Toni Blackman

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Toni Blackman

1999 Global Fellow
Founder of FreeStyle Union

Toni Blackman 1999 Global Fellow

Bold Idea 

Uses oral improvisation as the basis for the human and creative development of emerging artists by providing workshops on artist development. These workshops emphasize writing, speaking, and performance as well as ego management, holistic health care, the study of hip-hop history, and the rapper’s role as storyteller and historian.


Toni Blackman is an international champion of hip-hop culture, known for the irresistible, contagious energy of her performances and for her alluring female presence. She’s all heart, all rhythm, all song, all power, a one-woman revolution of poetry and microphone. An award-winning artist, her steadfast work and commitment to hip-hop led the U.S. Department of State to name her the first ever hip-hop artist to work as an American Cultural Specialist. She has served in Senegal, Ghana, Botswana, and Swaziland where her residencies include performance, workshops, and lectures on hip hop music and culture. She recently toured Southeast Asia with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Musical Ambassador program and has shared the stage with artists including Erykah Badu, Mos Def, The Roots, Wu Tang Clan, GURU, Bahamadia, Boot Camp Clic, Me'Shell NdegeoCello, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Jill Sobule, and Rickie Lee Jones. Her first book, Inner-Course, was released in 2003 (Villard/Random House).

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