15TH NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
(Current as of 3/5/20)
CARL CLAY ◊ HONOREE
Carl Clay studied TV and theater at the Maine International TV/Film Institute and at the Third World Cinema Training Institute. Clay went on to get his feet wet on his first feature film Greased Lightning.
As the founder and CEO of Black Spectrum Theatre, Clay has produced more than 450 plays and written and directed 20 films aimed at African American youth. Clay has produced more than 40 jazz concerts, and he has written more than 20 plays. He has been awarded five AUDELCO Awards, as Producer of the Year for the productions Two Trains Running, Kingfish, and Deadwood Dick, Legend of the West.
As a lyricist, Clay has written songs for well-known jazz and rap artists. He has received an ASCAP Award for his songs in the motion picture Coffy. He also received a National Library Association Award for his film Babies Making Babies and an International Film and TV Festival Bronze Medal Award for The Follower and Clear Vision. Clay’s films Urban Encounters and Justice Is Done were given National Black Programming Consortium Award for Outstanding Youth Programming.
Clay completed his first book entitled “Poor-Ducing Theatre & Film at Black Spectrum” in 2010.
DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU ◊ HONOREE
Dominique Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle), which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem, and The National Black Theatre). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me to Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the TONY-nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Morisseau is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab and Lark Playwrights Workshop, and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as co-producer on the Showtime series Shameless. Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, AUDELCO Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017–18, and a recent MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.
STANLEY NELSON ◊ HONOREE
Stanley Nelson is today’s leading documentarian of the African American experience. His films combine compelling narratives with rich historical detail to illuminate the underexplored American past. Nelson, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, also received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2013 and in 2016; he was awarded the Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences.
Nelson’s latest film, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, the definitive look at the life and career of the iconic Miles Davis, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019. In 2018, Nelson directed The Story of Access, a short film that examined the history and impact of racial profiling in public spaces. Other notable films by Nelson include Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (2006) and the Emmy nominated The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (1999)
Mr. Nelson and his wife, Marcia A. Smith, co-founded Firelight Media, a nonprofit production company dedicated to amplifying social justice issues and fostering a new generation of diverse filmmakers committed to “changing the story.” For more information on Firelight Media, see www.firelightmedia.org.
VOZA RIVERS ◊ HONOREE
Voza Rivers is a leading theater, music, and events producer and documentary filmmaker born in Harlem, New York. Rivers is a founding member/executive producer of the New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG), established in 1964, and has produced some of the most trendsetting works of the 20th century, including works by celebrated South African writer/actor/director Mbongeni Ngema, including OBIE winner Woza Albert!, TONY-nominated Asinamali!, and TONY-nominated Sarafina!
He is also executive producer and co-founder of IMPACT Repertory Theatre, the Oscar-nominated youth division of New Heritage Theatre Group, led by U.S. director, activist and educator Jamal Joseph.
In 1969, Ngema, Hugh Masekela, and Rivers were nominated for a Grammy for Best Show Album for Sarafina! Rivers is the first vice president of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce; vice chairman of HARLEM WEEK; and founding member/chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance, a not-for-profit arts service organization, established in 2001, with 350 members including: museums, libraries, colleges, churches, visual and performing artists, directors, filmmakers, technicians and designers. As an events/special projects producer, Rivers has worked with Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Celia Cruz, Nancy Wilson, Tito Puente, Miriam Makeba, OBIE winners Daniel Beaty (Emergency) and Roger Geunveur Smith (Hughie).
RICHARD WESLEY ◊ HONOREE
Richard Wesley was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at Howard University. His work has been produced on stage and for screen and television. He has received the Drama Desk Award, the NAACP Image Award, the AUDELCO Award and the Castillo Award for his work in political theater.
In 1971, Wesley’s first play, The Black Terror, was presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater. The Mighty Gents, another play by Wesley, premiered on Broadway in 1978. In the mid-1970’s, Wesley began writing screenplays. Wesley produced screenplays for Uptown Saturday Night in 1974, Let’s Do it Again in 1975, and Fast Forward, and Native Son in 1986. He is the author of the recently published book It’s Always Loud in the Balcony: A Life in Black Theater, from Harlem to Hollywood and Back (Applause Books, 2019).
