meet the team:
Mama/ Writing Instructor
Full name: Kayisha [Ky-ee-shuh]
Refer to me like this: Ms. Kayisha or Kayi
Hometown: Baltimore, MD (pronounced Ball-da-more)
I fell in love with Baltimore when: I first got my acceptance into City and again when it became my alma mater. City 4 Eva! Also, when I learned that half & halfs, chicken boxes, and crab cakes were unique to us.
Current + favorite life role/s: Mom, Auntie, Teacher & Ravens Fan
Role/s w/in ARS: Momma/Writing Instructor
Years w/ ARS: This is year 2.
Education: City 4 Eva! (oh I gotta Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree, too)
Gifts/areas of wisdom + expertise: Writing Poetry and Identity Development
Why ARS snatched me up: My passion for working with youth, supporting their development, and my intentionality about everything I do.
A personal achievement I’m especially proud of: Taking steps forward to live out my purpose by starting a business that focuses on youth development and supporting organizations that serve the youth.
A professional one I be bragging about: I’ont brag about anything. I mostly hide, but a proud moment is when I obtained my Admin. I certification.
A big, scary goal I’m bigger and scarier than: Growing, maturing, and sustaining my businesses to the point that they can impact youth, families, and communities all around Baltimore and beyond!
A quote that makes my soul crawl on out of its
hiding place: “Take a picture if you want me quiet.” - Jamila Woods
The book that saved my life: You Are Your Best Thing, Brown Girl Dreaming, Believe Bigger & Set Boundaries Find Peace
My favorite Black woman author/s of all time: Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Chimamanda Adichie, Nikki Giovanni, Elizabeth Acevedo (Latina author), and way too many to keep naming but they’re etched in my heart and lining my shelves
The tenderest, most beautiful thing I ever witnessed or experienced at ARS: Witnessing and experiencing Black girlhood and Black womanhood as the norm! And embraced! And valued!
Why I am a part of the ARS journey: Why not?!? This is the space that every age of me would have benefited from. This is the place where adult me gets to witness young Black girls and Black women begin to connect and heal in ways and places I didn’t know (at their ages needed connecting and healing. And I’m grateful to be part of this community that helps them see the possibilities that come with authenticity, connection, and healing.
Full name: Shamoyia Gardiner (Cha-moy-yah if you're from the 305, "Shay" if you have trouble with long, phonetic words)
Refer to me like this: she/her, they/them, The Baker, The Tall Quiet One
Hometown: Miami, Florida
I fell in love with Baltimore when: I got to know its people without the light of whyte media
Current + favorite life role/s: Big sister, daughter, advocate, friend, sugar pusher.
Role/s w/in ARS: Coordinating mama, workshop facilitator, hug-giver, confidant
Years w/ ARS: 6
Education: Title 1 schools and discounted freedom from higher education, teaching teenage boys, policy debate, and ARS
Gifts/areas of wisdom + expertise: Reflection, perspective-lending, writing, oration, baking, policy advocacy, and travel
Why ARS snatched me up: I volunteered & the hug fit right 😘
A personal achievement I’m especially proud of: I chose to leave when I was complicit in a system that betrayed Black children and their families. It started me down the path of recognizing where my power to impact systems actually lives--what an uncovering.
A professional one I be bragging about: I lead the statewide education advocacy movement that fought to put more than $30 billion in MD public schools over the next 10 years--and then some.
A big, scary goal I’m bigger and scarier than: Rejecting external expectations as I wind my way through a life ill be proud to have lived by the time it's over.
A quote that makes my soul crawl on out of its hiding place: "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it"-Zora
The book that saved my life: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. There is more past the apocalypse of whyteness and capitalism.
My favorite Black woman author/s of all time: Mama Maya, Octavia E. Butler, Audrey Lorde, Maritza & Maika Moulite, Elizabeth Acevedo, Mama Toni...
The tenderest, most beautiful thing I ever witnessed or experienced at ARS: The energy consistent at the first night of Planted in the Same Pot--sisterhood! Giggling madness! The friendships formed in hours that deepen quickly and last past the summer are always magic to witness.
Why I am a part of the ARS journey: I believe Black women and girls must take care of themselves and one another. We're wells of life, regardless of birthing capacity, and ushering life forth when the world wants us dead, gone, or worse--that is enough for me.
My name is Erika Smith, and you can refer to me as Erika, E, she, her, and “Papi” when you get to know me like the homies do. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and grew up in Dallas, Texas between the legendary Oak Cliff and the southern suburbs. Being something like a nomad, I’ve lived in and loved on a few cities. The most recent of this is Baltimore, and it happened as I rolled up on my first A.R.S. Sunday workshop. The art on the streets, the laid back Blackness, and the fact that this city could help produce these women… the love was undeniable.
My journey with A.R.S began in 2021 when I was brought on as a writing teacher. Now I have the honor of being called a Mama, and it sho’ feels sweet. They asked me to tell why they snatched me up, and I think it’s because we have work to do together. I think the Mamas at the time saw real love and a sureness in me and on me, and I think they saw that I recognized what A.R.S is and would honor that, period.
Right now, I’m enjoying the role of being a wiser than before free woman, and there’s a lot I could say about that. That Nina Simone quote about freedom meaning no fear feels familiar and not aspirational anymore. I’m also embracing my unique role as teacher being more of a designer of learning experiences and a vibe of a container for exploration and discovery. I love the integrity it demands of me. I’m learning to love the ride of being the owner/operator of my company, Use Love Group. Finally, being a Master Gardener amongst a peer group of mostly elders and mostly women is feeding my soul in the gentlest and clearest ways. I guess I’m enjoying being a many-faced, solid mountain of a being or something like that.
