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Jaleel Mackey started writing poetry in 2002 - the year his therapist gifted him a notebook several months after his father was arrested and would eventually spend 9 years in prison. He was 12 years old, and thus began his therapeutic relationship with rhythm and meter.

In 2008, as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, he attended a Visions & Visions event featuring the award winning poet and postdoctoral fellow, Javon Johson. Jaleel would eventually seek Professor Johnson’s tutelage as a student of African American Popular Culture and Performance Studies. This is how Jaleel was introduced to Da Poetry Lounge: the birthplace of many prolific spoken word artists like IN-Q, Natalie Patternson, Yesika Salgado, Dante Basco, Shihan Van Clief, DJ Brutha Gimel, and Poetri Smith. These poets became his mentors, some became his friends, and his style is very much so informed by this collective in addition to the regularly visiting poets like Rudy Francisco, Jill Scott and more.

It was on a Tuesday night in 2010 at the Greenway Court Theatre in front of a sold out audience of over 100 when Jaleel graced the stage for the first time. He shared a poem called My Soul’s Confession that ended with a standing ovation and – admittedly – a few tears. This sparked his love affair with the stage and a microphone.

While still a student, Jaleel co-founded and sat as the co-president of a student run poetry collective called LoadedLanguage where he hosted and performed at weekly open mics called The Nook while regularly facilitating workshops for his fellow students.

During his senior year, he founded a record label called The Gntlmn’s Club, and after graduation he performed on stages in New York City, Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area while continuing to expand his repertoire to include hip-hop and R&B vocals in pursuit of a career in the music industry.

That is, until it all came to a screeching halt in 2014.

After a perfect storm of disagreements, shifting priorities and disappointment, he made the decision to get a “real job” and stopped performing entirely, though he never stopped writing.

Life decided he needed a little more life, and over the years, he’s built a mindfulness practice, a breathwork practice and a deeply spiritual life rooted in the exploration of the human condition and our relationship with the natural world. He writes about philosophy, spirituality, trauma, redemption, fatherhood, peace, forgiveness and compassion, and it’s safe to say that this time away from the stage has served him well.

For 10 years, he’s been amassing a treasure trove of musings with the eventual goal of publishing the collection under the title Rhymes Through Breath and Time.

In January of 2024, he returned to the stage at Satori’s First Friday Open Mic Night after a long hiatus from performing.

Today, Jaleel is an entrepreneur, a professional speaker, a facilitator, a teacher, a poet and a software sales professional. He has 2 beautiful children with his wife of nearly 8 years and is a resident of Aptos, California. He lives in the Forest of Nisene Marks: where the redwoods meet the ocean.

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