Passing the Mic Festival

Passing The Mic (PTM) is an intergenerational dialogue on hip hop arts, education, and activism hosted by the award winning Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI)  at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in partnership with the DDEEA Diversity Forum, School of Education, Arts Division, Interdisciplinary Artist Residency Program, Jenny Holzer, and the Wisconsin Book Festival.

Passing the Mic: Love & Revolution

Everyday is another revolution around the sun. We have seen the pandemic revolutionize the ways we can connect with each other, work together, access space and stories. We have seen and felt people across the globe call for revolution, demand revolution, fight for revolution of the status quo. The theme for the 16th Annual Passing the Mic Intergenerational Hip Hop Festival (PtM) is all about LOVE in the revolution: how we revolutionize the ways we care for ourselves and each other across generations, languages, abilities, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, identities. Join us for a weekend of showcases, concerts, panels and workshops all dedicated to this conversation: how does our love span borders? How does our love create change? How does our love save us? How far does our love motivate us to go?

In partnership with the Division of the Arts’ Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program, PtM’s featured artists will be award winning playwrights, musicians, and composers Zeniba Now and Jay Adana. Now and Adana will be in residence at UW-Madison from October 6-16, facilitating workshops, performances and activities on and off campus, all the while rehearsing and casting students in their theater production, The Loophole, originally produced at The Public Theater of NY, winner of the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award 2020, as well as the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat. PtM youth participants will have the opportunity to collaborate on short multimedia projects facilitated by Zeniba and Jay (think poetry, music, visual arts, theater, all coming together for 2-5 min collaborations with youth from across the country!) that will be presented as a part of the PtM Festival culmination on Sat, October 15th, 2022 in the Play Circle, Wisconsin Union Theater.

Zeniba Now, director, coach, consultant, actor, educator, and writer, has played a role in the development of dozens of digital shorts and new musicals. Parts of Now’s one-woman show “iQuit: Millennial Retirement Gala” have been viewed over two million times on the internet and she has collectively worked to create over 100 million views for various independent projects and businesses. Z has collaborated with Buzzfeed, The New York Times, The Public Theatre, Mixed Blood, NYU Playwright Horizons, Goodspeed Musicals, NYC WinterFest, NYMF, Theatre Raleigh, Theatre by The Sea, RWS & Associates, La Mama, The Dramatist Guild Foundation, The American Theatre Wing, Joe’s Pub, The GreenRoom42, 54 Below, Farmingdale Arts Council, The Gibney, Holland America Cruise Line, Bad Dog Theatre Toronto, Woolly Mammoth, St. Louis Rep, Ring of Keys, Democracy Now, Caveat, SPACE on Ryder Farm, SpeakEasy Stage, Signature Center, New York Theatre Barn, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat. 


Z is passionate about the effects of heart and brain coherence on human consciousness and has completed Alpha Brainwave Training 1 at Dr. James Hardt’s Biocybernaut Institute and completed two advanced retreats on meditation’s effects on piezoelectricity with Dr. Joe Dispenza. She has additional training in antiracism and leadership from Urban Bush Women, and graduate coursework in Trauma & Communal Suffering, The Shape of The Story, and Artist Identity from NYU Gallatin where she briefly pursued an Independent Masters in Musical Film and Television.  She has additional film and tv training from The Independent Film School and Writing Pad Los Angeles. Zeniba is the winner of the 2021 Jonathan Larson Award, 2021 Vivace Award, the 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, and West High’s Funniest Senior.

Jay Adana is a loud, shy, mixed Korean girl making musical stories. Adana writes with her voice and her computer in all sorts of genres, but what inevitably comes out is where she and the genre meet, rather than anything pure. Jay is a hybrid type person, a composer, lyricist, singer, songwriter, actress. The following are some of her projects and awards:  The Loophole (Public Theater Studio, music and lyrics), The Jordan & Avery Show (The O’Neill Theater Center, book, music and lyrics), The Woodsman (New World Stages, lyrics), Fingerpaintings (Playwrights Horizons Downtown, music and lyrics), LeFay (Musical Theater Factory, book and lyrics), The Last Tiger in Haiti (Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse, contributed music and lyrics). Currently developing The Jordan & Avery Show as a musical movie. 2020 Richard Rodgers Award, 2021 Vivace Award, 2018 Jonathan Larson Award, 2019 Dramatist Guild Foundation Fellow. Work featured by PBS, The American Theater Wing, Joe’s Pub, and The Dramatist Magazine. Residencies: Public Theater #BARS residency writer under Jeanie O’Hare, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, SPACE on Ryder Farm. Education: #BARS workshop founded by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, Acting BFA SUNY Purchase Conservatory.

