Najah Amatullah’s Path to Purposeful Creativity and Literary Empowerment

Meet Najah Amatullah, a passionate writer, educator, and entrepreneur whose journey is a testament to the power of creativity, perseverance, and purpose-driven work. From her early days finding her voice through writing and poetry to her impactful role as a teacher and advocate for arts education, Najah’s story is one of continuous growth and meaningful contribution. Through her innovative venture, Rhyme Ore Reason Lit Services, Najah aims to bridge the worlds of literature, music, and education, infusing her projects with a deeper sense of purpose and social impact. Join us as we delve into Najah’s inspiring journey and explore her vision for the future of literature and creativity.


Can you share with us a bit about your journey as a writer and educator, and how it led you to create Rhyme Ore Reason Lit Services? 

As a writer, the difficulty has always been in finding my audience. I have always used writing as a way of knowing myself and processing the world. I have always interacted with books with an openness to authors’ ways of knowing and processing. I journaled, wrote poetry, and wrote stories. These habits were formed and solidified in middle school. Previously my only consistent audiences were my brief semi-popularity on tumblr, my very niche Oklahoma hip hop friends on Twitter and Instagram, and those who attend open mic nights. All of that was primarily between 2010 and 2016 in my very early 20s. 

When I started teaching secondary language arts and discovered that more than one organization had dedicated itself to cultivating poetry and performance skills in teens, I wanted to be a part of that process. For my first four years of teaching, my goal was to coach student writers. I was blessed to also get some recognition from the local arts community and be invited to host workshops for adults. 

In 2017, I discovered that life often gets in the way of art if we don’t actively and intentionally protect our ability to create. I took a sabbatical from almost everything except teaching, but my next pursuit was the game changer. A colleague and I formed a collective with a few others equally dedicated to the arts and education. We did so much work that I was very proud of. 

In January 2020, I began my master’s degree in literature, which former professors and arts friends had been begging me to do ever since I finished my bachelor’s. And in March 2020, the world shut down. The pandemic gave me back the time and space to be creative and forward thinking about the role of arts in the middle of disaster and the way that literacy education gives us access to the language arts and to the world beyond ourselves. That spring, I co-wrote Opal’s Greenwood Oasis with the other founder of our collective. Educating about lesser known Black history, especially in Oklahoma where we lived, was at the top of our list of priorities. We wrote curriculum, researched, recited poetry, and printed work in magazines. We made art about real life. We created tools for teachers and families to lead children through the process of observing the art.

In fall 2021, when my schedule would no longer allow me to be fully present with the collective, I stepped back. I came up with the idea for Rhyme Ore Reason as a framework for analyzing literature. Does it glitter or is it gold? Is this text for aesthetic pleasure and entertainment, or are there gold nuggets of information or truth in it that deserve more thought and attention? Over the next year, I realized that everything I wanted to do in the future could fit into that framework as well. So I made RoreR an official LLC and the umbrella for all of my projects.

What inspired you to explore the intersection between Black music, poetry, and utilitarianism in your literary perspective?

Music and poetry are just the things I like the best. I went to weekly hip hop shows and blogged about rap for a few years in the early 2010s. I write poetry and I have always viewed hip hop as poetry (other genres too, but hip hop has more lyrics). As a Black woman, looking into the deeper meanings behind the lyrics (of poems and songs) and all of the cultural referents those point toward continuously reminds me of my connection to my ancestors and to future generations. What I mean by utilitarianism is: what can we learn about ourselves and our world through poetry and music? In an era that sometimes tries to desensitize us, I find that these artforms remind me to feel deeply and fully. My favorite pieces are those that remind us how to live and thrive in community.

Along your entrepreneurial journey, what valuable lessons have you learned that you would like to pass on to others aspiring to start their own creative projects or businesses?

I have learned what authenticity really means. My young self was a tell-all writer. I was a little bit too closely modeled after Carrie Bradshaw. That writing is engaging and fun, but it is also easy to offend people with it: people you like or love or who you have to work with. I have learned more how to praise in public and criticize in private. I’ve learned how to keep the stories focused on myself and to leave out potentially incriminating details. Before it seemed like I was just telling “the truth” but now I understand more about the importance of privacy. 

