14th National Black Writers Conference Participant Bios

14th National Black Writers Conference

Participant Bios


Honorary Chair

Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams is the Honorary Chair for the 14th National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. She also served as Chair for 12th National Black Writers Conference in 2014 and the 8th National Black Writers Conference in 2006. Dr. Evers-Williams is a true pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. When her husband, Medgar Wiley Evers, became the field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi, Dr. Evers-Williams worked alongside him and helped to open the first NAACP Mississippi State Office. After the assassination of her husband in 1963, she continued to be active in the Civil Rights Movement while raising her two children. Dr. Evers-Williams continued her husband’s work with her book For Us, The Living. She also wrote a memoir Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be (1999) and coedited with Manning Marable The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (2005). As a journalist, she wrote the Foreword to The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68 (1996) and is coauthor of Civil Rights Chronicle: The African-American Struggle for Freedom (2003).

In 1995, she was named chairwoman of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP, where she worked to restore the image of the organization and served as chair from 1995 to 1998. Dr. Evers-Williams received many honors for her work, including being named Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine. In 1992, she received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Medgar Evers College. In 2013, Dr. Evers-Williams delivered the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. In 2015, at the College’s 44th Commencement, Dr. Evers-Williams accepted the Doctor of Humane Letters posthumously on behalf of her late husband, Dr. Medgar Wiley Evers.



Meena Alexander has two new books forthcoming in 2018: a volume of poems, Atmospheric Embroidery (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press) and anthology she edited Name Me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing (Yale University Press). She has won the PEN Open Book Prize and received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts Council of England, and the Imbongi Yesizwe International Poetry Award from South Africa. Alexander is Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center/Hunter College, CUNY. www.meenaalexander.com



Tai Allen is a poet, vocalist, producer, and designer. He has toured nationally and internationally; and has been published in magazines such as Bomb and African Voices. Tai’s work has been covered by Okayplayer, CentricTV, Soultracks, and Colorlines. He has performed/headlined at the Apollo Music Café, BAMcafé, American Jazz Museum, Art of Cool Festival, The Nuyorican Poets Café, CrimeJazz (Rotterdam), Blue Note, and Charles Wright Museum.

Mo Beasley is an award-winning performance artist, playwright, author, and youth development specialist. Boston-born and Brooklyn-based, Mo has headlined or been featured at the legendary Blue Note, Minton’s Playhouse, Nuyorican Poets Café, BAMcafé, Joe’s Pub, NJ Performing Arts Center, The Bowery Poetry Club, and The American Museum of Natural History (with Sonia Sanchez). Mo made his debut as a playwright with the release of No Good Nigg@ Bluez, which premiered in 2003. The book version of the play is Beasley’s first published work; his second is Be a Father to Your Child (Soft Skull Press, 2008).

Bloodline Dance Theatre was created by Lamont Joseph as a collective of the arts for emerging choreographers and dancers in New York City. The company focuses on creating ballets that are reflective of current times as well as historical and religious concepts. The company has performed for several N.Y.C. public schools, The West Indian American Carnival Association, The Brooklyn Museum, The African Spirit Awards, St Paul’s Baptist Church, Thelma Hill Performing Arts Dance Festival, and Medgar Evers College, of which Lamont Joseph is a former student and currently dance assistant for the Department of Mass Communications.

Regina Brooks is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC in New York, New York. Her agency is the largest African American-owned agency in the country and has represented and established a diverse base of award-winning clients in adult and young adult fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. In 2015, Publishers Weekly nominated Brooks as a PW Star Watch Finalist. Writer’s Digest magazine named Serendipity Literary Agency as one of the top 25 literary agencies. She is the author of Essence Magazine’s quick pick children’s book, Never Finished Never Done  (Scholastic), Writing Great Books for Young Adults (2e, Sourcebooks), and You Should Really Write A Book: How To Write, Sell And Market Your Memoir (St. Martin’s Press).

W. Paul Coates is the founder and director of Black Classic Press, which specializes in republishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. A leader in the field of small publishers, Coates founded BCP Digital Printing in 1995 to produce books and documents using digital print technology.




Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a legal correspondent, an associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College (CUNY), and a civil-rights attorney. She reports on the U.S. Supreme Court and the United Nations in her award-winning syndicated newspaper column. Browne-Marshall hosts the weekly radio program “Law of the Land with Gloria J. Browne-Marshall” on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City. She covered President Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, and the 2012 Presidential Election, Democratic and Republican debates and National Conventions.

Browne-Marshall is an arts critic who has covered the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and Broadway.  She is the author of the recent book The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice. She is the author of the seminal book Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present as well as textbooks and articles on constitutional law and international human rights issues. She is the founder/director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc.

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is also a theater producer and an award-winning playwright.

