon is an artist, poet, graphic designer and sees no difference between them. Dominican born & Bronx raised, he is an Urban Word Alum. A member of the 2015 Urban Word Slam Team, he’s performed in such hallowed venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center, and The Met. Willy currently attends St. John’s University and has been published in the Lincoln Center Poet-Linc Anthology. As Urban Word’s Media Coordinator, he’s responsible for our online presence and digital  and visual engagement across platforms. 

Mahogany Browne
Artistic Director
Mahogany Browne, host and curator of the Friday Night Slam Series at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, is a Cave Canem Fellow who facilitates performance poetry and writing workshops throughout the country. She is the editor of His Rib: Stories, Poems & Essays by HER and author of Destroy Rebuild & Other Reconstructions of the Human Muscle and Swag. She has released five LPs, including the live album, Sheroshima. As Urban Word NYC’s Poet-in-Residence, Mahogany plays a number of vital roles, including her development and management of the organization’s Youth Leadership Board, coach of the NYC Youth Poetry Slam Team, Master Teaching Artist and Mentor, and more.
Erica Miriam Fabri
Creatively College Bound Director
Erica Miriam Fabri’s first book, Dialect of a Skirt, was a finalist for the 2011 Paterson Poetry Prize and was included on the lists:’s Best Books of 2010, Small Press Distributor’s Bestseller list and The Poetry Foundation’s Bestseller list. She has worked on projects as a writer, editor and performance director for The New York Knicks, HBO, Lincoln Center for the Arts and Nickelodeon Television. She teaches Performance Poetry at Pace University, and as Urban Word NYC’s Creatively College Bound Director, manages all aspects of the CCB program including instruction, curriculum development, school partner management, and more.  
Shannon Matesky
Youth Engagement Coordinator
Shannon Matesky is an actress, playwright, producer and youth organizer from Berkeley, California.  She has performed with a range of theater companies including American Theater Company, Steppenwolf Theater, and UrbanTheater Co., and has been featured on HBO, in the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Shannon comes to Urban Word NYC with extensive experience working with like-missioned youth organizations to produce campaigns and festivals across the United States, including the 2015 Brave New Voices Festival. Shannon is a Future Corps Fellow for Urban Word NYC, where she coordinates the recruitment, retention and project-based work of the organization’s Youth Leadership Board, and supports it’s development of the Journal to Journey program.
Paul Tran
Paul Tran is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and historian. Their work appears Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, RHINO, which gave them an Editor’s Prize, and elsewhere. A recipient of fellowships and residencies from Kundiman, VONA, Poets House, Lambda Literary Foundation, Napa Valley Writers Conference, Home School Miami, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Conversation Literary Festival. Paul is the first Asian American in almost twenty years to represent the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at the National Poetry Slam and Individual Poetry Slam, where they ranked Top 10. Paul is completing their debut full-length manuscript. It investigates intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, and US empire after 1975. They live in New York City, where they serve as Poet In Residence at Urban Word NYC and Poetry Editor at The Offing.


Kevin Buddhdew

Vice President, Credit Suisse

Jason Canavan

Executive Director & Senior Counsel, UBS Investment Bank

Jason Wadlow

Standard Chartered Bank New York

Yana Chernobilsky

Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Amanda Jacobs Wolf


Ellen Wahl Parker

Principal and Associate General Counsel, KPMG LLP

Eric Adisa

Educator, Landmark High School

Edward (Ted) Jacobs

Partner, Baker Hostetler

Nkosi D. Shields

Counsel, Baker Hostetler

Monica Hodges

Vice Chair
Independent Marketing Consultant, Vice Chair

Tina Jacobson

Chair, Space Matters, Inc.

Tenny Pearson

Group Business Director, The Barbarian Group

Each year, Urban Word champions the voices of more than 25,000New York City teens in the art of spoken word poetry.