Wesley has served in adjunct teaching roles at multiple academic institutions, including Manhattanville College, Wesleyan University, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and Rutgers University. He is an associate professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and he is married to the novelist Valerie Wilson Wesley
15TH NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
Sandra Adell is a literature professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published books and articles on African American Literature. Her books include Double-Consciousness/Double Bind: Theoretical Issues in Twentieth Century Black Literature and Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen: A Memoir, which examines the devastating effects casino gambling has on women from a personal perspective. She is the editor of Contemporary Plays by African American Women: Ten Complete Plays and the 2019 special print issue of Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre and Performance.
Dasan Ahanu is co-founder and managing director of Black Poetry Theatre. Since 2008, he has created and produced original poetry and spoken word-based productions. Ahanu is an award-winning poet and performance artist, playwright, scholar, and emcee. An alumni Nasir Jones Fellow with Harvard University’s Hip Hop Archive, he has performed across the country; appeared on national radio and TV; published three books of poetry; been featured in various periodicals; and released numerous recordings. Photo Credit: Tyrone Combs.
Alexis Alleyne-Caputo is an anthropologist, archivist, researcher, and an award-winning, commissioned, interdisciplinary artist. Her master project, “Afro Diaries’, addresses identity constructs and myriad issues that create conflict and inequality in society. The project represents work by, for and about women of color. She is a graduate of Goddard College, MFA, and New York University, MA, BS/MA (dual studies). Alleyne-Caputo has taught at the University of Miami (2014-2017) and New World School of the Arts at Miami Dade College (2010-2015).
Ngozi Anyanwu is a playwright and actor whose work include Victory Is Ours, The Homecoming Queen, and Nike or We Don’t Need Another Hero. Her acting film credits include Split and Women Who Kill. Her play Good Grief, a semifinalist for the Princess Grace Award and Humanitas Prize, a play in which she also starred. Nike (Kilroys List 2017) was recently workshopped at The New Black Fest in conjunction with The Lark and The Strand Festival. The Homecoming Queen (Kilroys List 2017, Leah Ryan Finalist) recently had its world premiere at The Atlantic Theater.
Keith Josef Adkins is a playwright, screenwriter, and artistic director. Some of his plays include The West End, The People Before the Park, Pitbulls, and Safe House. His plays have been seen at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Rattlestick, Aurora Theater, National Black Theatre among others. Adkins received Samuel French’s inaugural Award for Impact and Activism in the Theater Community. He is a 2015 Helen Merrill Playwright Award recipient and a National Black Theater’s Teer Spirit Awardee. He is also the artistic director of The New Black Fest.
Dionne M. Bennett is an Assistant Professor in the African American Studies Department at CUNYs New York City College of Technology and an Associate Director of the The Hiphop Archive & Research Institute at Harvard University. She is the author, with photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, of Sepia Dreams: A Celebration of Black Achievement through Words and Images. Her forthcoming book, “The Hearts of Black Folk: Romantic Love in African American Culture” will be published by the University of North Carolina Press.
Radha Blank is a proud Native New Yorker, Performer and Writer for TV, stage and film. Her plays include HappyFlowerNail, Casket Sharp, nannyland and the critically acclaimed SEED. She’s a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award recipient, an NEA New Play Development Award recipient (for SEED) and a NYFA Fellow. Radha’s TV writing work include The Get Down (Netflix), Empire (FOX) and She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix), where she’s worked as Producer/Writer for two seasons. This year, she will write, direct and star in her first feature film, The 40-Year-Old Version (F.Y.O.V.) which won the festival’s Directing Award-U.S. Dramatic.
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. Butts is also the founder of the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series, 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. Reel Sisters is on Film Daily’s top best 10 women-centered festivals list. For information on African Voices visit www.africanvoices.com.
Lisa Cortés is an Academy Award–nominated producer whose credits include Precious, The Woodsman, and Shadowboxer. Her work has defined a career distinguished by her commitment to empowering inclusive voices in front of and behind the camera. Since launching her production company, Cortés Films, she has collaborated with many directors producing innovative features, documentaries, and short films that assert the centrality of diverse and untold stories while delighting audiences. She is currently producing with Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams on a feature-length documentary about the legendary Apollo Theater and producing and co-directing the documentary The Remix: Hip X Fashion.
