15th National Black Writers Conference (The Schedule)

DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU. One of our five #NBWC2020 Honorees!

15th National Black Writers Conference (NBWC2020)

November 11 – 14 (Virtual!)


In 2020, the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY will present the 15th National Black Writers Conference and the theme this year is “Activism, Identity, and Race: Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads.” The Conference is a public gathering of writers, scholars, literary professionals, theater and film luminaries, students, and the public and, this year, will honor playwrights, screenwriters, documentarians, and filmmakers. Carl Clay, Dominique Morisseau, Stanley Nelson, Voza Rivers, and Richard Wesley are the 2020 conference honorees. This year’s gathering, also known as NBWC2020, will be Wednesday, November 11 – Saturday, November 14, 2020.

PLEASE NOTE: In October and November, the Center will host a series of pre-Conference activities related to the Conference’s theme.

Over the last decade, we have seen an increase in the writing and works by Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters. These writers, at a crossroads, are focused on breaking new ground; creating bold new work in theater, film, and television; and expanding the narrative of the Black experience in America and throughout the African Diaspora. Panelists and special guests will examine the ways race, identity, politics, and popular culture shape the production of plays, films, and television shows. The Conference features virtual roundtable conversations, panel discussions, a town hall, films, author readings, writing workshops, local vendors, and much more. AKILA WORKSONGS is a presenting partner for the 15th National Black Writers Conference.

Originally scheduled for March 2020 on the campus of Medgar Evers College (MEC) in Brooklyn, New York, this new presentation of NBWC2020 will be virtual. The Center for Black Literature (CBL) supports the public health protocols that have emerged because of COVID-19, including social distancing. With that in mind, we have decided to present NBWC2020 as a series of online webinars.

For more information, please visit www.centerforblackliterature.org. To inquire about sponsorship opportunities or to request media interviews, please call (718) 804-8883 or email writers@mec.cuny.edu.


Thursday, October 8


“Black Divas on Stage: Challenges of Women Playwrights”

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

These panelists represent three generations of Black women who work to make sure that people who look like them are the center of their narratives. They will identify some of the issues and challenges they faced as playwrights and actors: racism, sexism, images, themes, etc.

Speakers: Elizabeth Addison, Trazana Beverley, and Nambi E. Kelley

Curated and moderated by MARCIA PENDELTON of Walk Tall Girl Productions.

Tuesday, October 20


“The Hate U Give: A Film Discussion on the Racial Pandemic in America”

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

The Hate U Give is a 2018 American drama film directed George Tillman Jr. with a screenplay by Audrey Wells. It is based on the 2017 young adult novel (of the same name) by Angie Thomas. Respondents will discuss the major themes in the film and examine its significance in light of current movements and protests related to racism, police reform, and social justice. Click HERE to watch the trailer.

Respondents: Kayode Afolabi Clarke, Shafika Burke, Kel Spencer, and Maria DeLongoria

Moderated by ZULEMA BLAIR (Professor, Medgar Evers College, CUNY).

Wednesday, November 4


“Black Writers Address Activism Before, During, (and After?) the Age of Trump”

6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Black activism has long been chronicled in multiple works and genres by Black writers. At this town hall, these Black writers will discuss what role they believe Black writers will (and should?) play if Trump is reelected or if Joe Biden is elected.

Speakers: Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Lee A. Daniels, and Nikole Hannah-Jones

Moderated by WALLACE L. FORD II (Associate Professor, Medgar Evers College, CUNY).

Friday, November 6


6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

The 15th NBWC presents a poetry and spoken-word competition. All poets are welcome to participate in this popular slam. Trophies and cash prizes will be awarded.


Presented and curated by CURTIS HARRIS of Green Earth Poets Café.


DAY ONE: Wednesday, November 11 | COMMUNITY DAY (Free!)


“For the Culture”

6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
A stellar roster of hip-hop, spoken-word, and performance artists will examine films and plays from sociocultural, political, and global perspectives. They will also discuss the intersections of activism, identity, race, and art in theater and film.

Featured Speakers: Talib Kweli and jessica CARE moore

Moderated by APRIL R. SILVER of AKILA WORKSONGS (NBWC Presenting Partner).

DAY TWO: Thursday, November 12


Scholars and writers discuss works of honorees and featured speakers who have had their work developed into dramatic plays, screenplays, and documentaries. Curated by MUDIWA PETTUS (Assistant Professor of English, Medgar Evers College, CUNY).