Carolyn A. Butts is the publisher/founder of African Voices, a leading arts magazine devoted to publishing fine art and literature by artists of color. The magazine celebrates 25 years in April 2018. Butts is also the founder of the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series (www.reelsisters.org), the first annual Brooklyn-based festival that showcases films produced, directed and written by women of color.  Reel Sisters is the first Academy Qualifying Film Festival for Shorts devoted to women of color. Butts was featured in 50Bold.com for her accomplishments. Reel Sisters is on Film Daily’s top best 10 women centered festivals list. The festival will be held on October 20-21, 2018, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn.

For information on African Voices visit www.africanvoices.com.

After receiving degrees in both English literature and sociology from Baruch College, Jocquelle S. Caiby opted to nurture her love of great stories by pursuing a career in publishing. She started her journey as an intern at Serendipity Literary Agency, and, after deciding she never wanted to leave, transitioned into her current roles as junior agent and literary assistant. At Serendipity, she’s assisted in the realization of incredible projects in a variety of categories, including the legendary Dick Gregory’s final book, Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies, and creator of Disney channel favorites Jump In! and The Proud Family, Doreen Spicer Dannelly’s debut middle grade novel, Love Double Dutch. Caiby’s own publishing passions lie in young adult, and she is currently in the midst of building her client list with the goal of championing creativity and diversity, and building fresh new voices into commercial and literary powerhouses.

Greg Carr is associate professor of Africana Studies and Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University and Adjunct Faculty at the Howard School of Law.

Dr. Carr’s publications have appeared in, among other places, The African American Studies ReaderSocialism and Democracy, Africana Studies, Publications of the Modern Language Association of AmericaThe National Urban League’s 2012 State of Black America and Malcolm X: A Historical Reader. Dr. Carr is a frequent commentator in a wide range of print and electronic media as well as a range of local radio, television, and cybermedia outlets. Dr. Carr blogs at drgregcarr.com and can be reached in social media on Twitter at @AfricanaCarr.



Rakia Clark is a senior editor at Boston-based Beacon Press, though she works from New York City. She acquires nonfiction that examines social justice issues through a pop culture lens. That’s mainly media, technology, sports, criminal justice, race, class, narrative nonfiction, and biography/memoir. Her previous editorial posts include HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, and Kensington Publishing Corp.



Desiree Cooper is a former attorney and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist. Her award-winning, debut collection of flash fiction, Know the Mother, delves into the intersection of gender and race. Cooper’s fiction and poetry have appeared in CallalooDetroit Noir, and Best African American Fiction 2010, among other publications. A 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, Cooper was a founding board member of Cave Canem, and is currently a Kimbilio Fellow, a national residency for Black fiction writers.




Bridgett M. Davis is an author, filmmaker, essayist, journalist and professor. Her memoir, The World According to Fannie Davis, about her mother’s life in The Detroit Numbers, will be published in January 2019 (Little, Brown). Her second novel, Into the Go-Slow, was on several best-of lists in 2014. She is director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program, and curator for the newly launched Words@Weeksville Reading Series.





Nicole Dennis-Benn is the author of Here Comes the Sun, a New York Times Notable Book of the year, which was named to NPR, BuzzFeed, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2016 and Kirkus Reviews’, O Magazine, BBC, Entertainment Weekly, Book Riot, and others as Best Debut Fiction of 2016. Capturing the complexity of gender, class, race, and sexuality in Jamaica, its writing is “as lush as the island itself,” says the Boston Globe. The book is about “women pushed to the edge, Jamaica in all its beauty and fury,” says Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James. Jennifer Senior, book reviewer for the New York Times, describes the novel as a “lithe, artfully-plotted debut.”

Dennis-Benn is a Lambda Literary Award winner and a finalist for the 2016 John Leonard Prize National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, Dublin Literary Award, and the 2017 Young Lions Fiction Award. Her work has appeared in the New York TimesElleElectric LiteratureEbony, and the Feminist Wire. Dennis-Benn is a graduate of St. Andrew High School for Girls and Cornell University; and holds a Master of Public Health from University of Michigan, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She has been awarded fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Lambda, and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Dennis-Benn is a Kowald Visiting Faculty in City College MFA Program and Faculty in the Creative Writing Program at NYU. She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York.

Linda A. Duggins is senior director of Publicity at Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. As co-founder of the Harlem Book Fair, she has helped to create a nationally recognized venue that promotes literacy and literary expressions with writers of the Diaspora.  Duggins is the creator and producer of the Annual International Women’s History Month Literary Festival at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. She is on the Board of Directors of the National Book Club Conference, based in Atlanta, Georgia, whose mission is to advance literacy and knowledge through reading and dialogue; Board of Directors of Kweli, an online literary journal supporting diverse voices; as well as the Board of Directors of the Queensbridge Scholarship Fund, serving college bound students in the Queensbridge and Ravenswood housing developments in the New York City area. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Misty Copeland, and Joy Thomas Moore are among the many great authors represented by Duggins at Hachette.

