Ayana Contreras is a cultural historian, memory worker, radio DJ and archivist. An avid collector with over 8000 vintage vinyl records, she hosts the Reclaimed Soul program on WBEZ and at Vocalo Radio in Chicago (where she also serves as Director of Content). She is a columnist for DownBeat magazine, and her writings have been published in Chicago Review, Oxford American, Bandcamp Daily and Lit Hub among other publications. Ayana was a 2014/15 University of Chicago Arts + Public Life Artist-In-Residence. In 2017, she received the Clementine Skinner Award by the Vivian Harsh Society, and was chosen as an Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) New Voices Scholar in 2015.
Her book on Post-Civil Rights Era cultural history, titled Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago, was published December 2021 through University of Illinois Press.