PtM Festival Participant Description (Invite Only)

This year’s PtM Festival will consist of in-person events, with one virtual workshop ahead of travel.


We have a confirmed 38 guests from six youth organizations across the country:

  • Kuumba Lynx (Chicago)
  • VOICES (Indianapolis)
  • SAY (Des Moines)
  • Words Beats & Life, Inc. (Washington DC)
  • Young Chicago Authors
  • Sacramento Area Youth Speaks (SAYS)


We would love to invite young artist-activists local to the Madison area to join this year’s festivities! Ideally, youth participants will be between the ages of 13 and 19, with a preference for high school juniors and seniors. PtM is an initiative to support college access and recruitment for young people of various marginalized identities, with a focus on students building community and seeing themselves in higher education. We will also promote the First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts Scholarship Program, which provides full tuition scholarships for high school seniors and 1st year college student transfers (applicants must be between the ages of 17-19 entering Fall 2023). Applications will be due November 1, 2022 and February 1, 2023. If interested in coordinating a group of youth, please contact Sofía Snow at



PtM Festival Schedule (Invite Only)


Wed, October 12, 2022 (Zoom)

5:30pm – 7:30pm CT


In this workshop, PtM youth participants will begin developing creative works for the PtM Saturday night youth showcase. Facilitated by OMAI Interdisciplinary Artists in Residence, Jay Adana and Zeniba Now, youth participants will begin unpacking the year’s theme of Love & Revolution through various creative expressions (writing, movement, music, visual arts, etc). Youth participants will then be assigned small groups with other young people from across the country to begin collaborative projects that they will finalize in person and present at the culminating showcase on Sat, October 15 in the Wisconsin Union Theater Play Circle. 


Thurs, October 13, 2022 (Zoom)

As scheduled by small groups. 


Assigned groups will meet, communicate, create and rehearse their collaborative projects. Each group can schedule check-in meetings with OMAI Artists in Residence, Jay Adana and Zeniba Now, for brainstorming and feedback.


Fri, October 14, 2022

Travel day for in-person activities.

Small groups finalize their collaborations for Saturday showcase. Meet with Jay and Zeniba as desired.

Potentially a youth showcase/open mic for youth participants, depending on arrival times. Either at Play Circle or DoubleTree.


Sat, October 15, 2022

9:00 am – 10:00am PtM Opening Reception

Breakfast, Introductions, Overview

This room will be available as a “decompression room” all day for PtM participants to utilize during breaks.


10:30am – 12:00pm First Wave Collaborative Lab with PtM Youth Participants

12:00pm – 1:00pm LUNCH BREAK

Meal cards for $15 campus dining will be provided for each participant (youth and chaperone)


1:00pm – 1:30pm Arts & Culture Campus Tour

Please visit the link above for a description of previous events.


1:30pm – 2:00pm BREAK

2:00pm – 4:00pm Arts Department Tour & Visual Arts Activity

Meet @ the Chazen Museum lobby


4:00pm – 5:00pm Passing the Mic Youth Technical Rehearsal


5:00pm – 6:00pm Dinner Break on your own

7:00pm – 9:00pm Passing the Mic: Love & Revolution (Free and Open to the public)

Performances and conversation by PtM Youth Participants, First Wave Scholars, FW Alum. Final production of Loophole, by Jay Adana, Zeniba Now, and cast of professional actors and UW students (in partnership with the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program in the Division of the Arts). 


Sun, October 16, 2022

9:00am – 11:00am PtM Festival Closing Breakfast Reception & Travel Departure

Closing reflection activities and goodbyes! 