Cornelius Eady is the author of Hardheaded Weather (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008); Brutal Imagination (2001), which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry; the autobiography of a jukebox (1997); You Don’t Miss Your Water (1995); The Gathering of My Name (1991), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; BOOM BOOM BOOM (1988); Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), which was chosen by Louise Glück, Charles Simic, and Philip Booth for the 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and Kartunes (1980).

In 1996, Eady and the poet Toi Derricote founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving Black poets of various backgrounds and acting as a safe space for intellectual engagement and critical debate. Along with Derricote, he also edited Gathering Ground (University of Michigan Press, 2006). In 2016, she and Eady accepted the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community on behalf of Cave Canem.

Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq., is General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice, an activist and attorney with a long-standing commitment to racial justice. She appears regularly on the Karen Hunter Show and #SundayCivics Show on SiriusXM’s Urban View. Ms. Daniel Favors authored Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl and is a contributing author to The Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement.





Wallace Ford is principal and founder of Fordworks Associates Inc., a management consulting and advisory firm based in New York.  He is also the author of two published novels (The Pride and What You Sow) and the creator and author of the Point of View contemporary commentary blog – www.wallaceford.wordpress.com  – the columns from which will soon be published as a book. Mr. Ford is also the host of “The Inclusion Show with Wallace Ford,” an online video program. He is also a frequent guest host and commentator on political events and business issues on Arise TV and a contributor to Black Noire Renaissance literary magazine.

Keisha Gaye-Anderson is a Jamaican-born poet, author, visual artist, and media professional living in Brooklyn, New York. Gathering the Waters (Jamii Publishing, 2014) is her first poetry collection. Her second collection, Everything Is Necessary, will be published by Willow/Aquarius Press in 2018. Another collection, A Spell for Living, was the recipient of Editors’ Choice recognition for the 2017 Numinous Orisons, Luminous Origin Literary Award and is forthcoming from Agape Editions in 2019 as a multimedia e-book, including music and Keisha’s original art work. Gaye-Anderson holds an MFA in creative writing from The City College, CUNY.




Marita Golden is a veteran teacher of writing and an acclaimed award-winning author of more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. As a teacher of writing, she has served as a member of the faculties of the MFA Graduate Creative Writing Programs at George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University and in  the MA Creative Writing Program at John Hopkins University. She has taught writing workshops nationally and internationally to a variety of constituencies.

Her new novel is The Wide Circumference of Love, nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Her other books include the novels After and The Edge of Heaven and the memoirs Migrations of the Heart, Saving Our Sons and Don’t Play in the Sun One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex. She is the recipient of many awards including the Writers for Writers Award presented by Barnes & Noble and Poets & Writers; and the Fiction Award for her novel After awarded by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with more than 15 years of experience making films about social justice, the arts, and politics. Along with coproducers and directors Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, Schmidt Gordon’s film BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary in 2017. She is the producer and editor of the acclaimed documentaries Documented, the story of Jose Antonio Vargas, and Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Schmidt Gordon teaches documentary filmmaking at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and she is the cochair of the Black Documentary Collective.

Donna Hill began her career in 1987 writing short stories for the confession magazines. Since that time, she has more than 70 published titles to her credit since her first novel was released in 1990, and is considered one of the early pioneers of the African American romance genre. Three of her novels have been adapted for television. She has been featured in Essence, the New York Daily News, USA Today, Today’s Black Woman, and Black Enterprise among many others. She has appeared on numerous radio and television stations across the country and her work has appeared on several best-seller lists, including Essence, Emerge, and The Dallas Morning News among others. She has received numerous awards for her body of work—which cross several genres—including The Career Achievement Award, the first recipient of The Trailblazer Award, The Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, The Gold Pen Award among others, as well as commendations for her community service. Hill cowrote the screenplay Fire, which enjoyed limited theater release before going to DVD. As an editor, she has packaged several highly successful novels and anthologies, two of which were nominated for awards.  She served as a writing instructor at The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in New York, and she has been a writing instructor with the Elders Writing Program sponsored by Medgar Evers College through Poets & Writers. Hill is a graduate of Goddard College with an MFA in creative writing and is currently in pursuit of her DA in English Pedagogy & Technology. She served as an adjunct professor of English at Essex County College and Baruch College, and is currently assistant professor of Professional Writing at Medgar Evers College. Hill lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, is the author of Negroland, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, The International Bridge Prize and The Heartland Prize. It was also short-listed for the Baillie Gifford Prize. She has been a staff writer for The New York Times, and her reviews and essays have been widely published and anthologized.  She lives in New York and teaches in the writing program at Columbia University.