11:00 AM – 12:20 PM

The Wake Work of Cartography” | Nicole Walker (Lehman College, CUNY)

“‘wild until we are free’: community, culture, and the self, in The Chi” | Allia Abdullah-Matta (La Guardia Community, CUNY)

Moderator/Respondent: Mudiwa Pettus (Medgar Evers College)

12:30 PM – 1:50 PM

From Researcher to Content Creator: One Scholar’s Journey” | Donnetrice Allison (Stockton University)

Where We Stand: Afrika, the Black Aesthetic in Theatre, and Audience” | Ms. Akulah Agbami (Director of BLACK* artists on the move; Artistic Dir. of Sheba Soul Ensemble)

Moderator/Respondent: Joanna Sit (Professor of English, Medgar Evers College, CUNY)

2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Mad Science: A Brief Survey of Medical Bias In Superhero Origin Stories” | Arlene Ducao (Adjunct Associate Professor, NYU School of Engineering; Research Affiliate, MIT; CEO, Multimer)

“From Short Story to Screen: James’ Coming of Age and Transformation from Boy toMan (and Not Bum) in Ernest J. Gaines’ “The Sky Is Gray” | Dr. Pearlie Peters (Rider University)

Moderator/Respondent: Dr. Carlyle Van Thompson (Professor of English, Medgar Evers College, CUNY)


3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Members of the Dr. Edith Rock Elders Writing Workshop will present readings on the theme called “Home Remedies.” Also, they will survey the African Diaspora with sharp, funny memories of poultices, powders, and potions created to maintain wellness in our diverse Black communities. They see this as resistance to gentrification, big pharma, and the racism that manifests in the form of disease when we aren’t vigilant about strengthening our physical selves. Curated by EISA NEFERTARI ULEN (Workshop Instructor, Center for Black Literature, MEC).

Moderated by AMBER MAGRUDER (Writer and Editor, Office of Communications and Marketing, MEC).


6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
The Center for Black Literature, in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library, will present its Poetry Cafe.

Host: Hermina Marcellin
Emerging Poets: M. A. Dennis, Chevon Guthrie, Kirk Hill Jr., and John Gavin White


“A Jazz State of Mind”

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

The 15th National Black Writers Conference and African Voices/Reel Sisters will present “A Jazz State of Mind,” a selection of films and a film conversation celebrating the power of music to inspire community action and empowerment.  The showcase will feature the films Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool and Sundays at The Triple Nickel. Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series is the first Academy qualifying festival for short narratives devoted to showcasing films produced, directed, and written by women of color.

Speakers: Jessica Colquhoun, Stanley Nelson, Nadhege Ptah, and Quincy Troupe

Moderated by REV. MALIKA LEE WHITNEY, Host, WBAI Radio.

Curated and coordinated by AFRICAN VOICES/REEL SISTERS.

NOTE: Conference attendees can view the films from October 26–November 14, 2020.

Miles Davis: Birth of Cool directed by Stanley Nelson on Netflix.

Sundays at The Triple Nickel directed by Jessica Colquhoun on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/389612937).


DAY THREE: Friday, November 13

Daytime Host: WALLACE L. FORD II


11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Invited Talkshop Leaders: CEDRIC HILL (screenwriting) and DARREL ALEJANDRO HOLNES (playwriting)


“The Role of the Media, Critics, and Reviewers on Black Plays and Film”

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Presented as a Community Conversation, the Town Hall will examine the role of the media, critics, and reviewers in (1) shaping the writing of playwrights and screenwriters and (2) in bringing the dramatic play to the stage and the screenplay to the screen.

The conversation will include emerging and seasoned panelists whose work is impacted by professional critics and the media-at-large. Audience members will be encouraged to provide their views on the subject and suggest ways for moving forward.

Speakers: David Greaves, Pamela Newkirk, Marcia Pendelton, Lisa Cortés, and Vinson Cunningham (invited)

Moderated by BRIDGETT M. DAVIS.

Sponsored by Our Time Press.


“The Impact of Hip-Hop and Popular Culture on Black Playwriting and Screenwriting”

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Panelists will examine how hip-hop and popular culture have influenced and shaped the plays, films, and television scripts created by Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters. They will also look at trends in experimental theater and independent films by Black playwrights and screenwriters.

Speakers: Dasan Ahanu, NSangou Njikam, Carl Hancock Rux, and Shaun Neblett

Moderated by SADE LYTHCOTT of the National Black Theatre (invited).


