Syed Umar Warsi

Spoken Word Artist

“Growing Up Muslim in America: A Spoken Word Story”

In this hour long show, Warsi talks about growing up with Pakistani immigrant parents, balancing culture with religion, and having hope in times of uncertainty. An unexpectedly serious and funny story of growing up as a first generation American Muslim.


Syed Umar Warsi is a spoken word artist, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. He was born in the hustlin bustlin city of New York, and abruptly moved to a quiet suburb of Illinois. He shares his experiences growing up in the two very different environments with conservative immigrant parents from Pakistan. How did he try to meet the expectations of his parents and deal with the pressures of public school? What was it like being in 6th grade when 9/11 happened? How did his experience growing up influence his Muslim faith? Syed’s spoken word poems and story telling talent will take you on a roller coaster of emotions, excitement, and empathy.

Syed went from public school to a college preparatory school where he struggled to keep his grades up. He dropped out of high school while in the tenth grade. When Syed turned 19, he finally earned his GED and got admitted to a community college. Transferring to a four-year university didn’t last long, as he was academically dismissed in his junior year. Syed fought his way back to obtain a bachelor’s degree in social services and now holds an MBA from Indiana University.

You can’t rely solely on yourself. I needed others to believe in me so that I could overcome my failures.

Invite Syed for a performance, lecture, or workshop. The spoken word poetry workshop mixes the head and the heart, helping writers find the words they feel but have trouble writing them out on paper. While Syed’s performance is high emotion, ranging from crying to laughing and everything in between, his workshop helps writers utilize their vocabulary to paint the picture in their head. Taking the words to the next step with a focus on poetry and examining how different cultures and eras have looked to poetry as a way of communication and commentary helps students connect with the forgotten art.

“Middle School Muslim”

Warsi shares a sample piece from “Growing Up Muslim in America: A Spoken Word Story”

A shortened version of Syed’s talk on the cultural expectations of masculinity. He draws on his personal experiences on how he pushed the limits of what it means to be a “man” in today’s time. Societal and parental pressures dictated a specific path that Syed chose to defy. A funny and insightful glimpse into a first generation Muslim American father.