Troy D. Johnson is the founder and webmaster of AALBC.com (The African American Literature Book Club).  Started in October of 1997, AALBC.com is now the oldest, largest, and most frequently visited website dedicated to books by or about people of African descent. He is also a cofounder of the #readingblack movement.






Rosamond S. King is a creative and critical writer and performer whose work is deeply informed by her cultures and communities, by history, and by a sense of play.  Her publications include the collection Rock | Salt | Stone and poems in more than three dozen journals, anthologies, and blogs, including The Feminist Wire, Drunken Boat, The Caribbean Writer, and the award-winning Kindergarde: Experimental Writing for Children. King is associate professor at Brooklyn College.


Bakari Kitwana is an internationally known cultural critic and thought leader in the area of hip-hop, youth culture, and Black political engagement. A senior media fellow at the Harvard Law-based think tank The Jamestown Project, Kitwana is the executive director of Rap Sessions, which conducts town hall meetings on difficult dialogues facing the Millennial and Hip-Hop Generations. The former editor-in-chief of The Source magazine, he is the cofounder of the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention, which brought more than 4,000 18-29-year-olds to Newark, New Jersey, in 2004, to create and endorse a political agenda for the hip-hop generation. The 2007-2008 Artist-in-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, Kitwana is the author of Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop and the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era. His groundbreaking 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation popularized the expression “the hip-hop generation” and has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at more than 100 college and universities. Kitwana served on the organizing committee for the 2013 Black Youth Project convening that launched the millennial Black activist group BYP100. In 2015, he edited an essay series for Mic.com on race and policing, “Shifting Perceptions: Being Black in America.” Also in 2015, he was part of a group of Cleveland activists called “The Cleveland 8” that filed affidavits challenging the city to arrest the officers who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice outside of a community recreation center.

Jacqueline Jones LaMon is the author of two collections, Last Seen, a Felix Pollak Poetry Prize selection, and Gravity, U.S.A., recipient of the Quercus Review Press Poetry Series Book Award; and the novel In the Arms of One Who Loves Me.  A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and UCLA School of Law, Ms. LaMon earned her MFA in creative writing, poetry from Indiana University Bloomington.

Ms. LaMon’s work has appeared in a wide variety of publications such as POETRYNinth LetterMythiumBellevue Literary ReviewCallaloo, and Crab Orchard Review. Noted by the NAACP in the category of Outstanding Literature, Poetry, LaMon is the recipient of a host of honors for her commitment to university teaching, her social and literary criticism, as well as for her creative work. LaMon served as the immediate past president of Cave Canem Foundation Inc., an organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.  She lives in New York and teaches at Adelphi University.

Victor LaValle is the author of six previous works of fiction: three novels, two novellas, and a collection of short stories. His recent book, The Changling, was nominated for a PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. His novels have been included in best-of-the-year lists by The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, and Publishers Weekly, among others. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Key to Southeast Queens. He lives in New York City with his wife and kids and teaches at Columbia University.




Bernice L. McFadden is the author of The Book of Harlan, winner of the 2017 American Book Award and the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. She is the author of  eight other critically acclaimed novels including SugarLoving DonovanGathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a four-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the BCALA. Praise Song for the Butterflies is her latest novel.



Louise Meriwether (b. 1923) is a prominent author, journalist, essayist, and antiwar activist. Her first book, Daddy Was a Number Runner, was published in 1970; she is the author of several books, including Fragments of the Ark and Shadow Dancing, as well as children’s biographies of African American icons such as Rosa Parks and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. She was an early member of the Harlem Writers Guild and Watts Writers Workshop, and the first Black woman to be hired as a story editor in Hollywood. She has taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Houston, and is a winner of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mellon Foundation, and New York State Council on the Arts. In 2016, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Before Columbus Foundation, and her birthday, May 8, was declared Louise Meriwether Appreciation Day by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. To honor her literary legacy, the Feminist Press launched the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize in 2016 to lift up women and nonbinary debut authors of color.

Patrick M. Oliver is a literary and education consultant dedicated to promoting reading and writing as tools of empowerment. Through a variety of innovative projects, Oliver engages children, youth and adults in activities such as author talks, vision boarding, book discussions, professional development sessions, and community forums. He is literary and business development consultant for educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, publishers, best-selling and award-winning authors. Oliver is the recipient of numerous grants and community service awards, founder Say It Loud! Readers and Writers, a literary arts organization, and host of Literary Nation Talk Radio. www.speakloudly.com




Gregory Pardlo’s ​collection​ Digest (Four Way Books) won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other honors​ include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts; his first collection Totem was selected by Brenda Hillman for the APR/Honickman Prize in 2007. He is poetry editor of Virginia Quarterly ReviewAir Traffic, a memoir in essays, is forthcoming from Knopf.