Kia Corthron is a playwright and novelist. Her plays have premiered in New York, London, and around the United States. For her body of work for the stage, Corthron has been awarded the Windham Campbell Prize, USArtists Jane Addams Fellowship, Simon Great Plains Playwright Award, and others. Her debut novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, won the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. She has also written for the award-winning TV show The Wire. Photo Credit: Lavigny Sophie Kandaouroff.
Cunningham Vinson is a staff writer and theater critic at The New Yorker. His essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, FADER, Vulture, The Awl, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. In his writing, Cunningham looks beyond text to see what binds us together. A former White House staffer, he now teaches an MFA writing course at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City. Photo Credit: Jane Bruce
Eisa Davis was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Bulrusher, and she wrote and starred in Angela’s Mixtape, named a best of the year by The New Yorker. Other current work includes Ramp, Mushroom, Devil in a Blue Dress, and commissions from ACT and the Araca Group. Davis wrote for both seasons of Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It and is a winner of the Herb Alpert Award, a Creative Capital grant, an AUDELCO, and an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Photography.
Bridgett M. Davis is author of The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and named a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews, NBC News, and BuzzFeed. She is also author of the novels Into the Go-Slow and Shifting Through Neutral, and writer/director of the award-winning feature film Naked Acts. She teaches journalism and creative writing at Baruch College, and has written essays for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Real Simple, the LA Times, and O, Oprah Magazine. Visit her website at www.bridgettdavis.com. Photo Credit: Nina Subin.
Wallace L. Ford teaches in the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. Professor Ford’s highly trafficked Point of View contemporary commentary blog www.thewallaceford.com is now read in more than 60 countries. He is also a frequent commentator on political issues on television and radio. Ford has lectured and spoken at conferences throughout the United States and at various venues throughout the world. Ford has also published two novels, The Pride (2005) and What You Sow (2007), and he is a regular contributor to Black Renaissance Noir. Ford is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.
David Mark Greaves is president of DBG MEDIA, publishers of Our Time Press, a Brooklyn, New York-based, African American-owned newspaper, which began publishing in 1996. Greaves has received awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists and Independent Press Association. His previous career included 15 years as a documentary film-maker, a skill he plans to merge with his work at DBG Media. He is co-editor of many feature films including Ali, the Fighter, The Marijuana Affair, and Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.
Michael Green is producer and director of Shades of Truth Theatre. He is committed to presenting positive theater that is provocative, educational and entertaining. In collaboration with his strategic partner, Voza River/New Heritage Theatre Group, Shades of Truth has produced dozens of shows including, The Day Harlem Saved Dr. King, Whistle in Mississippi: The Lynching of Emmett Till, Barbara Jordan: I Dared to Be Me, The Life & Times of TRUBONE; plays by Celeste Bedford Walker, Black Wall Street, Camp Logan and Jeff Stetson’s The Meeting. He is a teaching artist for the Center for Black Literature.
Amina Henry is a playwright, essayist, and educator. She is an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College and a teaching artist for the Teachers and Writers Collaborative and the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Recent productions include New Light Theater’s production of The Great Novel at the Flea. Selected publications include: “Hello, My Name is Joe” in The Brooklyn Review, 24 Gun Plays, and “Bully” (in The Kilroys List: 97 Monologues and Scenes by Female and Trans Playwrights) and the essay “Lessons in Beauty” in the forthcoming issue of Suzy Magazine.
Cedric Hill has won multiple honors and distinctions as a writer, director, and producer of both film and theatre, including being on the shortlist at the 2016 Academy Awards for short films. The art of telling stories has been a driving force through-out his life. In 2005, he founded To & Fro Productions, a film company dedicated to telling gripping stories with depth and sophistication. As executive producer, he wears many hats, from developing scripts, creating budgets and casting to writing, engineering production strategy and directing. http://www.cedrichill.us
Donna Hill began her career in 1987 writing short stories for the confession magazines. Since then she has more than 80 published titles to her credit since her first novel was released in 1990, and is one of the early pioneers of the African American romance genre. Three of her novels have been adapted for television. Her awards include, The Career Achievement Award, The Trailblazer Award, The Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, and The Gold Pen Award. Hill is a graduate of Goddard College (MFA). She is an Assistant Professor of Professional Writing at Medgar Evers College. She can be found at donnaohill.com
Darrel Alejandro Holnes is a poet, and playwright from Panama City. He is the recipient of creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and CantoMundo. His poetry appears in Poetry magazine, American Poetry Review, Best American Experimental Writing, Callaloo, and elsewhere in print and online. He is the recipient of the C.P. Cavafy Poetry Prize from Poetry International and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Holnes is an assistant professor of creative writing and playwriting at Medgar Evers College and he teaches at New York University.
