Anne-Marie Woods aka Amani is the recipient of the 2013 Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in Entertainment.
She is an actor, dancer, singer, poet, producer, arts educator, playwright and creative consultant. Born in London England of Trinidadian heritage, her family left Trinidad in the early 70’s and she spent her formative years in Dartmouth, and later Halifax, Nova Scotia. She laid down her roots as an artist in Nova Scotia for many years, and is now based in Toronto but, she continues to make waves in the arts scene both nationally and internationally.
Her extensive artistic background stems from her love for Youth Arts and Culture. She is a graduate of the Dalhousie Professional Actor Training Program and she has a Small Business Certificate from the HRDC Self-Employment Business Program. After earning her theatre degree she worked in the not for profit sector as Program Coordinator for The Cultural Awareness Youth Group of Nova Scotia. In 1997 she left Nova Scotia to do a nine month residency at Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia PA, one of the oldest Black Theatres in Pennsylvania. While there she was in the August Wilson Advanced Scene Study Class with John Hobbs, she taught Acting for beginners and Acting for dancers, she underwent teachers training and worked with well-known Artistic Director Walter Dallas on the stage production of Cooley High. In the 90’s she founded her young company The Imani Women’s Artistic Project, and she was the director of countless youth and arts oriented community projects. She has been a part of the spoken word scene since the spring of 1996 when she brought a youth group to Toronto for a cultural exchange with the Jane and Finch Youth Group, Tropicana and the Fresh Arts Program and is credited with introducing the genre of Spoken Word to the Nova Scotia community.
She was a member of Acapella singing sensation Four The Moment from 1988 until 2000 when they hung up their microphones. Within the context of the singing group she wrote two spoken word pieces and performed the rap content of their songs, as well as blending her voice in with their beautiful harmonies. One spoken word piece Voices In The Dark was turned into a rap song and released on their In My Soul CD and the other was called I Shall Rise (You Can’t Bring Me Down) and was featured in their Sankofa Tour in October of 2000. Four The Moment is credited with receiving the first African Canadian Artist of the Year Award at the East Coast Music Awards in 1998. They also performed from the Germany Women In E Motion Festival to the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival, From Lincoln Centre in New York to being the opening act for Dr. Maya Angelou at Roy Thompson Hall and then at the Sky Dome Theatre. These are only a few of their accomplishments
However, outside of the singing group, Anne-Marie has achieved many things. She was the first African Canadian to perform at the prestigious National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina in 2001. Her one woman show “Waiting To Explode” which encompassed comedy, song, monologues, and spoken word received rave reviews and got a mention from Jeanette Toomer in the New York theatre paper Backstage as one of the acts from abroad that stood out. She worked at CBC and was a featured voice on CBC radio’s Metro Morning for years, where she took news and current affairs and turned them into song, poems, comedic commentaries and rants. She wrote a monthly column for afrotoronto.com called On My Mind for five years and then started a travel column called Single With Baggage. She then went on to write GPS- Going Places Single, another travel column for Sway Magazine Online from September 2011 until Sway Magazine came to an end in the summer of 2012. She has continued her Travel Blog Single With Baggage and now has readership in Canada, the United States, the UK and the Caribbean.
Her spoken word name is Amani; a combination of the first two initials of her first name and the Swahili word Imani meaning faith. Her debut spoken word CD “Amani the Words, the Rhythm, the Music was sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts and was released with a live concert on September 22nd, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario. She has been the opening act for The Harry Jerome Awards, performed for The Honorable Lincoln Alexander, and she hosted a documentary called “Hand Made Hand Held” for CBC TV. Her radio documentary “Flat Belly Blues” was produced for CBC national radio and it also aired on BBC radio in the UK. Her poetry has been featured at Theatre Passe Muraille, Harbourfront Centre, the Jazz By Genre Series, CBC TV, City TV and countless other radio shows, conferences, galas, festivals, or Imani Enterprises productions. She has performed in the Nationally Acclaimed show When Sisters Speak, produced by Dwayne Morgan of Up From The Roots several times. And in November 2006 she was the headline act at the world famous Nuyorican Café in New York City. She has performed her unique blend of spoken word nationally and internationally. She was the featured poet at The Drum in Birmingham, England at Nu Century Arts Live Box Series. She was also chosen to represent Canada at the Centerprise Trust “Word Power” International Black Literary Festival at Arsenal Stadium in London, England. She was the international headliner at the Rapso Festival in Trinidad for two years and In 2010 she received a Canada Council Grant and an OAC grant to do an artist in residence placement at the University of the West Indies Department of Creative and Festival Arts. During her residency she used theatre improv and movement as a tool to facilitate workshops with the “Wordsmiths” youth outreach program held at UWI. With a background in the arts and the not for profit sector, she brings a unique flavour to being an artist. She has been doing school tours, and community based workshops since 1986. Her Speaker Series “Artivationally Speaking” uses storytelling, movement and spoken word to spread a positive message. She received a Bob Marley Day Award, in 2006 from Mayor David Millar for her outstanding work in youth outreach and community development
She was the MC and Guest Signature Poet for the Nova Scotia Mass Choir’s 20th Anniversary of “The Dream Continues Tribute to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Burnley Rocky Jones”. She also worked with Vivene Scarlett of Dance Immersion as the Poetic Writer and Narrator for Dance Immersion’s Stellar Showcase Tribute. In 2011 she was a Resident Artist Educator at Young Peoples Theatre and she produced and directed two WORD UP youth Spoken Word and Theatre showcases there. She is now continuing the program on her own and in 2013 “WORD UP Bring on da Love” was one of the featured shows at Harbourfront Centre’s Kuumba Festival. 2013 proved to be a ground breaking year when along with her other projects she was hired by Daniels Corporation and Artscape to produce, direct, and create the script adaptation for The Journey – A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization – a series of poetic narratives written by Mitchell Cohen President of Daniels Corporation and members of the Regent Park Community. She was hired again in 2014/15 as production coordinator and writer of the script adaptation of a new version of The Journey and once again this show was a huge success.
Anne-Marie continues to present her Anti-Bullying Assemblies and Spoken Word and Literacy Workshops in schools in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Montreal and she is also busy writing theatrical scripts and submitting them to theatres and festivals. She released her new spoken word CD “Poetree Huggin” in the Fall of 2014 this CD was funded by the Ontario Arts Council’s Word of Mouth Program. Her new play She Said/He had its World Premiere April 13th – May 1st, 2016 at the MAI in Montreal – produced by Black Theatre Workshop and directed by the incomparable Artistic Director Quincy Armorer, it then was a part of the STAGES Theatre Festival (Eastern Front Theatre) in June of 2016 Produced by Imani Enterprises and September 14th -18th had a successful Toronto Premiere Produced and Directed by Anne-Marie Woods at Native Earth AKI Studio Theatre
Her future plans include: curating the Possibilities of Poetry Project, curating an arts forum for artists suffering from depression, getting her play Scotian Journey on stage, and developing her two new scripts, Why Black Women Whisper and Pressure, starting the Imani Adult Arts Collective, writing her first book of poetry and creating a Children’s Cultural Book Series that combines poetry and Caribbean folklore. Woods plans to continue to experience the world through her writing and creativity.