Monique Patterson is an editorial director and executive editor at St. Martin’s Press. She has published countless New York Times best-selling and award-winning authors. Some of her authors include cofounder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and award-winning author asha bandele (When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir), National Book Award Winner Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation and Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America), No. 1 New York Times best sellers PC and Kristin Cast (Moon Chosen & The Dysasters), New York Times best-selling husband and wife writing duo Ashley and JaQuavis (The Cartel series), and award-winning author Sarah Bird (Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen).



Andrea J. Ritchie, author of the critically acclaimed book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (Beacon, 2017,) is a Black lesbian immigrant, police-misconduct attorney, and a 2014 Senior Soros Justice Fellow, with more than two decades of experience advocating against police violence and the criminalization of women and LGBTQ people of color. She is currently Researcher-in-Residence on Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the coauthor of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women (AAPF, 2015) and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Beacon, 2011). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago, Illinois. More at www.andreajritchie.com/bio.


Sonia Sanchez is a poet; mother; professor; national and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice; sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and board member of MADRE. Sanchez is the author of more than 20 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend (Beacon Press, 1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1997), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums (Beacon Press, 1998), Shake Loose My Skin (Beacon Press, 1999), Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010), and I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays (Duke University Press, 2010). In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, she has edited the anthology We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans. The book BMA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review is the first African-American journal that discusses the work of Sonia Sanchez and the Black Arts Movement. She is also coeditor of the recently published SOS: Calling All Black People, A Black Arts Movement Reader (University of Massachusetts Press, 2014).

Sanchez has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1985 American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades; her 1997 book Does Your House Have Lions? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards for Poetry. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University and she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English at that University. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award for 1984; the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women; the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislator; the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988; the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.) for 1989; a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for 1992–1999; and the recipient of Langston Hughes Poetry Award for 1999. She is the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medalist and a Ford Freedom Scholar from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Her poetry also appeared in the movie Love Jones.

Sonia Sanchez has lectured at more than 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She is the recipient of the 2004 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer and the National Visionary Leadership Award for 2006. She also received the 2005 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award and the 2009 Robert Creeley Award.

Evie Shockley is the author of three books of poetry, most recently semiautomatic (Wesleyan, 2017) and the new black (Wesleyan, 2011; winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry).  She has also published a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (Iowa, 2011).  Currently serving as creative writing editor for Feminist Studies, Shockley is associate professor of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.


Dr. Michael Pili Simanga is an activist cultural worker, artist and scholar in African-American art and culture as expression of identity, forms of resistance and transformation. He is a lecturer at Georgia State University and has written, edited and published fiction, poetry, drama, essays and memoir about the African American experience. Dr. Simanga has also produced, presented and directed more than 200 artistic projects including plays, exhibitions, concerts, readings and festivals. He has also produced music with Cassandra Wilson, Sonia Sanchez and others




Mychal Denzel Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching (Nation Books, 2016) and a 2017 NAACP Image Award nominee. His work has appeared online and in print for publications such as the Washington Post, New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Complex, GQ, Guernica, Literary Hub, Pitchfork, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, and many others. He has appeared as commentator or MSNBC, CNN, Democracy NOW!, NPR, and numerous other national/local radio and television outlets. In 2014 and 2016, TheRoot.com named him one of the “100 Most Influential African-Americans” in their annual The Root 100 list. He is a fellow at The Nation Institute.

Josef Sorett is an associate professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University. Sorett’s first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016), illumines how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture across the 20th century. His second book, The Holy Holy Black: The Ironies of an American Secular, will be out later this year.





Kel Spencer is a well-rounded figure in entertainment, education, business, and the community. His pen has garnered Grammy, Soul Train, and MTV Video Music Award nominations, as well as won an American Music Award. Working on chart topic projects with corporate tie-ins has allowed Spencer to grow a unique perspective on writing, branding and cultural awareness. This perspective has also prompted his Pens of Power youth program in schools throughout New York City. As an NYC high school all-star, Spencer (while attending Morgan State University) set aside football for his desires in education, entertainment, and entrepreneurship. While new projects (including music, film, and an adjunct professorship) are on the horizon, Spencer continues to blaze an artistic trail toward future mogul status.

Carol Taylor, a former Random House book editor, is a 25-year publishing veteran. She has worked as an editor, co-author, book doctor, and ghostwriter with literary and commercial writers, noted academics, public figures, and celebrities. She is editorial advisor at McKinnon McIntyre Literary Agency, and co-founded Edit1st.com with Troy Johnson of AALBC.com. Carol teaches in the Publishing Program at City College. At New York University, she teaches creative writing. She has also written ten books.  For more about Taylor, go to https://edit1st.com/about-edit-1st/editors/.