Glenda Howard is the Senior Executive Director for the Harlequin New York Series Program. She oversees the Desire, Intrigue, Romantic, Suspense, Special Edition, Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense lines. She has been with Harlequin for almost 15 years and has had the privilege of working with many talented authors, including, New York Times and USA Today bestseller Brenda Jackson, Essence best-selling author, Donna Hill, and nationally best-selling authors Niobia Bryant and Kayla Perrin. Howard has previously held editorial positions at St. Martin’s Press and BET Books.
B. Nandi Jacob is a playwright and theater producer. Her play Flambeaux won the Musical Theatre Production of the Year AUDELCO Award (2015), among other international awards. Jacob’s work has been produced at Theater for the New City (New York), Harborfront Theater (Toronto), and the Caribbean Inaugural Drama Festival (Trinidad) among other stages. She is author of The True Nanny Diaries, creator/showrunner of Green Card: A Love Story, and lead producer at Ashenandi Stage Co. www.ashenandi.com
Rosamond S. King’s work is shaped by her cultures and communities, history, and a sense of play. Publications include the Lambda Award-winning collection Rock | Salt | Stone and poems in dozens of journals and anthologies, including The Feminist Wire. Scholarly publications include the award-winning Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination. She has taught creative workshops around the world, and is creative editor of sx salon and associate professor at Brooklyn College. www.rosamondking.com
Woodie King Jr. is a founder and producing director of New Federal Theatre in New York City. New Federal Theatre has presented more than 300 productions in its 47-year history. King is author of the important book The Impact of Race: Theatre and Culture. King’s directional credits are extensive and include work in film as well as theater. He is a recipient of an NAACP Image Award and an AUDELCO Award. He has taught at Yale, Penn State, North Carolina A&T, Columbia, New York University, Hunter, and Brooklyn College, and is a visiting professor at Sarah Lawrence College.
Talib Kweli the Brooklyn-based MC, is a lyrically gifted and socially aware rapper. Whether working with Mos Def as one-half of Black Star, partnering with producer Hi-Tek for Reflection Eternal, or releasing landmark solo material, Kweli has consistently delivered top-tier lyricism and crafted captivating stories. Kweli founded Javotti Media, “a platform for independent thinkers and doers.” Kweli has set out to make Javotti Media (which released his 2011 album, Gutter Rainbows) into a media powerhouse that releases music, films, and books. Kweli’s forthcoming book titled Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story is being published by MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Photo Credit: Stephanie Aquino.
Donja R. Love is Black, Queer, HIV-positive, and surviving. A Philly native, he’s the recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Award and the Princess Grace Playwriting Award. He’s the co-founder of The Each-Other Project, an organization that builds community and provides visibility, through art and advocacy, for LGBTQ People of Color. Love’s plays include one in two (The New Group), Fireflies (Atlantic Theater Company), Sugar in Our Wounds (Manhattan Theatre Club), and Soft. He’s a graduate of The Juilliard School.
Sade Lythcott was born Harlem and is the CEO of The National Black Theatre. She is the daughter of the late Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, legendary champion of African American arts and culture. Lythcott serves as the chair of the Coalitions of Theaters of Color and sits on the national Board of Advisors for Art Changes Us. She is recipient of The Network Journal’s 40 Under Forty Award, the 2015 Rising Star Award, and the Larry Leon Hamlin Legacy Award from Black Theatre Network. In 2012, Lythcott wrote and produced the highly acclaimed musical A Time to Love, garnering three AUDELCO nominations.
