Toni Blackman is a poet, rap lyricist and actress. She was the first Hip Hop artist selected to work as a Cultural Ambassador traveling with the US Department of State. Toni has traveled throughout Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, often working in some of the world's most war-torn nation states to help bring reconciliation and rehabilitation to those regions. Affectionately known as America’s Hip Hop Ambassador, Blackman has visited over 22 different countries and worked in others via digital satellite.
Highly respected as the founder of Freestyle Union, a cipher workshop that uses freestyling as a tool to encourage social responsibility, Lyrical Embassy, a company which she runs, stands for Freestyle Union and for Rhyme Like A Girl (RLAG) – which is an initiative for girls and women. A former Echoing Green Fellow and Soros Fellow, her work promotes diplomacy and self-expression through the use of cutting-edge personal development technique.
Recognized as a pioneer in Hip Hop theater and education, this award-winning artist has shared the stage with everyone from Erykah Badu, the Roots, Wu Tang, Sonia Sanchez, Mos Def, KRS One, Sara McLachlan and Rickie Lee Jones. Her book Inner-Course (Villard/Random House), which was released in 2003, appears in the award-winning anthology Live Through This (Seven Stories Press, 2008), her memoir, “Travels of a Lyrical Ambassador”, will be released on The Feminist Press late 2010 and she is a contributor to Jay Z: The Artist, The Man, The Visionary. In 2009 she was featured in VH1’s Future of Black History ad campaign, in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and was presented by 651 Arts. Toni’s recent travel included Italy, France and Azerbaijan (Baku) where she spoke at the Pio Manzu International Conference, which was held last October 24 and which featured Mikhail Gorbachev as one of the prime organizers – an event during which she has had the serendipity to befriend a woman from the UN who also introduced her to a couple from Baku. Out of that cultural exchange came an opportunity for her to go to Baku and work there on a project which involved performing and developing awareness of Hip Hop at an international level. Additionally, she is producing an RLAG project with teen girls from Liberia, Sudan, Haiti and the U.S. during her artist residency with Jefferson Arts Center in Virginia, and also completing related projects for the Travels of a Lyrical Ambassador brand. Toni, who’s Rhyme Like A Girl collective recently shot a commercial for BET's Black History Month ad campaign, is working on a project with grammy-award winning producer/engineer Commissioner Gordon. Toni has performed at Joe's Pub, BlueNote, Apollo Theater, and throughout the city, and will be presented by New African Productions in Concert at DROM in NYC on April 24, 2010.