So much of what we are told to do these days is to lead with our story and our journey in order to be relatable. I hope that we can continue to cultivate and understand how community members can protect each other and heal each other without exposing our wounds to the public. We need privacy in the midst of our public-facing work.

In what ways do you hope Rhyme Ore Reason Lit Services will impact the literary community, particularly in terms of diversity and inclusion? 

Over the course of my education, I have seen various statistics showing that the high school years are an indicator of how people will interact with books for the rest of their lives. If their individual time spent reading increases and remains or becomes more enjoyable during high school, they are more likely to continue reading as adults. If their individual time spent reading decreases or becomes more tedious and boring during high school, they are likely to not read for pleasure later in their lives. The stat I saw said that the vast majority of adults do not read books after high school. I feel a lot of pressure about this as a literature teacher. I don’t want the books I force on my students to be the ones that turn them off of reading forever.

I want my work in and out of the classroom to be a model of how we interact with diverse artistic ideas, especially in schools and artistic and educational spaces like libraries, bookstores, and museums. My master’s thesis is called “A Reconvening of Black Voices.” I was interested in the timeline of Black literature, especially the works that lend themselves to poetry and speculation (fantasy, science fiction, horror, myths, legend). I studied the work of Black artists and scholars who created and nurtured spaces for Black art and literature to be produced, critiqued, published, and experienced by audiences. Now that I see what our elders did, I believe that their model is one we can replicate and improve upon. I want to encourage artists and educators of all ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds to engage with the same work of their elders, to the extent that it applies to them. I was lucky to study under a scholar of Indigenous or Native American literature. Through experiencing stories of the Choctaw, Dine, Wampanoag, Muscogee, Navajo, and dozens of other Indigenous peoples, I have learned something about how a person of one culture might observe or study or learn lessons taught by another culture. 

I want to create a funnel of access from artists to audiences. I am especially interested in those audiences being children and families and classroom communities. The hope is that the study of the language arts inspires kids to become creators and storytellers who have a foundation of their personal histories and how those histories connect to our collective future. 

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to infuse their creative projects with a deeper sense of purpose or social impact? 

Ask yourself: What will make this matter in 5 or 15 years? And the “mattering” can be personal or communal. My first self-published poetry book might matter communally because it reminds us of optimism and faith in love and art. It matters to me as a reflection of my personal journey; it shows me becoming myself. Where will your creative project benefit others in the future? Who does it serve as a model for in the future? (Don’t be too critical: homemakers and nurses and chefs all still need inspiration in the future.)

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for Rhyme Ore Reason Lit Services in the coming years? 

Goal #1 is to always remember that I’m an artist first. I must remain dedicated to creating and publishing my own work consistently. 

Goal #2 is to help emerging writers finalize their works. I know there are so many people out there who have a book idea, or an outline, or even a first draft. We often get stuck because of fear, time, decision fatigue, agent representation, or rejections. I want to help people get to the point where they’ve completed their last step – either by submitting for publishing or by self-publishing. My consultancy work centers on project management, micro and macro editing.

Goal #3 is to curate an online and eventually offline space where creatives of the global majority can experience each other’s artistic contributions and teach us how to value them. I want a team of reviewers from different backgrounds having public conversations with creators from their communities. 

Goal #4 is to use my experience to create one or more online courses that connect students to relatable literature, teaching them how to interact meaningfully with texts. I would love to supply alternative curricular ideas to families who want diverse literary exposure and are not getting it from schools in this current political climate. Obviously, I also hope the course would help them earn an A in language arts class.

Here is my Linktree: https://linktr.ee/NajahAma and some images.


by Harness Editor

Harness believes that freedom of expression equals female empowerment. The truth? We’re a badass authentic community of fierce women, and we exist to help your voice be heard. Harness is here to be your safe haven. A place to shed the competition, the insecurities. This is a place to rise by lifting others. This is who we are.


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