Nina Angela Mercer is an interdisciplinary artist, dramaturg, and scholar. Her plays include Gutta Beautiful; Itagua Meji: A Road and A Prayer; Gypsy & The Bully Door; and A Compulsion for Breathing. Her writing appears in the anthology Are You Entertained? Black Popular Culture in the 21st Century (Duke University Press, 2020). She has been published in Killens Review of Arts & Letters; Black Renaissance Noire; Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre, and Performance; and Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Press, 2018). | Facebook: @NAMaticVisionary Instagram: ninaangelamercer
jessica CARE moore is the founder and CEO of Moore Black Press, executive producer of Black WOMEN Rock!, and founder of the literacy-driven Jess Care Moore Foundation. An internationally renowned poet, playwright, performance artist, and producer, she is the 2019 and 2017 Knight Arts Award Winner, 2016 Kresge Arts Fellow, NAACP Great Expectations Awardee, and an Alain Locke Award recipient from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Moore is the author of The Words Don’t Fit in My Mouth, The Alphabet Verses the Ghetto, Sunlight Through Bullet Holes, and Techno Choreopoem, Salt City. Photo Credit: Kennette Lamar/Annistique Photography.
Tracie Morris is writer/editor of seven books, a sound poet, vocalist, and theorist. She holds an MFA
in poetry from Hunter College at the City University of New York, a PhD from New York University, and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She became an Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist in 2018. Ms. Morris is a former Woodberry Poetry Room Fellow at Harvard University and is inaugural Distinguished Visiting Professor at Iowa Writers Workshop.
Pamela Newkirk is an award-winning journalist, a New York University professor, and the author of Diversity Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business, which made TIME
magazine’s 2019 list of “Must-Read” books. Her previous books include Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, which received am NAACP Image Award and Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media, which won a National Press Club Award. Newkirk’s articles are published in leading newspapers and magazines including TIME, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian
NSangou Njikam is an actor, playwright, and hip-hop theater artist originally from Baltimore, Maryland. His most recent works include Syncing Ink (Flea Theater/Alley Theatre and Joe’s Pub), Re:Definition, I.D., The Rebellious Rhymes of J Nice, and Hands Up: 7 Plays, 7 Testimonials. He currently writes for hip-hop artist Common on his Let Love tour. Njikam received his BFA in acting from Howard University, and is a member of the 2015 Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater. He currently resides in New York.
Antoinette Nwandu is a playwright who also writes for film and television. Her play Pass Over, a New York Times Critic’s Pick, has received more than 15 productions internationally. A filmed version of the play—directed by Spike Lee—is currently Amazon Prime. Nwandu’s prizes include the Whiting Award, the Samuel French Next Step Award, the Cullman Prize, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, and the Sky Cooper Prize. Writing credits include: Episode of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (Season 2) on Netflix and the film adaptation of the short story “Wash Clean the Bones” for Amazon Studios. Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan.
Adesola Osakalumi is an award-winning actor, choreographer, singer, and dancer who has seen successes in film, television, and on Broadway. He was an original cast member and lead of the Tony Award winning musical FELA! He also stars in the upcoming Tonya Pinkins film “Red Pill” and was in IBRAHIM (American Black Film Festival Short Finalist) and Cycle (Pan African Film Festival Short Selection). Adesola co–founded the legendary GhettOriginal Productions Dance Company and co-directed “Jam on the Groove,” the first Off-Broadway Hip Hop theater production. It received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Best Choreography.
Marcia Pendelton is the founder and president of Walk Tall Girl Productions, a boutique marketing, audience development, and group sales agency for the performing arts, with a special emphasis placed on the theater. Now celebrating its 20th year, the company’s mission is to make the arts accessible to the widest possible audience. The company produces the Black Theater Preview in association with AUDELCO Inc. Pendelton is also a principal owner of Go Tell It! Productions, a company dedicated to telling stories that celebrate our common humanity in theater, television, film, and other media. www.walktallgirlproductions.com. Photo Credit: D’Ambrose Boyd.
Norma Perez-Hernandez is an assistant editor at Kensington Publishing Corporation. It has been said that “her warmth and insight make her a powerful combination of uplifting and helpful. Perez-Hernandez is deeply committed to diversity in the publishing world. She has worked on a variety of projects, including fiction, romance, mysteries, thrillers and non-fiction. A New York City native, Perez-Hernandez studied English literature at Macaulay College of the City University of New York and is a graduate of the Publishing Certificate Program at City College.
