On a “dare” to herself, Chandra Washington attended a poetry reading for the first time in 1999 - and hasn’t looked back!  Since then, her talents as a poet and spoken word performer are recognized and revered by fellow poets and patrons of the Austin poetry scene.   Though not a fan of “slam,” her first slam experience back in 1999 landed her second-place standing.  Brainstorming with Diverse Arts Director Harold McMillan on a concept combining poetry with live music, Word Jazz premiered in the spring of 1999.  To date, Word Jazz performs at events hosted by Diverse Arts.

     Conversations with several women of color concerning their issues gave birth to SistaSpeak in 2002, a multi-disciplined performance project which completed a successful run at Austin Community College with noted poet, literary scholar, and former Austinite Tammy Gomez.  Tammy then invited Chandra to feature her works at the Austin Book Festival poetry stage.  From there she performed for the 2002 International Women’s Day celebration at MexiArte Museum in Austin, and in Fort Worth as a featured poet in Tammy Gomez’s Blast Your Own Breath poetry series.  In March of 2002, Chandra had the honor of performing Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Trippin’” and “Mothers” in the presence of the legendary poet and scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, with the cast of A Night With Nikki for Tall Tree Productions.  In the spring of 2005, she featured at Gemini Ink’s Poetry Festival and Conference in San Antonio, and presented multi-media performance pieces as a featured poet at the 2005 Blowin’ Up a Spot Film Festival.

     In August  2005, Chandra won a publishing contract with Innercircle Publishing and Revolution Press, beating out 8 contestants in the final competition of the Big Texas Poetry Event, held in Austin. She is also the author of a short story with workbook for youth titled No Mistake: Journey to Self-Acceptance. For First Night Austin 2006, she presented her poetry and original music a capella in a vocal trio.  The same year, Chandra featured at an annual tribute to June Jordan at Austin’s Carver Library. Chandra collaborated with internationally renowned baritone saxophonist and composer Hamiet Bluiett to premiere the Healing Caravan performance project at First Night Austin 2007.  She is currently Artistic Director of Healing Caravan, a multi-disciplined performance project delivering the message of health and healing, utilizing live music, spoken-word, dance, and visual media.  Healing Caravan presented in Austin at the Pro Arts Collective’s Black Arts Movement Festival in 2007, and again in 2011, opening for The Last Poets.

     Chandra’s poem "I Am Perfect" was selected to be published in the 2009 Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology.  In addition, she placed in the finals of the 2009 Austin International Poetry Festival Slam Competition.  Since 2009, Chandra has been selected to feature in ChannelAustin’s EXSE Spoken-Word Showcase, and she won the 2012 Fringe Festival Smack Down slam competition in Orlando, Florida.

   AUTHENTICITY is key. I must be Truthful -- to Self, first and foremost. -- Chandra Washington


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