Shontina Vernon is an artist and social justice activist most noted for her genre bending storytelling and performance style. Working across forms, using live music, choreography, multimedia, and poetic narrative, she tells the stories of marginalized communities, unapologetically privileging the lens of people of color and women. A native of West Texas, Vernon credits her small town beginnings with giving her a colorful imagination and an ear for the language and lyricism so prevalent in her work.
In 2016, Vernon was awarded the Robert Rauschenberg "Artist as Activist" Fellowship to establish the Visionary Justice StoryLab, an interdisciplinary arts collaboratory that brings together artists, educators, organizers, and community members to address systemic oppression through story. One of the initial projects of the lab will focus on the rise of incarceration among black and brown girls, and re-imagining the school-to-prison pipeline in a large scale art project titled, PUBLICLY SCHOOLED.
Among Vernon's theatre credits include WANTED, a solo show about adoption, celebrity and criminality commissioned by Hip Hop Theatre Festival and developed in part by the New York Theatre Workshop, A LOVELY MALFUNCTION (nominated for a 2016 Audelco Award), and HER BLACK BODY POLITIC, a movement piece exploring the black female body and the way it takes up literal and poetic space. Her work has been produced by Seattle’s ACT Theatre, as part of the SoloNova Festival, by the Hansberry Project, and developed at the Lark Play Development Center. Vernon is a National Performance Network touring artist and a nominated playwright on the Kilroy’s List.
Musically, Vernon has performed on stages throughout the US, Cuba, and Europe, and played with an eclectic sampling of some of the best musicians in soul, rock, and hip-hop. In 2016, she started the Common Ground Music Project, an organization that uses music to promote social justice and cross collaboration among global communities whose cultural histories have been fraught with conflict. Earlier this year, after some time away from the music scene, she returned with the release of the singles, SNAKE OIL MAN and SLIPPING FALLING on the label Afrique Electrique. The remix produced by DJ Salah Ananse and Jojo Flores reached #18 on the Afro House Essentials Chart and #27 on Traxsource's Full Afro Chart in the first week. Vernon is excited to finally be working on a full length album for release later in the year.
A believer in the transformative power of personal narrative storytelling, Vernon also works as a consultant in juvenile justice training on trauma informed practice through the creative arts. She has worked to develop arts as an alternative to incarceration programs for youth, serving as mentor artist and facilitator with the Seattle based Creative Justice Program (4Culture), the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department and the Door in New York. Her work as a teaching artist has been featured in the award winning documentary film STAGES produced by the Meerkat Media Collective.
Vernon enjoys beauty, profanity, fashion, good barbecue, and a tasty beer. She is currently based in Seattle.