Javier Perez is a poet, performer, and teacher. Born in the U.S., his family immigrated from El Salvador during a violent civil war. Growing as a “Latino” in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in America, Javier always came face-to-face with questions surrounding identity, masculinity, class, and heritage.
As a first generation university student, he studied political science, while quickly developing a passion for spoken-word poetry on the side. With some friends, he started Swarthmore College’s first spoken-word collective, OASIS (Our Art Spoken In Soul), and competed at local and national poetry slam competitions. After graduating, he was awarded the Thomas J Watson Fellowship to travel internationally for a year in pursuit of an independent project: an exploration of how poetry can empower, heal, and give voice to criminalized youths in light of the massive growth of prison systems worldwide. After traveling to South Africa, Australia, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Brazil, Javier concluded two main things: crime and incarceration are global phenomena intimately linked to histories of colonialism, racial violence, and inequality; and poetry provides a transformative space for communities to challenge, reimagine, and change the status quo. He now lives and works in Cape Town as a resident poet for Usiko Trust, facilitating poetry workshops alongside youths from the townships to create a space for exploring their voices and (re)writing their narratives. Javier is very keen to foster stronger connections and dialogue between communities in Latin America and Africa that share common roots, histories, and struggles.