Poet and R&B singer Jamila Woods was born in Chicago and raised on the city’s South Side, in both Washington Park and the suburb Beverly Hills. Woods’s father is a physician, and her mother is a spiritual healer.
Woods graduated from Brown University with a BA in Africana Studies and Theatre and Performance Studies. She has cited Gwendolyn Brooks and Lucille Clifton as poetic influences. In 2012, she published her first chapbook, The Truth About Dolls, which includes a Pushcart Prize-nominated poem about Frida Kahlo. Her poetry has been featured in the anthologies The Uncommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning & Living (2013), Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (2014), and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015).
As a singer and songwriter, she has produced hip-hop and Neo-Soul music. Woods has collaborated with various popular artists, including Chance the Rapper, Noname, and Macklemore. In 2016, Woods released her debut album, HEAVN. Her second studio album, LEGACY! LEGACY! (2019) pays homage to a range of visual artists, musicians, writers, and actors. Inspiration for the album’s title came from a poem by Margaret Taylor Burroughs—co-founder of the DuSable Museum of African American of History and friend of Gwendolyn Brooks. Woods named each song track after an icon. Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez are among those to whom Woods pays tribute.
In addition to her creative work, she serves as Associate Artistic Director of the non-profit youth organization Young Chicago Authors, where she assists in organizing Louder than a Bomb, the world’s largest poetry festival. She also designs curricula for Chicago Public Schools and, like her poetic forebear, Gwendolyn Brooks, teaches poetry to children throughout the city.
Bernard, Jesse. “Jamila Woods: ’I want to pass down the power to speak on how you should be treated.’” The Guardian. May 8, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/may/08/jamila-woods-i-want-to-pass-down-the-power-to-speak-on-how-you-should-be-treated
Corry, Kristin. “Jamila Woods Wants You to Stop Rewriting Black History.” Vice magazine. May 7, 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xg8ez/jamila-woods-legacy-legacy-interview