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Meet Matthew Hernandez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Hernandez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
So, I started off as a youngin being in places I shouldn’t have been such as bars in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL. The adults would sneak me in during poetry events and one day I was so moved I decided to write my own poetry.

The adults thought I had a gift and their praise would keep me going. I would be the youngest one in the room, on the microphone moving the energy in the crowd and that felt great. Eventually, I decided to participate in a poetry slam which is competitive poetry. My parents were super supportive in this entire process.

At 15, they drove me to this really cool competition called Southern Fried Poetry Slam and the first year I bombed, lol, but by my third year I ended up winning, becoming the youngest winner of the now 27-year-old competition. From there, I knew I wanted to do poetry forever. The rest is history.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been a smooth road at all, but it’s been a necessary one. The biggest struggle has been one of the most recent–, and that is the passing of my mother almost two years ago. It’s been really hard to move on without her here.

Almost everything I created before she passed was to make her feel good and stronger, to make her smile. These days, everything I create is to make her proud. It’s certainly a challenge, but I hope I’m doing good. I believe I am.

Otherwise, the struggles are here and there. I’m a full-time artist mostly working in juvenile detention camps, and I absolutely love my work. But there are days, if I’m not as careful as I can be, I can bring home some of the heavy energy.

This is nothing against my students, but they’re carrying really traumatic stories on their backs and, on top of that, the juvenile justice system is a toxic place in general. So I have to try to remember to center and cleanse myself.

I have to remember to practice being clear for my students and for me, other struggles are random. The drives can be super long. The checks can be late, I once caught swine flu on tour many many years ago lol. You never know.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I believe I’m mostly known for my work with youth. I’ve worked with young people since I was a young person, volunteering at youth facilities.

These days, I work for an amazing non-profit called Street Poets as their Director of Camp Programming. I teach poetry in juvenile detention camps and other youth facilities across Los Angeles County, and I’ve been doing similar work across the country for about the last decade.

In addition, I’ve coached and co-coached lots of youth poetry slam teams– leading many to semi-finals, final stages and ultimate wins at major competitions.

My business overall is a poet, teaching artist and lover of all things positive. Mean people make me angry, and I love making people smile. Lately, I’ve been diving in my hip hop pockets a bit more and recently released an album called Ivanna, dedicated to my mother and the youth I work for.

Currently, I’m also the co-founder of Spoken Literature Art Movement (S.L.A.M.) – an organization providing poetry education and programming for poets, mostly adults. I work with the adult kids too.

I’m mostly proud of my willingness to not give up, even through all the loss and depression. What sets me apart from the others is my huge compassion for people. There’s not enough of that in the world.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I think my proudest moment is actually ongoing. Like every other day, I’m reminded that I’m living in my purpose and making a career from what I love to do and that is an absolute proud moment each and every time I think about it.


  • My book, 3032 – $15

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