Motif’s 2024 RI Spoken Awards Recap

Hosts Chip Doug and Anjel Newmann.

At the 2024 Spoken Word Awards, hosts Chip Doug and Anjel Newmann ushered in a night of storytelling, poetry, comedy, and more by welcoming nominees and spectators alike. Doug is a host, entrepreneur, local personality, and a Motif contributor (check out his most recent article about The Fitness Sanctuary).


Anjel Newmann is an artist, educator, and performer who was the guest editor for Motif’s 2023 Black History Month issue. In that issue, Newmann wrote, “Regardless of medium, [my] work seeks to honor the past, remain rooted in the present + to move towards a future that embraces the complexity of all beings here on Earth + Beyond.”

Together, Doug and Newmann made a magical duo, leading the crowd through the evening’s events and making sure to draw some noise for each of the nominees — at times beatboxing in lieu of a drumroll to build anticipation before calling out a winner’s name.

The energy in the room on the night of the Spoken Awards was that of give and take, a true exchange between the audience and the performers. We thank Doug and Newmann, all presenters and volunteers for helping facilitate such a memorable night and make such a beautiful exchange possible!

Here are just a few of the night’s winners. We’ll spotlight more winners in upcoming issues.

Favorite Free Verse & Storytelling: Interactive (Call & Response)

Rudy “Rudacious” Cabrera

Born-and-raised Rhode Islander Rudy “Ru” Cabrera is a well known name around the Providence spoken community. Taking home two Spoken Awards at the event, Cabrera credits good karma, leaving ego behind, and social media for the wins. Cabrera modestly leaves out how his journey to award-winning status was one full of hard work and fate, having stumbled into writing when he was experiencing boredom after closing a play at Black Rep and not having anything else booked.

Frequenting open mics and befriending local talent led to Cabrera catching the spoken word bug. That bug, mixed with his stage experience in the theater, helped Cabrera make his way to poetry slam competitions, which eventually led to him going to nationals three times with the Lizard Lounge slam team.

Cabrera found himself on the Mixed Magic Theatre stage when he was just 17, an opportunity given to him by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, the venue’s co-founder. Mixed Magic Theater, Cabrera says, is where he learned everything he knows about the arts. Pitts-Wiley laid the foundation of knowledge regarding Theater. It was a full circle moment for Cabrera during the awards when he was presented with his second award of the night by Pitts-Wiley. “That was my highlight!” says Cabrera.

Cabrera hopes that he’ll continue seeing people of the same culture, race, and background as him getting more into the spoken community. After having Providence Poetry Slam as the one poetry night to frequent while he was getting into the scene, Cabrera is over the moon to see more Providence poetry nights popping up, each with their own vibe, theme, and energy.

To see what’s next for Cabrera follow him on Instagram @itsrudyru where he posts updates on his poetry and theater ventures.

– Tess Lyons



Accessorized in Motif’s signature red, accomplished actor, composer, director, professor and poet Ricardo Pitts-Wiley accepted the Langston Hughes Community Award at Motif’s 2024 Spoken Word Awards. His impression on the RI theater scene and Black culture is nothing short of transformative. Like Hughes, Pitts-Wiley used words in virtually every genre imaginable to memorialize and shape the waves of social change.

Commanding the stage at Trinity Rep was his start; he’s won numerous awards, including a Pell Award in 2017, but he cemented his legacy when he co-founded the Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket (2000) with his wife Bernadette. The former fabric mill houses two indoor venues and an art gallery for the expression of Black culture, history, and values. Annually, Mixed Magic honors and celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. with a full reading of King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, this year performed by local high school students, to bring new voices, aspirations, and accountability to the mission of diversity. “Ideas are power… they live on,” emphasizes Pitts-Wiley.

“Poetry and songs have a special place in the arts and in my heart, especially when I am in search of life-energy, solace, my voice, or the truth.”

– Jenifer May



Shahidah Ali and Tracey Solomon-White, hosts of Little State Big Voices, Motif’s winner for Favorite Local Podcast at the Spoken Word Awards, are ecstatic about their new bling (trophy). “We didn’t see this coming so quickly,” enthuses Solomon-White. Ali adds, “We know people are listening, but we don’t always hear everything. Whoever nominated us… WOW…we really appreciate, thank you for that!”

The duo launched their weekly podcast on MLK Day 2024 to dive into the business, fun, politics, and vibrant communities across the Ocean State while amplifying Black voices. The podcast has featured actors, poets, entrepreneurs, and even a dentist, from the lens of two Black women, and resonates with a diverse audience. Both Ali and Solomon-White are Massachusetts transplants lured to RI by affordable real estate. Ali has called RI home for 21 years and Solomon-White five. “I naïvely thought moving to Rhode Island would be exactly like living in Massachusetts; boy was I wrong, but it makes for good content in a lot of great ways.”

Initially introduced by a mutual friend at a book club, the two connected immediately and have been writing and working together for years. Their first attempt at a podcast was in the realm of true crime, but the creative process organically evolved into LSBV. “We’re just enough alike and just enough different … that’s what makes us tick,” explains Solomon-White who discusses their ability to disagree by constructively talking through their different opinions. Ali adds, “I love our dynamic. Tracey is a lot more open-minded than I am, and I’m pretty open-minded, but she makes me see things a little differently and I like the challenge.”

Last month, Tracey and Shahidah were tapped as the media voice of the future for Big Sister Boston’s panel discussion of Women of Color in Media; A Reflection on Past, Present, Future moderated by Courtney Cole, WBZ News Boston anchor and reporter. Alongside broadcast pioneer, Sandi Robinson, cofounder of WWOC Media Network and CEO of HerVision Media, where the RIers mused about media in the universe of constant social media.

Favorite podcast guests? For Solomon-White, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, this year’s Langston Hughes Community Award winner, esteemed actor, and native RIer. “His interview was a bit of a love letter to his wife, kids, and all theater kids of the future… [it was] incredibly touching.” For Shahida it depends on her mood. “This week, Wale Alesh… listening to him again for creative inspiration to feel the fear and do it anyway.”

After a final shout-out to their listeners “thanks everyone for the support and outpouring of love and community,” the duo encourages letters and voice notes from listeners via their IG and FB pages – and might even read and answer them on-air.

Follow on Instagram @littlestatebigvoices.

– Jenifer May



Providence Poetry Slam, or ProvSlam, is hosted at AS220 on the first and third Thursday of the month. The twice-monthly event includes both an open mic and poetry slam, where local poets can share new material, old gems, or compete in the slam. They boast an over-30-year streak of bringing people together for poetry, beginning in 1992. Co-director Astrid Drew performed at this year’s awards during the spoken word section of the evening. Other current co-directors include Chrysanthemum and Naffisatou Koulibaly.

For more information about upcoming events, check out @provslam on IG or visit them online at



Ren is a local spoken word poet and ProvSlam team alum who also performed at the night’s awards, sharing an impactful poem about trans-identity and acceptance. They reflect on the journey to becoming a writer and performer, saying, “I’ve loved spoken word and poetry for as long as I can remember but only really started sharing poetry in college through WORD! which was a spoken word poetry group created by Sage Morgan-Hubbard (also a PVD local and phenomenal educator/poet/organizer) specifically to make a space for people of color to have a voice. We would have our own shows that I then grew into hosting/running my last year of college, and simultaneously I would admire the ProvSlam stage as an audience member and open mic reader. It was really in 2023 that I started taking myself more seriously as people responded to my work and really felt like I grew so much on the 2023 team with Seth, Shomari, and Kenny.”