Jessica Ayala is a Kansas City poet, director, activist, and writer-in-residence at Charlotte Street Foundation. She immigrated to the United States at the age of three with both of her parents from Colombia, South America. She is the eldest of five talented sisters. Ayala did not learn to speak or write in the English language until she was in the third grade. Ayala published her first series of poems at the age of eight for The Young Authors Conference. Her recent poetry has been published in two local anthologies. She is the recipient of the 2000 Missouri Speaker of the Year Award by the Metropolitan Community College League of Competitive Acting and Poetry. Additionally, she is the recipient of the 2010 Legacy Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts and Social Justice for MCCKC.
Ayala began her work as an activist in 2001 when she became the Program Director for Sacred Heart Guadalupe Church, discovering more than half of her students could not attend college due to their immigration status. Co-founding the organization, Sons and Daughters of Immigrants, she led several local rallies organizing thousands of immigrants to raise their voices in Jefferson City between 2004-2007. Her current work, The Martin Project, brings attention the number of children who have died to gun violence in Kansas City. She is also organizing with Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation bridging safe places for families under the new administration.
Jessica’s current poetic memoir, Just A Kid From Ipiales, will be released spring of 2018 highlighting her extraordinary journey as an immigrant youth in America. She will join this year’s prestigious list of POP! Poetry writers where her writing will be featured on Saturday, August 26th at Prospero’s Books in Kansas City, Missouri. "Huelga" is a collection of poems spanning ten years during Ayala's time inside the classroom, lobbying, and working with high school youth. "Huelga" takes a critical look at the social, political and cultural injustices of Latin America, awakening the untold stories of the indigenous diaspora of The Americas.