Probably my greatest gift is my willingness to see beyond myself while rooting deeply into myself. It seems like some power in me sends a signal to others that there is space and value for whoever they are. Two personal achievements I’m especially grateful for are— breaking out of every cage including my own identities, and being willing to accept fault and do right. Professionally, I brag (in my head) on the fact that I found and kept my integrity while doing my time in them people’s school systems and that I broke out with all the resources I could carry for me and us. Right now I’m working on my first community event, an intergenerational exchange between the elders and the littles called, “A Grand Little Garden”. I want to make it sweet and special.
As far as education, I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2009. I am certified by the University of Maryland Extension as a Master Gardener. I have worked alongside talented land keepers in Puerto Rico, Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas. My deepest lessons have come from being with people, in the world, in the street, in the room, and on the land, and then actually sitting with myself.
My favorite Black woman author is Octavia. A book that saved my life though is The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. I am a part of this A Revolutionary Summer journey because we have work to do, things to see, and powers to uncover together.
Mama, Coordinator and Yoga Instructor
Full name: Andrea Michele Better
Refer to me like this: She/her
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
I fell in love with Baltimore when: I discovered the booming and supportive arts culture, fitness lifestyle groups and hidden/ not-so- hidden local parks/nature trails.
Current + favorite life role(s): My current life role is being a supportive and doting mother to my son, a beautiful Ballerino, who now resides in Seattle, Washington. My passion and absolute honor is being a yoga instructor focusing on exposing the mental, physical and emotional healing properties of yoga to our youth.
Role/s w/in ARS: Mama, Coordinator and Yoga Instructor
Years w/ ARS: 7 years with ARS
Education: Bachelor degree in Criminal Justice, University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Now to the juicey stuff:
Certified 200hr Yoga Instructor
Gifts/ areas of wisdom + expertise: Gift of healing
Why ARS snatched me up: ARS snatched me up for my passion to encourage youth to build a firm literacy foundation which provides exposure to the world and its many facets; crucial exposure that enable critical thinking and builds essential verbal and written communication skills contributing to them ultimately living their best lives fully and body.
A personal achievement I'm especially proud of: I am personally proud to have moved my son WITH THE HELP OF COMMUNITY across the country, from Baltimore to Seattle, so he could pursue his dream of being a professional dancer with thee maximum of two months notice. He was 17 at the time. He is now 19 and has been offered multiple contracts from dance companies across America.
A professional one I be bragging about: I am professionally proud of the appreciation and continual request for my yoga services.
A big, scary goal I'm bigger and scarier than: A big scary goal is to uproot myself and move to a Caribbean island teaching yoga at various resorts or maybe Florida or Arizona.
Long story short, I am no longer feeling Maryland Winters.
A quote that makes my soul crawl on out of its hiding place: If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. -Mother Maya Angelou
The book that saved my life: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
My favorite Black woman author/s of all time: Nikki Giovanni, Bell Hooks, Toni Morrison and Laila Delia
The tenderest, most beautiful thing I ever witnessed or experienced at ARS: Tenderest moments are most frequently experienced in Circle where daughters and Mamas are safe and supported to share, sometimes what they have never uttered verbally to another soul, joys and pains. I am proud and grateful to share, support and be supported in that space.
Why I am a part of the ARS journey: I am a part of the ARS journey to be a tangible example of intellect, beauty, grace, transparency and growth as well as to be surrounded and supported by such. I've learned that as much as we focus on pouring into our Daughters, they pour that much more into us.
In our differences, which life invariably encompasses, we constructively work to accept and understand each other all the while building literacy and writing skills. Winnningggggg
Mama, Writing Coach
Full name: Jacquelyn (Jacquie) Jordan
Refer to me like this: Jacquie, Mama J
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
I fell in love with Baltimore when: I started attending the Baltimore Book Fest a few years ago.
Current + favorite life role/s: Auntie to my babies from my after school enrichment program, daughter/granddaughter to the mothers in my community, sister-friend to the youngins tryin’ to figure out life.
Role/s w/in ARS: Mama/Writing Coach
Years w/ ARS: 2nd year
Education: AA, Community College of Philadelphia, BA Temple University, MA University of Pennsylvania also a Ph.D from the Philly Streets and my grandmother’s rocking chair.
Gifts/areas of wisdom + expertise: Creative writing, holding space for folks when being in this Black body, during this lifetime is just too much.
Why ARS snatched me up: I’m not even gonna lie. I have no idea.
A personal achievement I’m especially proud of: Going inward instead of lashing out because woooooo chile folks test me often.
A professional one I be bragging about: My work on how the female emcee helped to shape and define Black womanhood.
A big, scary goal I’m bigger and scarier than: My first book. My first film.
A quote that makes my soul crawl on out of its hiding place: “You have dominion over this reality.”
The book that saved my life: Black Girl in Paris Shay Youngblood
My favorite Black woman author/s of all time: Toni Cade Bambara, Hurston, Butler, Walker
The tenderest, most beautiful thing I ever witnessed or experienced at ARS: Jamesha’s giggle and her big beautiful smile. I want every Black girl to have the freedom to express that kind of joy.
Why I am a part of the ARS journey: Because Black women are dope. Black girls are dope. And being in the presence of Black women and Black girls makes me feel safe, and free and expressive and joyful and alive. It’s totally selfish because ARS gives so much more to me than I could ever give to it.