This will take place at the hotel.

Past Festival Information

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2021 Performers/Guests

The Multiverse is where the dimensions of past, present and future all intersect on the same timeline. If the last two years have taught us anything, they have emphasized the importance of now. The urgency of honoring real histories, real present pressing matters, real futures filled with hope and yet at stake. The 15th Annual Passing the Mic Intergenerational Hip Hop Festival is the Multiverse where these planes meet; where we bridge the gap between generations and silos; where we use song and poems, multi verses, movement and media, to demand radical documentation, collaboration, and celebration. Join us for a weekend of showcases, concerts, panels and workshops all dedicated to this conversation: where have we been, where are we going, what will we make possible and how in this Multiverse?

Hybrid Model

This year’s PtM Festival will have a hybrid model of in-person and virtual youth events. While UW-Madison boasts a 92% vaccination rate as of early September, we are keeping a watchful eye on the Delta Variant and want to make sure young people in our national network can still participate, even if virtually.

We are inviting four (4) youth groups from the Midwest to attend in person, and additional youth organizations to attend virtually from our national network.

All in-person events will require masks to be worn inside all buildings, regardless of vaccination status.


The First Wave Hip Hop Theatre Ensemble (FWTE) is a groundbreaking collective of spoken word poets, emcees, dancers, singers, actors, and activists from across the United States. FWTE represents the First Wave Hip Hop & Urban Arts Learning Community at UW-Madison, the world’s first and only full tuition scholarship for Hip Hop and urbans arts. They create works that unpack the personal narrative as a route to academic engagement, artistic productivity and community engagement.

They have performed in England, Mexico, Panama, Africa, Australia, and Jamaica as well as across the USA including featured performances on Broadway and annual performance keynote at the Boys & Girl Club Keystone Conference.  Touring Members host workshops and performances in local and regional high school and community spaces.

FWTE Members for 2021-22 are Azura Tyabji (Seattle), Jackson Neal (Houston), Marjan Naderi (DC), Sarah Abbas (St. Louis), & Zachary Lesmeister (St. Louis).

Mahogany L. Browne is the Executive Director of JustMedia, a media literacy initiative designed to support the groundwork of criminal justice leaders and community members. This position is informed by her career as a writer, organizer, & educator. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent works: Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, & Black Girl Magic. Browne is the founder of the diverse lit initiative, Woke Baby Book Fair; and is excited about her latest poetry collection. I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love is a book-length poem responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children). She is based in Brooklyn and is the first-ever Poet-in-Residence at the Lincoln Center.



2020 Performers/Guests

2016 Performers/Guests

2014 Performers/Guests

Reginald Gaines: Grammy and Tony nominated winning writer.

Chinaka Hodge: Poet, educator, playwright and screenwriter.

Shawn Peters: Lecturer, journalist, author, UW-Madison Professor.

Kevin “Khao” Cates: Multi-Platinum Producer and creator of the Bridge DA Gap Curriculum.

Gloria Ladson-Billings: Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Madison.

Maisha T. Winn: Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at University of Madison-Wisconsin.

Dasha Kelly: a nationally-respected writer, artist and social entrepreneur.

Rain Wilson: Poet, playwright, visual artist, and Associate Artistic Director for First Wave.

Paul Hastil: Musician of New Breed Jazz Jam

Nick Moran: Musician of New Breed Jazz Jam

Robert Schoville: Percussionist

2013 Performers/Guests

Dominique Ricks: First Wave Scholar

Erika Dickerson: First Wave Scholar

Thiahera Nurse: First Wave Scholar

Rain Wilson: Poet, playwright, visual artist, and Associate Artistic Director for First Wave.

Dakota Alacantra-Camacho: First Wave Alumni

Richard Davis: American Jazz Bassist, UW-Madison Professor of Music

Gia Scott Heron: spoken word artist, poet, writer and author.

Lemon Andersen: American poet, spoken word artist and actor.

2012 Performers/Guests

Robbie Q.: American poet and poetry slam performer.

Frank X Walker: Poet, co-founder of Affrilachian Poets.

