Bassey Ikpi is an American-Nigerian writer and mental health advocate. Her debut essay collection, I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying, is forthcoming in August 2019 from Harper Perennial. An active voice in pop culture commentary and the mental health community, Bassey’s essays have been published by The Root, Ebony, Huffington Post, and Essence, as well as in the anthologies Rookie On Love and Who Will Speak For America. She was also the resident pop culture critic for Philly’s WURD FM radio station and is currently a contributing editor for Catapult.
Appearing on stages across the world as a public speaker and TV personality, Bassey featured on HBO’s ‘Def Poetry Jam’ and joined the touring company for their Tony Award-winning Broadway show. In 2015, Bassey was commissioned by Nike’s global nonprofit Girls Effect to write and perform a short film, Invisible Barriers, which premiered at a panel discussing female empowerment as a means for societal growth at Aspen Ideas Conference.
Bassey is the founder of The Siwe Project, a mental health organization that centers Black and Brown people in an effort to spread mental health awareness. In an appearance on MSNBC’s The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, she was asked about shame in the context of mental illness. “Shame is a barrier. People don’t want to admit that there’s something wrong. I was a dancer in a former life, and I use dance as metaphor where, if you have an injury, depending upon how you take care of that injury, that’ll determine whether you’ll even walk again, let alone dance again. And if you ignore the injury and continue walking and dancing on it, it becomes worse and you may never walk again. And that’s how I think that shame keeps people from seeking help. If you can’t even admit that there’s a problem, then you absolutely won’t do anything to take care of it.”
Bassey is also the creator of #NoShameDay, an initiative that attempts to reduce stigma and create space for neurodivergent people to be heard and seen through their own personal stories.
As a performing poet, Bassey has opened for Grammy-winning artists India Arie, Luther Vandross, and Alicia Keys. She tributed Venus and Serena Williams at the NAACP Image Awards and opened for Conde Nast Traveler’s 25th Anniversary Visionaries Award, performing original poems composed in recognition of attending honorees Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Christy Turlington, Olivia Wilde, and Susan Sarandon, among others.
Bassey currently lives in Maryland and is working on her next book.
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