Today we’d like to introduce you to Kianna Ruff.
Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started?
I was born and raised in St. Louis, currently in Los Angeles. I started by writing at the age of 8 and being one of the top track and field athletes to come out of St. Louis. Track and field opened my mind to more possibilities in life at an early age since I traveled to 30 of the 50 states by 23 years old with my track career. Once my track career ended at the University of Tennessee, my spiritual journey led me to study social ethics In New York City at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. Throughout my journey in grad school, my love and passion for writing and speaking began to expand, and several of my professors pulled me aside and asked me to get my writing published. Writing was such a passion of mine. I never dreamed of it being a career to put my best foot forward.
Once I began to be invited to sit in on professional panels to discuss social ethics, critical race theory, spirituality, and solutions for social change–I knew that was something brewing in me to do more.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Like many roads, not all are smooth. My journey led me to move across state lines more than the average person. As a former community organizer in New York City, community means the world to me. Leaving groups of people I love to chart the next stage of my journey can sometimes take an emotional toll. However, my relationship with God has kept me in contact with those I love and keeps me on track toward the next step in my journey. Once I began to make important decisions for myself, some people, especially in the Church, stripped away investments in my education. I had to figure it out all over again in one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, writing is how I moved through those obstacles. I wrote papers, published articles, wrote sermons, wrote strategic plans to help organize safe communities effectively, and most importantly, wrote what was in my heart through poetry. This was proof to keep charting my journey and living out my dream.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am currently focusing on poetry and activism work. I have done a lot of on-the-ground organizing, such as leading communities through a participatory budgeting process in hopes of redefining their community-led safety in New York City. Managed the largest national bail assistance site, which consisted of 2 sites, 2 partnership sites, and an amazing die heart team of 7 members providing free bail assistance to low-income and mostly Black/Brown individuals.
Now I am channeling to do what I speak as an activist–invest in my dream. I am currently writing and performing original poetry pieces and am joining speaking engagements to continue to discuss activism and spirituality. One of my proudest moments was performing my original poem “The Final Act” at Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles. The energy from the crowd was amazing, and everything just felt right. My second proudest moment was being invited to sit on the Interfaith America panel. With Dean and ethicist Kelly Brown Douglas, Dr. Je Hooper, and Professor Stephen Whitfield to discuss the Spiritual legacy of activist, poet, and minister Pauli Murray (this webinar can be found on Youtube).
However, one of my proud moments was stepping up to the plate with my closest friends in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton, and George Floyd. We gathered in community, leaned on one another, and I could speak my truth as freely as I wanted to and fought for what I believe is right. (Link to the article and the video interview is found in the Associated Press).
If we knew you were growing up, how would we have described you?
Growing up, I was very curious, wise, and corky! I had a poetry book at the age of 8 when I didn’t know I was writing poems. I wrote what I felt but in the form of performance. I had a lot of interest in videography work, dancing, and stepping, and I wanted to study law earlier. There was something about figuring things out that made my wheels turn. I liked the art of discovery and seeing people follow their passions. I talked–a lot; however, that taught me that everyone, no matter the title–is just people. I was a young minister who saw that ministry doesn’t have to exist in the Church and that my dreams do not have to suffer just because of my relationship with God. My ministry is to lift Black culture and equity and encourage my people to continue dreaming and healing, not for people to believe in what I believe in.
- please email me for pricing on poetry features, speaking engagements, and writing entries.
- Website: https://linktr.ee/KiSpeakz
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kispeakz/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ki-Speakz-100776452697498
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVfngDNpa5r5af6eEvC7Lzw