As a Nigerian woman, who was born in New York and raised in London, Catherine Labiran is passionate about advancing human rights through poetry, advocacy, research.
Catherine strives to infuse her diverse cultural experiences into exhilarating bodies of work, enabling them to live lives of their own. She was selected as a winner of SLAMbassadors UK 2010, a winner of 30 Nigeria House, and was conferred the honour of writing the official Olympic Poem for London 2012 as one of London’s “12 Poets for 2012”. In the past, she has been the poet in residence for Bang Said The Gun and Larmer Tree Festival. Her work has been translated into several languages and she has worked as a translator of arabic poems. She was the buddy poet for Wole Soyinka and TJ Dema during Poetry Parnassus and thousands of her poems were dropped by helicopter over Jubilee Gardens during this same event. Catherine is featured in the National Association for the Teaching of English’s ‘SLAM’ DVD that was sent to every high school in the United Kingdom. Her poems have not only been studied at high school level, but also at university level. She has performed in venues such as The House of Commons, The Royal Festival Hall, The Queen Elizabeth Hall, to name but a few. She has managed to perform across Europe, Africa and America. Catherine’s first book entitled ‘Ayisat’ was launched in Cape Town, South Africa in Novemeber 2013. ‘Ayisat’, which is stocked and sold internationally, can be read in Southbank Poetry Library.
Catherine has worked for a number of human rights organizations including the US Human Rights Network where she helped cultivate grassroots organizing power by supporting USHRN’s members and linking their work to events and activities happening at the United Nations. At USHRN, Catherine’s area of focus was the UN’s international Decade for People of African Descent where she coordinated a Working Group of individuals who were striving to help actualize the Decade’s goal of achieving recognition, justice and development for people of African descent by 2024. In 2019, Catherine was selected as a Fellow for People of African Descent by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Currently, Catherine is the Gender Justice Program Coordinator at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). At BAJI, Catherine leads BAJI’s gender-related research and advocacy initiatives. Catherine also serves in the Healthy Equity & Access under the Law (HEAL) Act Coalition, which works to expand access to healthcare for immigrant women and families. Additionally, Catherine represents BAJI on the advisory committee for National Bail Out and engages in national efforts to end the HIV epidemic in Black communities.
Outside of writing and working Catherine prioritizes volunteering for local organizations. Catherine has held volunteer placements with the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the International Human Trafficking Institute and the Partnership Against Domestic Violence to name but a few.
Catherine holds a BA in Psychology from Emory University and a MA in African Studies from Yale University.