Jamia Wilson is the newly appointed executive director and publisher at The Feminist Press, which was founded in 1970 by Florence Howe as a crucial publishing component of second wave feminism, reprinting feminist classics by writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and providing much-needed texts for the developing field of women’s studies. Wilson joins the Press after serving as executive director of Women, Action, & the Media, a direct-action network dedicated to creating gender justice in media at all levels. Previously, Wilson has served as TED Prize Storyteller and VP of Programs at Women’s Media Center. A thought leader and writer, Wilson has contributed to New York Magazine, The New York Times, The Today Show, and The Guardian, and is a columnist for Rookie. In 2016, Wilson was honored as a Black Feminist Human Rights Defender by Black Women’s Blueprint and was recognized by Refinery 29 as one of “17 Faces of the Future of Feminism” in 2013.


African Voices/Reel Sisters Film Series

Clairesa Clay is a lover of films and art.  She hails from the planet Brooklyn and she is the founder of Blerd City Con, a conference dedicated to celebrating the nerdiness in the Black community.
Filmmaker Bios:

Francesca Andre is a photographer and film director with a bachelor’s degree from Fairfield University and a masters in film and television from Sacred Heart University. Her work has been published in many publications, including the New York Post, New York Daily News, News Day, CT Voice, Stamford Advocate, Daily Mail, AOL Patch, Arise Magazine, She Caribbean, Sheen Magazine, Afropunk, Heed Magazine, Westport Magazine, Fairfield Living Magazine, Ellements Magazine, and Global Voices just to name a few.  Her award-winning film Charcoal has been screened at many U.S. and international film festivals.

Malika Franklin is a graduate of the New York Conservatory of the Dramatic Arts and Morgan State University’s Vocal Department. She has performed on stage at New Federal Theater, The National Black Theater, and Lincoln Center. Her most recent stage credits include NEC’s Rosalee Pritchett; Laundry, written by David Bellantoni; and Freedom Rider, written by award-winning playwright Ms. J. e Franklin. Her most recent onscreen projects include Marvel’s Daredevil and Luke Cage, the Amazon pilot The Good Girls Revolt, and the short film by Ashton Pina, The Brother’s Texas, which ran in the 2014 Oktober Film Festival. She is a member of SAG/AFTRA and AEA. She makes her directorial debut with the short film That’s Why They Calls Us Colored.

Carrie Hawks harnesses the magic of animation to tell stories. The artist has been committed to visual art ever since holding a crayon. They have exhibited art in New York, Atlanta, Kansas City, Toronto, and Tokyo. Their first film, Delilah, won the Best Experimental Award at the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival (2012). Their films have screened at BlackStar Film Festival (Philadelphia), CinemAfrica (Stockholm, Sweden), and MIX Queer Experimental Film Festival (New York). The Jerome Foundation gave generous funding to black enuf*. (Carrie’s uses gender neutral pronouns they, them, theirs.)

Kweta Henry is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and journalist specializing in digital marketing. Her writing and research interests include issues of identity, politics and human rights, cross-cultural dialogue, and ancient African history. She recently completed her master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and was a recipient of the 2017 Don Paulson Award for Service to the Conflict Resolution Field for her development of a peer-support program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Kweta is also a facilitator and volunteer mediator who has worked with organizations that train communities in conflict management skills and that seek to build bridges across lines of difference, including Soliya, Habitus Inc., and Conflict Management @ MIT.

Bless ji Jaja’s most recent work is his 2015 debut novel, American Shero, an eclectic and satirical magnum opus based on four women involved in the four states of relationships: being in one, maintaining one, getting over one, or getting out of one. His very first nonfiction work, Love Awaits (Bantam-Doubleday), was published in 1995. Jaja’s most recent plays include Uncle Tom vs. Uncle Sam, first work-shopped at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, and later produced in 2016 at Symphony Space Theatre on Broadway and 95th Street and presented by Anthony Anderson of ABC’s sitcom black’ish. Other produced works include The Window King, produced at Washington D.C.’s Bonifant Theatre Company and the D.C. Theatre Arts Festival, and nominated by New York’s Abingdon Theatre for its Christopher Brian Wolk Award for Excellence in Playwriting; Birth, a Smith & Kraus Best New Plays inclusion; Barberdashers and M, both produced by The Billie Holiday Theatre, La Garra Theatre in Maryland, the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angles, Arizona’s Black Theatre Troupe, and New Orleans’ Anthony Bean Theatre.

