ASIA RAINEY paints panoramic perspectives with words, inspired by the multifarious movements of life. Born and raised in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, she was bathed in diversity, simplicity and adversity – all of which fueled her growth as an eclectic artist with an intense passion for poetry. Perhaps her first glimpse of spoken word was standing in the back of the room listening to poets at Cauldey’s coffee shop with admiration.

Serendipitously introduced to “open mic” at Sweet Lorraine’s, a popular jazz bistro and one of the historic landmarks of the spoken word community in New Orleans, Asia fell in love with the beauty and freedom of spoken word, immediately embracing its power to convey positive messages through a rhythmic, entertaining medium. Fed by the plethora of talented artists at poetry venues such as Sweet Lorraine’s, Up Close and Personal (Hard Rock Café), Ebony Square, and Pozazz (True Brew Café), she found a renewed connection with poetry that spoke to her spirit, social awareness, and sense of self. Seeking to spread the influence of poetry further in the city, her co-produced venues at The Chocolate Factory and The Line stimulated spoken word interest in new audiences. For the past eight years, she has been welcomed as a featured and guest performer at numerous poetry venues, festivals, benefits, and educational institutions in various U.S. cities, sharing stages with some of the most talented poets and musicians in the country, including serving as guest poet for Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting.

She earned a place on the 2005 New Orleans National Slam Team with local poetic icons Asali Devan, Sunni Patterson, African American Shakespear, GF Soldier, L. Edwards and Lionel King. Viewing poetry slam as a medium for engaging youth in a positive endeavor, Asia became the coach of the New Orleans Youth Slam team (NOYS) in 2007. In their second year of competition under her tutelage, NOYS placed 10th in the nation.

Asia has since added recordings of her work to her accomplishments, such as a written poetic compilation entitled “Soul Chant”, an appearance on the CD compilation Artists’ Collabo (Unknown Poet, 2005), and then recorded her first spoken word CD, No Rainbows for the Colored (2007). Her most recent offering is a guest appearance on the AsheCulturalArtCenter’s CD, Her Name is New Orleans, joining artists Charmaine Neville, Zion Trinity, Sunni Patterson, and more. She is currently completing an ambitious CD project of her own, Shine, which will include both spoken word and her original music.

In fall of 2007, she added acting to her repertoire, earning the key role of “Aunt Missy” in the theatre production of Purlie (Ossie Davis), directed by Tommye Myrick at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre; she was nominated for an Ambi Award, and the production also won several Big Easy awards and media acclaim. Also that fall, Asia wrote and performed a spoken word piece for a television and radio commercial, produced by LPHI for the STEPS to a Healthier New Orleans’ Treat You Right campaign, speaking out about making healthy living changes to the community. This commercial has since won local and regional Addy awards as well as a national Telly Award for commercials (Zehnder Communications).

Deciding to explore theatre and acting in greater depth, Asia went from stage manager to assistant director of the play The Unacquainted (Pamela Nolan-Davis) directed by Derrick Deal in spring of 2008. She also starred in: Ashe Cultural Arts Center’s production of The Vagina Monologues, directed by Dollie Rivas,with a special taping for the productions’ author, Eve Ensler; “Origins of Life on Earth” as part of the Vorchestra; A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant & A Prayer. Her latest new journey was in a lead role (Georgia) of the feature film, Flood Streets, winner of numerous awards at independent film festivals around the country. In fall of 2010, Asia premiered her new one-woman play, Shut Up & Fly, at the New Orleans Fringe Fest.

Asia continues to find ways to integrate her love for spoken word with her work in the community. She was selected as a Gulf Coast Fellow in support of her endeavors as an activist, organizer and educator. In 2007, she founded and works as the executive director of WordPlay New Orleans, a spoken word education non profit dedicated to using creative writing as a multi-faceted educational tool for youth in several capacities. In her fifth year working with NOYS, she has weaved this commitment to young people into the WordPlay structure. When time allows, she co-produces poetry venues around the city to promote the continuous growth of a strong poetry community in New Orleans. She is a member of Emancipate, a group of female singers and poets assembled under the New York-based Culture Project (with Cris Williamson, Vicki Randle {The Tonight Show}, Pamela Means, Sunni Patterson, and Gabrilla Ballard). In 2013, Asia is preparing to release a new non-fiction book project through an international publishing house and will resume touring with various works.


Asia Rainey




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