Image credit: SpeakOut

“Sonya Renee is conviction, compassion, and fierce grace. Her work is a thunderous call to action, spoken with porch light welcome.” ~Andrea Gibson, Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, author, activist

Sonya Renee Taylor is an author, poet, spoken word artist, speaker, humanitarian and social justice activist, educator, and founder of The Body is Not An Apology movement, “a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation” which aims to foster “global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.” The project’s content reaches over one million people per month, with website visitors from over 140 countries.

Our society tells us fatness is not beautiful. Blackness is not beautiful. So even while reclaiming size diversity as beautiful, the presence of Blackness complicates the narrative…It is this unwillingness to wade through the murky waters of race that make Black and Brown women invisible even in the places where we say we are trying to make people seen. ~Sonya Renee Taylor

Taylor has won multiple poetry slams, both national and international, including the 2004 U.S. National Individual Poetry Slam competition, the 2005 DC/Baltimore Grand Slam competition, the 2007 Ill List III Slam competition, the 2006 Four Continents International Slam competition. She has performed for audiences across the US, New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands, in prisons, mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, universities, festivals and public schools across the globe.

In the beginning as an amateur spoken-word poet, Taylor performed at Baltimore-area open-mic nights. Only a year later she was named the National Individual Poetry Slam Champion. Taylor says of those early days, “I instantly fell in love. I was completely overwhelmed with what an amazing experience it was.” She also has a B.A. in Sociology and an M.S.A. in Organizational Management.

In 2010 Taylor released her first bookA Little Truth on Your Shirt, a collection of her poetry. Her work has also been included in many anthologies, and featured in various journals and magazines. Her latest release, just this month, is the much anticipated The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love.

The about page on her website says of her many honors and good work,

Believing in the power of art is a vehicle for social change, Sonya has been widely recognized for her work as a change agent. She was named one of Planned Parenthood’s 99 Dream Keepers in 2015 as well as a Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s 2015 Outstanding Partner awardee. Bustle Magazine named her one of the 12 Women Who Paved the Way for Body Positivity and in September 2015, she was honored as a YBCA 100, an annual compilation of creative minds, makers, and pioneers who are asking the questions and making the provocations that will shape the future of American culture; an honor she shared alongside author Ta’Nahesi Coates, artist Kara Walker, filmmaker Ava Duvernay and many more. In 2016, she was named a Champion of Women’s Health by Planned Parenthood and commissioned to write the official poem for Planned Parenthood’s 100-year centennial celebration. In the same year, Sonya was also invited to the Obama White House to speak at their forum on the intersection of LGBTQIAA and Disability issues. In 2017, Sonya was awarded the Quixote Foundation’s “Thank You Note,” a $25,000 award for leaders and artists working in the field of reproductive justice. In the fall of 2017, Sonya was named one of 28 global changemakers selected into the inaugural cohort of the Edmund Hilary Fellowship, a 3-year international fellowship of world-leading entrepreneurs and investors, innovating purpose-driven global impact projects from New Zealand.

Taylor currently serves on the Board of Directors for Split This Rock, an organization calling poets to a greater role in public life and fostering a national network of socially engaged poets. Additionally, she serves on the Board of Directors for SisterSong, a pioneering Women of Color reproductive justice collective. She is also actively engaged in issues of racial justice, police brutality, mental health, reproductive rights and justice and much more. Taylor resides between the California Bay Area and Aotearoa New Zealand. She tours globally sharing lectures, workshops and performances focused on “radical unapologetic healing and personal transformation.”