2019 Fulbright Alumna-in-Residence: RAEGAN SEALY


Raegan Sealy is a singer, rapper and poet whose mission as an artist is to empower people to own their stories. Raegan delivered her TED Talk (or TED Rap, actually), 'How Rap Saves Lives' to a standing ovation at TED HQ in December 2018. The talk is due for release in Spring 2019.

Raegan is also founder of non-profit, Sound Board NYC. The project brings rap, poetry and music workshops to underserved communities around NYC, and was a featured project of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation in 2017. Sound Board also produces media and events that engage the public with the narratives of hip hop, and how we can use the arts to foster community and social change.

British-born, Raegan moved to New York City in 2015 when she won a Fulbright Award to obtain a MFA in Poetry from The New School for Public Engagement. She went on to win the P.E.O International Peace Scholarship in 2016 for her work to create more educational opportunities for young people.

In 2017 she was selected as a TNP Scholar, and has performed her work and spoken at events around the USA, alongside Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Garner, Shantell Martin, Casey Neistat, Kevin Eubanks and more. She opened for Shane Koyczan at his sold out NYC show in 2017, and the same year, sang the National Anthem at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia to 10,000 people.

In 2018 she was featured by Kate Spade at their International Women’s Day event in NYC, and later opened for Ice-T, Mandy Harvey and Judah & The Lion at the No Barriers Annual Summit closing show in Central Park.

Raegan is also an Emerging Philanthropist at the Women’s Prison Association, and facilitates the teen mentoring program at I Challenge Myself, Inc.

Project Title:
Sound Board NYC

Project Description:
Sound Board NYC is a non-profit project, fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, which provides free workshops in poetry, rap, creative writing and music for underserved communities around NYC. I co-founded Sound Board in 2017, and since then have facilitated programs for the Women’s Prison Association, The Guidance Center in Mount Vernon, the New York Public Library, in foster homes, addiction programs, youth centers and temporary shelters, and for organizations No Barriers, TED, Kate Spade, De Montfort University and more.

Sound Board is the project that I took into incubation programs TNP Scholars and TED Residency, and we were featured by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation in 2017.

Sound Board’s mission is to demonstrate and increase understanding of the artistry, intellectualism and social capacity of rap, hip hop and music, and its ability to enact change both socially and within individuals. We achieve this through our workshops, but also through public events, performances, media/content creation, and most recently, our TED Talk.

Sound Board was recently invited by the Kate Spade Foundation to submit a grant proposal. They are interested in funding a video docu-series titled ‘How Rap Saves Lives’; a follow-up to our TED Talk of the same name, and an homage to Ice-T’s 2012 documentary ‘The Art of Rap’. Ice-T has expressed interest in participating in the docu-series.

Sound Board workshops are designed to attend to the healing and community building capacity of creative writing and music, in the form of prose, poetry, rap and everything in between. Our sessions allow participants to dive into what is important to them and learn to constructively, healthily and creatively express ideas, stories and emotions. Our sessions are built to help individuals find their voice, own their story, process trauma, develop confidence and communication skills, gain new perspectives, connect and create.

The reason I co-founded Sound Board is simple. I believe in it’s mission. Because rap saved my life, and I have seen it do the same thing for countless other people.

I grew up in a low-income family in the UK, with a violent and abusive father. I spent time in foster care as a teenager, developed substance abuse issues at the age of 11, and disengaged from education after changing schools over fifteen times due to moving around the country to different foster placements.

It was at this time I met a music teacher, who sexually abused me between the ages of 13 and 18.

Too many pre-existing factors to count in my life had made me vulnerable to this, and every indicator would have pointed to me ending up dead or in prison before the age of 25. And yet, age 19, I got my GED and college qualifying exams. Age 20 I became the first in my family to attend college. Age 21 I got sober, and age 23 I won a Fulbright Award to come and study Poetry for Public Engagement in New York City.

All of this was possible because I had another factor: I had rap, music, and writing. I had written and performed since I was thirteen. It’s where I found my power, my voice. It made me feel connected and understood when I wasn’t. It empowered me to own my story, and taught me how to tell it in a way that would not only save my life, but help others learn to do the same too.

Sound Board is committed to changing the lives of vulnerable people through rap. And look at us, doing just that.

Website Raegan Sealy - www.raegansealy.com