Chengusoyane Kargbo is an actor who played one the women in the Charcoal and performed the voice-overs as well. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and studied acting at Niagara County Community College, Niagara University; and then once moving to NYC at William Esper Acting Studio. She has appeared in several award- winning short films as well as commercials and is always on the lookout for a new amazing projects to work on.

Cheraine Stanford brings experience in journalism, independent film, and public television to her current role as senior producer/director at WPSU in University Park, PA. Her productions include the television documentaries Holding History and As Long As We Dance, the transmedia project “Water Blues – Green Solutions,” and the web series “The Geospatial Revolution.” She previously worked at WETA-TV on Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and at Maysles Films in New York. Cheraine is a native of Jamaica, holds a BA from Duke University and an MFA from Temple University.

Tracy Heather Strain is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, writer, and producer. Her previous directing credits include episodes of miniseries “Unnatural Causes” and “I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts”; and episodes of PBS’s “American Experience” and “Race: The Power of an Illusion.” Strain is also the president and CEO of Boston-based media company The Film Posse, which she runs with her husband, Randall MacLowry. Strain’s other credits include the multi-award winning PBS series “The Great Depression” (associate producer/researcher) and “America’s War on Poverty” (series researcher) as well as Discover: The World of Science (associate producer). Her forays into dramatic filmmaking include work at the distribution company Cinecom and a position as art department coordinator on Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala.


Youth Literacy Programs

Erica Buddington is a career author and arts educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Buddington also writes fiction and memoir that elaborates the experiences of the millennial woman of color. She’s written/published four books: F-Boy Literature, Intention, Boroughs Apart, and Of Micah and Men. She’s also an HBO Def Poet and poetry slam champion. She left her post as director of TRUCE Media and Arts at Harlem Children’s Zone to design and found a company that designs equitable and culturally relevant curriculum, with an emphasis on literacy, for children of color. She’s currently a curriculum lead and sixth grade world history teacher at Capital Prep Harlem.

Jerry Craft has illustrated and/or written close to three dozen children’s books, graphic novels and middle grade novels, including his acclaimed anti-bullying book The Offenders: Saving the World While Serving Detention! In 2014, Craft illustrated The Zero Degree Zombie Zone for Scholastic, which earned him recognition from the Junior Library Guild. He is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning comic strip that was distributed by King Features Syndicate from 1995 to 2013. Jerry has won five African American Literary Awards. He is also a cofounder and coproducer of the Schomburg’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival, which has drawn close to 40,000 fans since its inception in 2013. He is currently working on New Kid, a middle grade graphic novel for HarperCollins due out in 2019. For more info visit: www.jerrycraft.net.

Zetta Elliott is a Black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children. Her poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean SouthCheck the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees; and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers, and her plays have been staged in New York, Cleveland, and Chicago. My essays have appeared in School Library Journal, The Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Elliott’s picture book Bird won the Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers. Her young adult novel, A Wish After Midnight, has been called “a revelation…vivid, violent and impressive history.” Ship of Souls was published in February 2012; it was named a Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy Title for Youth and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. Elliott’s latest YA novel, The Door at the Crossroads, was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the 2017 Cybils Awards, and her picture book titled Melena’s Jubilee, won a 2017 Skipping Stones Award She received the Children’s Literature Association’s Article Award for the essay, “The Trouble with Magic: Conjuring the Past in New York City Parks.” Elliott currently lives in her beloved Brooklyn.

Cheryl Willis Hudson is publisher of Just Us Books Inc., an independent publishing company she founded with her husband, Wade that focuses on Black interest books for children and young adults.  Cheryl serves as vice-president and editorial director. Cheryl has authored more than 30 books for children including AFRO-BETS ABC Book, Good Morning, Baby, Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Hands Can, Construction Zone and My Friend Maya Loves to Dance. Her honors include induction into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, the Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award presented by the Center for Black Literature and the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award given by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation.

Wade Hudson is president of the children’s book publisher of Just Us Books Inc.  Just Us Books is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Among Mr. Hudson’s published books are Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, Jamal’s Busy Day, and Powerful Words: Two Years of Outstanding Writing by African Americans.  He is a recipient of the Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award, presented by the Center for Black Literature, the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award given by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation and was induced into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. His newest title is the anthology We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, coedited by his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson, which will be released this September by Crown Books.


Calvin Alexander Ramsey is a playwright, photographer, and folk art painter. His plays include Bricktop, The Musical, Damaged, Virtues, Canada Lee, Sister Soldiers and The Green Book. His plays have been performed in New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco, Omaha, Nebraska, Baltimore and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Green Book was published as a children’s book by Lerner and it is scheduled to become a movie. Ramsey is a former Advisory Board Member of the Robert Woodruff Library Special Collections at Emory University in Atlanta. He is also a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award. Visit him at https://calvinalexanderramseysr.com/.


