Meet Aiyana Sha’niel, one of KCRW’s featured poets for the Young Creators Project
Photo courtesy of Aiyana Sha’niel.

Young Creators Poet spotlight: Aiyana Sha’niel

Each day this week, we’re spotlighting the homegrown budding poetry and storytelling talent sourced via KCRW’s Young Creators Project, a community arts mentorship platform celebrating the creative work of SoCal residents under 21. 

Aiyana Sha’niel is a 19-year-old Black poet born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has been writing for six years, beginning at Hamilton High School, where she wrote and performed on the school’s poetry team, Hamlit, and competed in Get Lit competitions from 2016-2020. Sha’niel has had individual pieces published nationally in various online magazines such as Rooted Minds, Black Minds Publishing, and Death Rattle. Sha’niel’s work has been published in the Behind the Vision’s “The Story Behind the Poems,” Sims Library of Poetry’s “Poems in Praise of Libraries,” and others. She was Poetry Out Loud’s 2020 County representative for Los Angeles and placed second in the State competition. 

She has performed and featured for various open mics, like Da Poetry Lounge, Palms Up Academy, Junior High LA, Get Lit mic, Sunday Jump, Art Is My Drug, House of Chaos, and others. Sha’niel was selected to host the American branch of the Italian virtual open mic, Rinascimento Poetico, from October to November 2021. She also started an open mic, The BackYart show, from 2018 to the beginning of the pandemic. 

She is a poetry teacher under Street Poets Organization, where she goes into four high school classes and one middle school class weekly to educate over 25 students per session in creative writing. 

In October 2021, Sha’niel was the Street Poets representative and performer for the Los Angeles Arts Recovery Fund Reception at the Getty Museum, hosted by Debbie Allen. She is a 2021 graduate of the Community Literature Initiative program (CLI). She is the youngest student graduate from the program at 18 years old, with her own full body of work. Sha’niel signed to World Stage Press and is working toward releasing her first collection of poems, titled “Little Black Poetry Book'' on September 24th of 2022.

Wu-Tang Blues

Cash rules everything around me
Get the money 
Dolla Dolla bill y’all
I’m sick of chasing bills y’all
Why is this the deal, all
of us starving
hard-earned work but not enough profit
Cash rules everything 
It’s apparent, see
I'm tired of fishing for spare change in wishing wells 
Of half-assed jobs
That give
Barely enough to pay rent
And people questioning if that’s still too much cash
Rules everything around me 
I gonna S.C.R.E.A.M
Because I gotta work to eat 
I gotta eat to live 
Livin in a one bed one bath,
Barely sleeping to work my bone down to dust 
For cash for me to eat y’all 
Being a workaholic is officially a diagnostic
And I gotta clock in 
To pay to cure these habits
So it’s 
Time to get the money
Gotta stop 
Takin care of myself 
This company’s wealth is more important 
Than my physical and mental health 
I pick up whatever is left of me that I have
And make these broken legs move to 
Go chase a bag
And make these broken fingers
Count how much money I could have had
And let this brain over fry itself
Cuz overtime “ain’t too bad”
And I can’t surrender 
Even when I see red flags
So no I don’t stop...
I’m never off the clock
Constantly producing until this
Casket tells me to drop
And still, remember
I am always replaceable
I am always expendable
So I move twice as quick and 
Play cat and mouse with death 
Yes, I know even she has a price tag 
So my Wu-tang blues
Is a tune I hum every morning at 5:30 am
And a lullaby I sing myself to sleep 
A song that is on repeat along with these hours I commit to every single day
Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me
And I gotta pay bills y'all.

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