New York Times Best Selling author Bassey Ikpi is a Nigerian-born American spoken-word poet, writer, and mental health advocate.
She has appeared on HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry five times and her poetry has opened shows for Grammy Award-winning artists. She’s also the New York Times bestselling author of “I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying.” In 2020 she judged the Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize. She also features on the OkayAfrica 100 Women campaign 2020 honoree list, which celebrates women building infrastructure for future African generations.
Ikpi was born in Ikom, Cross River State, Nigeria, on August 3, 1976, to a Nigerian family who were originally from Ugep. She attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to study English. While in college, she began performing her poetry on the Baltimore and Washington DC open mic circuit. She left the course in her final year to move to New York City.
In January 2004, in New York City, she was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, something she claimed had always been there since she was a kid. She wrote about it publicly in an opinion piece on Huffington Post in January 2011. She has also spoken publicly about it in many public fora, as a way to help others overcome the stigma and understand the struggles. She has also written many freelance pieces “for several media outlets on the topic of mental health and pop culture commentary including Ebony, The Huffington Post, Essence.com, XOJane.com and TheRoot.com.”
Bassey is the founder of The Siwe Project, a mental health organization that centers Black and Brown people in an effort to spread mental health awareness. In an appearance on MSNBC’s The Melissa Harris-Perry Show, she was asked about shame in the context of mental illness. “Shame is a barrier. People don’t want to admit that there’s something wrong. I was a dancer in a former life, and I use dance as a metaphor where, if you have an injury, depending upon how you take care of that injury, that’ll determine whether you’ll even walk again, let alone dance again. And if you ignore the injury and continue walking and dancing on it, it becomes worse and you may never walk again. And that’s how I think that shame keeps people from seeking help. If you can’t even admit that there’s a problem, then you absolutely won’t do anything to take care of it.”
Bassey currently lives in Maryland and is working on her next book and various creative projects.