Lynda Barry: Discovery Fellow, American cartoonist, author, and Assistant Professor at UW-Madison.

Marques Toliver: Multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, musician.

Amaud Johnson: Poet, UW-Madison English Professor

Wendy Vardaman: Poet, teacher, Co-editor.

Sarah Busse: Co-editor

CX Dillhunt: Author

Christopher Walker: UW-Madison assistant professor of Dance and First Wave Hip-Hop Theater Ensemble artistic director.

Bruce Dethlefsen: Wisconsin Poet Laureate

Brenda Cárdenas: Poet

Kimberly Blaeser: Creative Writing and Native American Literatures Professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, poet.

Cathryn Cofell: Poet, educator, motivational speaker, voice artist.

Shameaca Moore: First Wave scholar

Myriha Burton: First Wave scholar

Janel Herrera: First Wave scholar

Taylor Scott: First Wave scholar

Zhalarina Sanders: First Wave scholar

Paul Hastil: Musician of New Breed Jazz Jam

Nick Moran: Musician of New Breed Jazz Jam

Robert Schoville: Percussionist

2011 Performers/Guests

Mayda del Valle: Poet, performer, teaching artist.

Black Ice: Poet from Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam.

Robbie Q.: American poet and poetry slam performer.

Shanny Jean Maney: Performance poet and teacher.

Sonia Sanchez: Poet, Mother, Professor, National and International lecturer on Black Culture and Literature, Women’s Liberation, Peace and Racial Justice, sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, board Member of MADRE, author of over 16 books.

Danny Simmons: Abstract expressionist painter.

Jessica Care-Moore: Internationally renowned poet, publisher, activist, rock star, playwright, actress, educator, thespian, filmmaker, performance artist, producer, five-time Showtime at the Apollo winner, and CEO of Moore Black Press.

2010 Performers/Guests

Mark Gonzales: Poet, educator, and international thought leader in using storytelling as a global health strategy. He is currently creating a model to unite youth artists inside juvenile halls with those within high schools through multi-media poetry to engage students in ending cycles of violence and emptying prisons.

Liza Garza: Emmy Award-nominated Liza Garza is a poet, vocalist and songwriter.

Susana Chávez Silverman: Poet and Professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.

First Wave 2010 Hip Hop Theater Ensemble: “Turbulence: The Eve of Crashing”

2009 Performers/Guests

Youth Speaks Hawaii (Elizabeth Soto, Jamaica Osorio, Ittai Wong, Bruce (Alaka’i) Kotrys): Youth Speaks Hawai’i, a program of non-profit Pacific Tongues, supported by the Hawai`i Arts Alliance, promotes teen literacy and civic engagement through the performance art of slam poetry by offering weekly writing workshops, hosting monthly poetry slams and open mics, organizing interscholastic poetry slams, and sending a youth team to national competition every summer.

Marty McConnell: Poet, Spoken Word artist.

Gregory Landau: Award-winning music/video producer, educator and music historian.

Phillip Montalban: Singer, songwriter, producer born in Nicaragua was part of a musical group called Soul Vibes.

Guillermo Anderson: Honduras’s best-known World Music Artist.

Latisha Jones: Spoken word Artist, Activist, Educator, and Organizer based out of St. Paul, MN. Also, the founder, executive, and artistic director of a developing non-profit arts organization, TruArtSpeaks, Jones teaches performance art and creative writing in schools throughout the Twin Cities area as well as in prisons and other facilities with youth programming.

2008 Performers/Guests

Patricia Smith: Poet, spoken-word performer, playwright, author, writing teacher, and former journalist. She is on the faculties of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing and the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Sierra Nevada College.

Dennis Kim: Hip-Hop and Spoken Word artist from Chicago, and a co-founder of I Was Born With Two Tongues, an Asian American spoken word quartet, and Typical Cats, a Chicago-based hip hop collective. He is a teaching artist at Youth Speaks, Inc.

Josh Healey: Award-winning writer, performer, and creative activist.

Kevin Coval: Poet, playwright, educator, organizer, Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors.

2007 Performers/Guests

2006 Performers/Guests