Liza Jessie Peterson is an activist; an actress, playwright, author, and poet. Her critically acclaimed one woman show, The Peculiar Patriot, premiered at the National Black Theater in Harlem, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and received a generous grant from Agnes Gund’s prestigious Art for Justice Fund. Liza performed The Peculiar Patriot in over 35 penitentiaries across the country. She is author of ALL DAY; A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island (Hachette publishing) and was featured in Ava Duvernay’s, The 13th. www.lizajessiep.com
Carl Hancock Rux is an award-winning poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and recording artist. Rux is the author of the novel, Asphalt, the OBIE Award winning play, Talk, and the Village Voice Literary prize-winning collection of poetry, Pagan Operetta. Rux has also worked as a writer and frequent guest performer in dance, collaborating with Marlies Yearby’s Movin’ Spirits Dance Theater, Urban Bush Women, Jane Comfort & Co., Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Martha Clark. Rux received a BESSIE© award for his direction of the Lisa Jones/Alva Rogers dance musical, Stained.
Sandra G. Shannon is Professor Emerita of African American Literature at Howard University. Widely acknowledged as the leading authority on playwright August Wilson, she is founder of the August Wilson Society and author of The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson and August Wilson’s Fences: A Reference Guide. She has served as editor of Modern American Drama: Playwriting in the 1980s and August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. She co-edited August Wilson and Black Aesthetics and Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson. Dr. Shannon was awarded the Winona Lee Fletcher Award for Excellence by the Black Theatre Network.
April R. Silver is a respected cultural arts advocate, published writer, and founder and CEO of AKILA WORKSONGS. Established in 1993, the communications agency honorably and expertly services the public relations and marketing needs of progressive artists, activists, organizations, and social justice initiatives. It also specializes in servicing the worldwide African community. Silver has been covered in The Washington Post, Ms., ESSENCE, EBONY, on CNN, and in many other outlets. Her first book, Be a Father to Your Child, an anthology, was published to critical acclaim. Her second book (2021), is on Black women artists, activists, and healers. www.AKILAWORKSONGS.COM
Aurin Squire is a playwright, screenwriter, theater critic, and journalist. Last year, Squire had six play productions around the country. This year, his Louis Armstrong musical, A Wonderful World world-premiered at Miami New Drama. Currently, Aurin is a producer on the TV shows The Good Fight and Evil. He has been a writer on This Is Us and Braindead. As a journalist, he has worked at The New Republic, Talking Points Memo, American Theater Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and ESPN. He lives in Brooklyn.
Elizabeth Van Dyke is an award-winning actress and director and co-founder and artistic director of Going To The River, a program that supports and produces the work of women playwrights of color. Van Dyke is currently doing pre-production work onpeterpeteat to Send Up, When It Comes Down at Purchase College (State University of New York), which will open in Spring 2020. She has received an AUDELCO Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston and the Ace & Gold Award for Love to All, Lorraine, a solo piece based on the life of Lorraine Hansberry.
Arriel Vinson is a Tin House Winter Workshop alumna and Hoosier who writes about being young, black, and in search of freedom. She earned her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and received a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Catapult, Shondaland, BOOTH, Cosmonauts Avenue, Waxwing, Electric Literature, and others. She is a 2019 Kimbilio Fellow. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Valhalla Correctional Facility and Girls Write Now. https://www.sincerelyarriel.com
“Herukhuti” Sharif Williams is a playwright, stage director, documentary filmmaker, sexologist, and cultural studies scholar. His work has been performed or screened at various venues including Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Village of Arts and Humanities, and Ashé Power House Theatre. He is an undergraduate professor of Socially Engaged Art at Goddard College and adjunct associate professor in the Applied Theatre graduate program at the School of Professional Studies, City University of New York. www.sacredsexualities.org and www.nohomonohetero.com
Shay Youngblood is a writer, visual artist, teacher, and mentor. The author of several novels, collections of short stories and numerous essays, her published plays have been widely produced. Her short stories have been performed at Symphony Space and recorded for NPR’s Selected Shorts. Youngblood received her MFA in playwriting from Brown University. Her current projects include children’s books, a graphic novel, and multimedia performance installation work on architecture, memory, and the environment inspired by research in Japan, China, and the United States. She is an artist board member of Yaddo. Photo Credit: Miriam Phields. www.shayyoungblood.com
15th NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
PARTICIPANTS – PRESENTATION OF CONFERENCE PAPERS
Allia Abdullah-Matta is an Associate Professor of English at CUNY LaGuardia Community College. As an educator and writer, she strives to address the power and politics of creative expression and voice as essential instruments of social justice practice and transformation. She was the co-recipient of CCNY Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Poetry (2018). Her poetry has been published in Newtown Literary, Promethean, Marsh Hawk Review, Mom Egg Review Vox, and Global City Review.
