Profile: Jamila Woods (1989-)

Jamila Woods is a Chicago-based American singer, songwriter and poet. Woods is a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep and Brown University, where she received a BA in Africana Studies and Theater & Performance Studies. Her work focuses on themes of Black ancestry, Black feminism, and Black identity, with recurring emphases on self-love and the City of Chicago.



In 2012, Jamila Woods published her first chapbook, entitled The Truth About Dolls. Her work can be found in the anthologies The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (2015), Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (2014), and The UnCommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning & Living (2013). Her influences include Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, and Frida Kahlo.

Woods was also one of three editors of The Breakbeat Poets Volume II, entitled Black Girl Magic. The 2018 publication is an anthology of poetry by contemporary Black women, “exploring themes of beauty, unapologetic blackness, intersectionality, self-definition, and more.”

Community organizing[

Woods is the Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors (YCA), an organization in the Chicago dedicated to uplifting youth voices through arts education and mentorship. Through YCA, Woods helps to organize Louder Than a Bomb, the world’s largest youth poetry slam festival. She also facilitates poetry workshops and creates curriculum for Chicago Public Schools. While in Providence, Woods served as a volunteer at non-profit arts center New Urban Arts.


After completing studies at Brown, Woods and classmate Owen Hill formed soul-pop band Milo and Otis, or M&O, which released two albums: The Joy in 2012 and Almost Us in 2014. The song “Lift Up” on the band’s debut album features Chance the Rapper. M&O disbanded in 2014. Woods is widely known for her other collaborative works with Chance the Rapper on the hit song “Sunday Candy” from the album Surf as well as “Blessings” from Coloring Book. Woods is also featured on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis song “White Privilege II”.  In January 2016, Woods signed to Chicago’s independent hip-hop label, Closed Sessions. In that same year Woods released her debut solo album titled, “HEAVN”. Following that album in May 2019, she released the album, “LEGACY! LEGACY!” Each song is named after a prolific black creator.

In early 2020, Woods performed as the opening act for the R&B singer Raphael Saadiq’s Jimmy Lee Tour.

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