“Telling Our Stories: Transcending Barriers and Boundaries on Stage and Screen”

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM

Artists and writers interrogate their interior lives and collective experiences to document their stories in a country where racism, sexual violence, gender discrimination, alienation, miseducation, immigration, and cultural conflicts are very present. The speakers here will explore these issues in theater, film, and television.

Speakers: Donja R. Love, Amina Henry, Nina Angela Mercer, and

H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams

Moderated by DIONNE BENNETT (Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology).


5:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Performed by ALEXIS ALLEYNE-CAPUTO, interdisciplinary artist, writer, and filmmaker.


“RACE CARD: Short Films Exploring Activism, Identity, and Race”

5:45 PM – 7:00 PM

ImageNation’s Sōl Cinema Cafe is proud to present a discussion: RACE CARD: Short Films Exploring Activism, Identity, and Race. These short works delve into these issues with wit, humor, and brutal honesty, in an effort to spark dialogue and effect change.

Featured works* include Paris Blues in Harlem, a dramatic look at gentrification in this historic Black community; Harriet Returns, a satire that ponders what Harriet Tubman would say to today’s youth; Burden, an exploration of the Black man’s burden in America; and Little Apple, an award-winning web series featuring a nine-year-old superhero who defends her community. The film discussion will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A session. RACE CARD offers a taste of what the new, Harlem-based Sōl Cinema Cafe offers. More at www.solcinemacafe.com.

Speakers: Nadhege Ptah, Marquis Smalls, Nathan Hale Williams, and Riley S. Wilson

Moderated by MOIKGANTSI KGAMA, Founder, ImageNation Cinema Foundation.

NOTE: Conference attendees can view the films from October 26–November 14, 2020.

RACE CARD Film series can be viewed at .www.solcinemacafe.com.



Friday, November 13, 2020

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

The Summit Keynote of the National Black Writers Conference will feature a robust conversation with WOODIE KING JR, STANLEY NELSON, VOZA RIVERS, and NGOZI ANYANWU on the themes of activism, race, and identity in the plays and films of Black writers. The speakers will share their experiences, as well as their perspectives and analyses of past, current, and emerging trends in the plays and films produced.

There will be time for a Q&A session with the audience.



DAY FOUR: Saturday, November 14 | Daytime Host: KEL SPENCER


11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Talkshop Leaders:

DONNA HILL ( fiction), GLENDA HOWARD and NORMA PEREZ-HERNANDEZ (publishing), MO BEASLEY (poetry), and LIZA JESSIE PETERSON (playwriting)


“Defying Stereotypes: Writing Plays, Films, and Scripts from the Black Gaze”

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Panelists will explore the manner in which Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters provide the Black gaze in the works they create. They will also examine the importance of writing stories and plays that depict the full spectrum of the Black community and experiences; the importance of resisting stereotypes and creating complex characters to reveal our interior lives; and how gender and identity politics impact the works that are created for the stage, film, and television.

Panelists: Sandra Shannon, Shay Youngblood, Eisa Davis, and B. Nandi Jacob

Moderated by WALLACE L. FORD II.


“The Playwright and Screenwriter as Activist”

2:45 PM – 4:00 PM

Addressing racial and other social justice issues in plays and films, the panelists of this roundtable discussion will examine how today’s climate influences character, plot, and viewpoint in the works they create.

Speakers: Keith Josef Adkins, Ngozi Anyanwu (invited), and Liza Jessie Peterson



“Black Theater and Film: Looking Back, Moving Forward”

4:15 PM – 5:30 PM

This roundtable will focus on “Celebrating 50 Years of Advancing Knowledge, Social Justice, and Excellence” at Medgar Evers College. Panelists take a look at current and future trends in plays, screenplays, and scripts written by Black writers and address the question: Do we need more complex and nuanced stories in theater, television, and film? They also discuss the importance of diversifying the film and theater industry and ways to inspire the next generation of writers and filmmakers.

Speakers: Carl Clay, Aurin Squire, Elizabeth Van Dyke, and Richard Wesley

Moderated by SANDRA ADELL.

DAY FOUR: Saturday, November 14



7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Opening Libation by CHIEF BABA NEIL CLARKE.

A Tribute to Toni Morrison by SANDRA GUZMAN, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author.

Presentations by NBWC2020 Honorees:


For Registration Information, Vending or Sponsorship Opportunities,

and More, Call or Email Us at (718) 804-8883 or writers@mec.cuny.edu.

Press: Contact Lea Byrd at lbyrd@mec.cuny.edu or April R. Silver at pr@akilaworksongs.com.

Program topics, participants, dates, and times are subject to change. Last updated: 9/18/20