Arlene Ducao is an engineer, educator, and researcher who investigates the relationship between the natural landscape, our built environments, and ourselves. Ducao is a principal and cofounder of Multimer, an EOWOSB-certified spin-off from MIT Media Lab. She is also a recipient of the SXSW Community Service Award for her work on satellite mapping in Indonesia, an engineering instructor at NYU, a research affiliate at MIT, a satellite data analyst for Save Lamu of Kenya, and an organizer-advocate at FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality).
Kristin Hunt is a writer and director from Atlanta, GA. She self-published her first chapbook, I’m Much Better on Paper, in 2017, and her poems have been featured in The Write Launch. She founded Kristin Hunt Productions in 2018 and wrote and directed a short film titled, “Don’t Let it Smoke You: The Documentary”. Hunt aims to combine her love for poetry and film to inspire others.
Christina Knowles is a Master’s Candidate in the Literature, Language, and Theory Program at Hunter College; her thesis is in Black Feminist Theory. Christina graduated from the University at Albany with a BA in English Literature and Communications and Rhetoric. She is a member of a Caribbean immigrant family and currently resides in the Bronx, NY. Knowles currently serves as the President of Hunter College’s Graduate Student Body and works at an NPO for human trafficking and domestic violence.
Iyun Osagie is Professor of English at Oregon State University. She teaches Black Transnational Literatures and Theories, Black Modernisms, African American Writers, Black Playwrights, Performance Studies, African Literature, Third World Feminisms, and Postcolonial Studies. She is the author of African Modernity and the Philosophy of Culture in the Works of Femi Euba (Lexington Books, 2017), The Amistad Revolt: Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the US and Sierra Leone (University of Georgia Press, 2000, 2003), and the edited collection Theater in Sierra Leone: Five Popular Plays (Africa World Press, 2009).
Dr. Pearlie Peters is Professor of English and Director of the Multicultural Studies program at Rider University. She is author of the book, The Assertive Woman in Zora Neale Hurston’s Fiction, Folklore and Drama.
Britt Threatt graduated from Rhodes College with BAs in English literature and theatre; she earned a MA in Africana Studies from Brown University. Her research intersects performance studies, literary theory, and women’s history. She studies how concerns about health, wellness, and safety are expressed through Black women’s art.
Nsubuga Bright Titus graduated with a BA in Social Sciences at Makerere University Kampala- Uganda. His MA is in Peace and Conflict Studies at European Peace University, in Stadtschlaining, Austria. Titus’ research is on conflict dimensions in the African context, particularly Uganda, Kenya and Sudan. His current focus and interest are on New Identities: Dimensions of Activism, Identity politics and Self Representation. He is currently an MA candidate studying Cultural Differences and Transnational Processes at the Institute of Culture and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna- Austria.
Nicole Walker holds a BA with Honors from Brown University. She has published work with Heinemann, Houghton Mifflin, Pearson, and Macmillan McGraw-Hill, and she is currently getting her masters in Rhetoric and Writing from Lehman College.
Alexander Wright studied Sociology with a focus in Social Psychology at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently employed at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and has made it his life’s work to heal the sick and bring relief to the ailing, both physically and emotionally.
15TH NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
PARTICIPANTS POETRY CAFÉ
Hermina Marcellin is a St. Lucian poet, writer, actress, educator and mother. Her poems, “It is Written for Derek Walcott,” and “Phoenix Rising,” are published in Wadabagei; The Journal for Scholars, Students community Leaders and Sustainable Developers. (http://wadabagei.org/creativewritings.html) Hermina is currently employed at Medgar Evers College as an English Professor and the Radio Host of Caribbean Focus which airs every Sunday at 6:30 pm on Mec Radio WYNYE-91.5 FM and WMEC.com.
