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Leila Steinberg

Leila Steinberg is an artist and community organizer who began working with youth twenty years ago in the San Francisco Bay area. As the daughter of a criminal defense attorney, she grew up surrounded by the workings of the justice system and took a front row seat at the personal tragedies and socio-economic pressures that turn so many at-risk youths into hardened felons.

Leila guides a workshop

Steinberg is committed to helping people who fall through the cracks of society. In 1995 she began a series of specialized programs for youth within the juvenile justice system and those residing in residential treatment facilities.

As hip-hop music became the expression of today's youth, Steinberg began training artists to develop voices powerful enough to reach a generation. While conducting poetry workshops in Northern California, she met Tupac Shakur and he became a regular participant in her class. They shared a vision of developing a space where each artist in attendance is encouraged, inspired and motivated to address social change in their work. Tupac referred to Leila as the "bow" and himself as the "arrow."

Leila watches a performer in workshop

This image of aiming at a target is a useful metaphor for participants in her workshops as they learn to exert control over their words and understand their impact. Steinberg recognized Tupac's talents as a poet and performer who could reach his audience in a way that many rappers before him could not. He did this by speaking from the heart.

Steinberg started the Microphone Sessions, a weekly workshop where young musicians and hip-hop artists write and perform new material, get feedback and launch discussions about pressing issues in their lives and in their communities. Steinberg's collaboration with Tupac deeply influenced the way she developed her workshops. One of the main forces behind Tupac's success and the lasting impact of his work is the confessional nature of his lyrics. His writings have been used in curriculums from the University of Berkeley to middle schools in the South.

Leila lectures on AIM

Ms. Steinberg's background in the arts is as a performer and a businesswoman. She started working with Tupac in 1989 and was his first manager. He went on to become one of the most famous rap artists in the world and has remained so even after his death in 1996. Tupac Shakur is now an icon. His legacy as the most beloved and influential rapper of all time lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of young people.

The poems published posthumously in The Rose That Grew From Concrete, were written by Tupac while he attended Steinberg's workshop. He entrusted her with original copies of his work to safe-keep. Along with Tupac's mother, Afeni, Leila was instrumental in getting them published. Steinberg was Co-Executive Producer of the spoken-word album of the same name, released on Interscope Records, with performances by Quincy Jones, Run D.M.C. and Danny Glover. She also produced and appears in the Tupac documentary, "Thug Angel," with Executive Producer Quincy Jones III.


Leila at Annenberg School of Communication
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