The First Wave Spoken Word and Hip Hop Arts Learning Community is a cutting-edge multicultural artistic programme for incoming students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The First Wave Touring Ensemble is a select group of First Wave students, chosen by audition, to tour and perform nationally and internationally each year. Since the formation of the programme 5 years ago, the ensemble has performed across the state of Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest, as well as Washington DC, Orlando, Anaheim, Maryland, Bellingham, Boston, New York (Broadway and Harlem), Manchester (U.K.), Cuernavaca (Mexico), Panama City, and Kingston (Jamaica). This summer the ensemble will feature at the Cultural Olympiad in London and Contacting the Word Theater Festival in Manchester, England.


Dominique Chestand is a 1st Cohort First Wave scholar finishing a double major in Theatre and Communications Arts with a focus in Film. Chestand is a Chicago native that has challenged herself through multiple forms of art, including poetry, dance, film, music, theatre, and visual arts. Following her graduation in May 2012, she plans to pursue a career in Film Direction.

Marvin Gutierrez is a Hip-Hop performance artist hailing from Chicago. He is a 5th Cohort First Wave scholar studying Visual Arts, Marketing and Sociology.

Darline Morales is a 5th Cohort First Wave scholar from Providence, Rhode Island. She is a declared Political Science major, looking to double major with History. Interested in immigration reform and policy, she plans to use different forms of art to bring awareness to immigration and Latino struggles. She is a photographer, looking to develop her skills with film.

Zhalarina H. Sanders is a UW-Madison sophomore and 5th Cohort First Wave scholar. She is currently pursuing a career in Military Psychology with a certification in Art Therapy. Influenced by the poignant history and culture of south Florida, her art has continued to explore different mediums and volumes at which to exist. Poetry, MCing, acting, and photography have all shaped the portfolio of this artist, and she has in turn been blessed with opportunities to share stages, panels, and recordings with many different beings in various cities across the nation. Her only goal is to glorify Christ with the gifts He chose for her to exist in.

Taylor Scott is a poet and 5th Cohort First Wave scholar from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a huge art appreciator & performer who has been doing spoken word poetry for 5 years. She is her own competition and biggest critic.

Danez Smith is a Cave Canem Fellow and 1st Cohort First Wave scholar in the Creative Writing programme at UW-Madison. A poet, playwright and performer, his work has been performed across the USA and the UK, and he has been published in numerous journals.  Danez works with the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives as “Student Liaison” and is Project Assistant for Line Breaks 2012.  His responsibilities include organising the monthly “Jus’ Bust” open mic feature, weekly workshops for First Wave students, as well as coordinate with the MCSC on the preparation of the UW-Madison CUPSI Team. Danez remains a lead player in the First Wave Touring Ensemble.

Jonathan Williams is a poet, emcee and actor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is 5th Cohort First Wave Scholar at UW-Madison majoring in Business with an emphasis on Theatre. Jonathan has been involved in many poetry clubs and competitions: He is a 1st place winner at Wisconsin’s Forensics Poetry State Finals and a 1st place winner at Madison’s 4th Annual Deltapollo. Writing since 10, performing since 16, Jonathan is always looking to share his craft with larger audiences. Inspired by his past experiences and struggles, Jonathan believes art is more than art; he believes it is expression, beauty and a way to live.

John Vietnam is a hip-hop artist originating from Chicago. Currently a first-year student at UW-Madison via First Wave, John is pursuing a major in Marketing. His art is defined as expression, therapy, and resistance rooted in hip-hop culture. Culture has been a large part of John’s life, being the son of a Vietnamese refugee and a Vietnam War Veteran. Working and volunteering in local community organisations that use hip-hop as a tool for teaching social justice has nurtured his poetry, MCing, B-Boying, music production, and passion for the synergy between arts, academics, and activism.