Caridad De La Luz aka La Bruja, is a multi-faceted performer as a singer, actor, MC, poet and writer, named in the “Top 20 Puerto Rican Women Everyone Should Know” (La Respuesta), and is a “Bronx Living Legend” with a Citation of Merit from the Bronx Borough President and The Edgar Allan Poe Award from The Bronx Historical Society. Her creative practice includes creating several original musical theater productions, two complete albums (“Brujalicious” and “For Witch It Stands”), and a book of original poems, The Poetician. She hosts Monday Night Open Mics and curates a monthly series called BEATNIX.
2019 YOUTH POET LAUREATE
Camryn Bruno is a 19 year-old Queens born spoken word poet and is the 2019 Youth Poet Laureate for New York City. She was the winner of The 2017 Trinidad and Tobago First Citizens National Poetry Slam and the 2017 Ms. Tobago Heritage Personality Queen. With many other titles under her belt, she is internationally recognized, has performed at the MET Museum, Apollo Theater’s Women of the World Festival, and is a two-time participant of the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival.
M.A. Dennis (or Many Attitudes of Dennis) is a spoken word poet with a journalism degree, who has been described as “a tour de force of nature.” He uses his writing and voice to provide awareness, encouragement and enlightened entertainment. M. A.’s was the 2019 Life*vest* poetry slam champion. He was a featured poet at the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Audre Lorde reading and has overcome suicidal depression caused by homelessness.
Chevon Guthrie is a spoken word poet currently attending St. John’s University. His work stems from lifelong loves of discourse and Hip Hop. His initial taste for performing came as a member of St. John University’s first ever College Union Poetry Slam Team in 2018. He’s since performed, competed and won awards across the east coast at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Bric House Brooklyn, Green Earth Poets Cafe & more.
Kirk Hill Jr. is a writer, singer, and actor from Harlem, NY. Having shown creative interest from an early age, Hill sought to educate himself in the arts, eventually attending North Carolina A&T State University and graduating with a BFA in Theatre. Hill has a blog and podcast, The Hill Revue.
John Gavin White is a poet, essayist and educator. With dual degrees in Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies, White’s research is centered in “the poetic of black male self-recovery in the U.S.” White has been featured several times on the world famous Apollo amateur night and has performed or lectured at a number of universities which include the University of Minnesota, Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland and the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal in South Africa.
15th NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
THE DR. EDITH ROCK ELDERS WRITERS WORKSHOP
Amber Magruder is a freelance writer from Chicago, now residing in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Adelphi University and has taught writing courses at many institutions in New York City over the last ten years. Currently, she is a writer and editor in the Communications Department at Medgar Evers College and has recently completed her first manuscript, The Cubicle.
Glenda Martin Pollard was born and reared in the Edenwald Projects circa mid 1950’s. After graduating from Cardinal Spellman H.S., she eventually earned a B.S. from CCNY and a BSN from Columbia University. Glenda worked as a Registered Nurse for over 30 years. Now retired she is happy to pursue her childhood passion of writing. Pollard is also very much steeped into holistic health modalities and is a Tibetan Usui Reiki Master, Therapeutic Touch practitioner, and Polarity therapist. She has two wonderful sons -Jason and Jordan and three lovely granddaughters to date: Imani, Xaria, and Naima.
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. Cooper 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.
Ivan Donovan is a native New Yorker who received his primary and secondary education in Manhattan. After graduation from Shaw University with a BA in English, Donovan was hired by the NYC Human Resources Administration as a caseworker. His employment lasted 4 months, as he was drafted and served in Vietnam as an Army Medic. Upon separation from the military, Donovan rejoined the HRA, where he worked in various capacities. During that time he earned his MS in Human Resource Management from Pepperdine University and retired as a Director of Building Services. Donovan’s passions include travelling, scuba diving, and photography.
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 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.
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.
Claudette Joy Spence holds a M.S. degree in Communications from the City University of New York. She has been a community worker in both the U.S. and the Caribbean for more than 30 years. Claudette is an educator; justice advocate; author; lay leader and visual artist. Claudette self identifies as African American – an African soul birthed in Jamaica- who enjoys laughter and especially the sound of children at play. The ever-popular Nurturing the Garden of Joy is the textbook for her SUSTAINABLE JOY workshops.
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, Suecsun moved from D.C.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 the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation for many years before she retired. Suescun 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. Goodison Tompkins 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, she has volunteered as a volleyball coach, Brownie GirlScout Leader, and cheerleading coach. She has a son, daughter, two grandsons, and one great-grandson.