Crafting a Legacy

Alumna artist and activist uses her poetry to communicate injustices and advocate for change.

a woman stands on a stage and speaks into a microphone
Imani Wallace ’16, who performs around the world as Lyrical Faith, found her calling as an artist, activist and educator while a student at Syracuse University.

While a student at Syracuse University, Imani Wallace ’16—the internationally acclaimed and award-winning spoken word artist known also by her stage name, Lyrical Faith—found her voice and launched on her path as an artist, activist and educator.

Wallace, a public relations major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, was a student leader and very engaged in the campus community. Her senior year, she was recognized with a Martin Luther King Unsung Hero Award for her service and advocacy.

What do your identities as an artist and an activist mean to you?

I see art and activism as intertwined. I see art through the lens of spoken word poetry, which is both writing and performance. And activism is speaking out against societal ills, providing counternarratives, actively challenging power structures, advocating for what is just and calling out what is unjust. I use the word “artivism” to describe how I use my art—something I’m deeply passionate about—as a way to communicate about these social ills and injustices around the world.

I think about the leaders who came before me—my ancestors and the peoples whose shoulders I stand on—who spoke out about Black struggles and Black liberation. I think about what they’ve done, what they sacrificed, the streets they marched, what they gave up and the lives that were taken from them. They paved the way for me to be navigating the spaces I am and using my voice as I do. It’s my responsibility and my social duty to pave the way for those who will come after me to continue the fight for what is right.

I hope to inspire and to educate. Over the years that I’ve been writing and performing, I’ve been able to reach thousands of people. And every time I step up to a microphone and share a poem, it’s an opportunity to spark someone’s imagination, broaden someone’s perspective, or change someone’s mind. I take that responsibility seriously—you never know how you will impact another person’s life. Art has the power to bring strangers together and make people feel like they are not alone in what they’re experiencing, whether that’s grief, a mental health struggle or joy.

And of course, it is also cathartic. Sharing my thoughts and experiences, and having others connect with them, makes me feel seen and understood. So, spoken word is my way of shining in the world. And by shining myself, I hope to give others permission to shine their own light, in their own way.