The Elders Writing Workshop

Workshop Leader

Eisa Nefertari Ulen is the author of Crystelle Mourning (2006), a novel described by The Washington Post as “a call for healing in the African American community from generations of hurt and neglect.” She is the recipient of a Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a National Association of Black Journalists Award. She has contributed to The Los Angeles Review of Books, Parents, Essence, The Washington Post, Ms., Ebony, Health, The Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio. She has taught at Hunter College and The Pratt Institute. A founding member of RingShout: A Place for Black Literature, Ulen lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn. www.EisaUlen.com; @EisaUlen


The Elders

Diane J. Grazette Collins was born in Brooklyn, New York.  She earned a BA in English at the University of Hartford in 1995. She earned an MA in English from the University of Connecticut in 1997.  She has been a member of the Fulton Art Fair for the past 12 years.

She lives with her husband and son in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Shirley V. H. Cooper was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Violet Huggupp and Oscar Bruce White. Those last two names were melded together by Shirley’s mother, when, in 1946, she migrated to America by way of Panama. Shirley attended Brooklyn College for two years before she pursued her dream to travel the world. That dream came through when she became one of the very first African American women to work for American Airlines as a stewardess. Now retired, Shirley traveled the world when employed by American and Pan Am Airlines.

Joan Corbett was born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Brooklyn College, where she earned both a BA in education (in 1962) and an MS in counseling. Corbett served the children of Brooklyn’s District 16 for 37 years as a kindergarten teacher and guidance counselor. Now a widow and a proud mother of two children, Tracey and Christopher, and two grandchildren, Austin and Janaya, Joan spends her free time writing and attending movies and plays. She also loves to travel and socialize with her friends.

Elondia Glenn-Gantt is retired and the mother of two, wife of one, and grandmother of one.  Brooklyn born, bred, and read. She has a BA in liberal arts from where else but Brooklyn College. She attended Morgan State University for only her freshman year—wasn’t ready. She was employed by New York City Police Department as a Police Officer, Detective, Sergeant, and retired as a Lieutenant after 20 years. She earned a couple of certificates from John Jay College of Criminal Justice to advance her career. She transplanted to Suffolk County, leaving soon on the midnight train back to Brooklyn.

Ernie Jackson was born in England, Arkansas, and earned a BS from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Jackson moved to New York and attended Teachers College Columbia University, where she earned an MA. A retired teacher who worked for the New York City Board of Education, Jackson loves to write, garden, and entertain.

Lurline Martineau was born in Grenada, West Indies. After graduating from the Anglican High School, she pursued her talent in dressmaking. Siloam of Presbyterian Church is her church home, where she is an ordained elder and deacon. She joined Daytop Family Association in 1989 and is a trained facilitator. She received Daytop’s highest award in 2006. Currently, she is involved in conducting “Grief and Bereavement” groups, writing her memoirs, volunteering in a nursing home, and participating in Caring for the Caregiver.

Rebecca C. Plunkett (nom de plume) is a retired registered nurse, certified nurse midwife, and Certified Childbirth Educator. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, where her earlier education began, she earned her degrees in England, and the United States. She now writes short stories, children’s stories, poetry, and essays. Her pastimes include reading, classes, gardening, knitting and crocheting. She enjoys traveling and attending the many intellectual venues that are offered in and beyond the boundaries of New York City.

Teresa M. Snyder was born in Sandersville, Georgia, but attended elementary school in Brooklyn and graduated from Prospect Heights High School. She earned her BA from John Jay College, an MS from Fordham University, an MA from Cornell University, and an MPA from New York University. A retired analyst for New York State, Snyder has two adult children: a daughter who lives in Brooklyn and a son who lives in Maryland. She also has two grandsons and two granddaughters. Teresa loves writing and she volunteers as a mentor to girls at Clara Barton High School, where she facilitates a book club.

Sylvia Jones Suescun was born in Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1932. A member of the 1950 Dunbar High School graduating class, Suescun moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to attend Morgan State University, where she earned a BS in 1954; and then moved to New York to pursue graduate studies at Fordham University. She worked as a therapeutic recreation director for Health and Hospital Corporation NYC for many years before she retired. Suescun’s father, Herbert Jones, was a music director for 50 years and music was always in her home. She has sung in choirs all her life and enjoys travel and art in addition to music.

Cynthia Goodison Tompkins was born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, to two proud Jamaican parents. She attended PS 54, Girls High School, and Cheyney State Teachers College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania, where she earned a BS in education. Cynthia moved back to New York to earn her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the College of Staten Island. Retired from the New York City Board of Education after 30 years of service, Cynthia has volunteered as a volleyball coach, Brownie Girl Scout Leader, and cheerleading coach. She has a son, daughter, two grandsons, and one great-grandson.