15TH NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE (NBWC2020)
(All bios current as of November 12, 2020)
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-1970s, 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
Pre-Conference and Main Conference PARTICIPANTS
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 of 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 currently a visiting lecturer at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Rothwell Mellon Program Director for Creative Futures with Carolina Performing Arts. He 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 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. Keith’s Great Migration play, The West End, is scheduled to premiere in 2021 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. His play The People Before the Park is scheduled for 2021 production at his alma-mater the University of Iowa. The author of numerous short plays, some of Keith’s full-length plays include Pitbulls (Rattlestick NYC), Safe House (St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Aurora), The Last Saint on Sugar Hill (National Black Theater, MPAACT), and more. His sci-fi radio play, The Bug Pod, was developed with NYC’S Flea Theater’s hard-working BATS and aired on NPR. Keith has been commissioned and/or developed by the Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Hansberry Project, Premiere Stages, Mark Taper Forum, the Alliance Theater, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival, among others. He was recently commissioned by the Apollo Theater in New York City to commission and curate short works for the Apollo’s inaugural season at their new Victoria Theater. Keith is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, Samuel French’s inaugural Award for Impact and Activism in the Theater Community as well as National Black Theater’s Teer Spirit Award. He is also the artistic director of The New Black Fest, a 10-year-old theater organization committed to fostering new and insurgent voices from the African Diaspora. Keith is a former arts and culture blogger for TheRoot and has made pundit appearances on NPR and BBC Radio.
His TV writing includes a new TV series for Netflix by Marti Noxon, P-Valley on Starz, Netflix’s Outer Banks, ABC’s For the People, The Good Fight on CBS All-Access, and Girlfriends (now available on Netflix). Keith recently sold an original one-hour drama to Netflix through Regina King’s Royal Ties. He’s currently developing a sci-fi TV project with JJ Abrams’s Bad Robot. His feature horror film, The Night Man, is currently being shopped by indie producers and his horror film, The Turnpike, was a recent finalist at Urbanworld Film Festival.
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 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.
Dr. Zulema Blair is currently a professor and chairperson of the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College (MEC) of the City University of New York (CUNY). She is the only faculty member at MEC to have both Juris Doctorate and a PhD. She has served as the director (formerly a dean title) of the Freshman Year Program, where she made marked improvements to the freshman curriculum and recruitment, enrollment, and retention (largest in the past six years) of First-time Freshman (FTF) students. She was also coordinator of the American Democracy Project (ADP), a national organization that is committed to producing graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy. Through ADP, Dr. Blair led the faculty to increase voter registration and voter turnout throughout the Central Brooklyn community. She also served as Deputy Director of the Du Bois Bunche Center for Public Policy.
Dr. Blair’s expertise includes Analysis of Social Class, Political Behavior, Elections, and Research Methodology. Her book Participation at the Margins: Is it Race or Class? investigates the theories put forth by students of political participation and goes a step further to analyze voters by social class. She has also written on Black mayoral leadership in medium-sized cities, how low-income populations should be defined, and the benefits of civic engagement to colleges of access. Her academic activities also spill over into the community where she has chaired the Black Brooklyn Empowerment Coalition, an organization committed to the political, economic, and social empowerment of people of African descent in Brooklyn. Her role within this organization has motivated her to work collaboratively with other community leaders to empower members of the Central Brooklyn community via voter registration drives, political campaigns, and higher education issues. She uses these experiences and expertise to consult on the decennial Census and Redistricting projects as well as local political campaigns. She is also a respected analyst at political science conferences.
Dr. Blair received her PhD in political science and a master’s in Public Administration from Binghamton University, where she was the recipient of the Clifford D. Clark Fellowship; her JD from New York Law School, and a BA from Boston College. She is also the proud mother of two sons.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall’s many books include Race, Law, and American Society:1607–Present (2013), The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice (2016) and the forthcoming She Took Justice: The Black Women, Law, and Power. Her poem “white privilege” appeared in Esthetic Apostle. She is a professor at John Jay College (CUNY), a civil rights attorney, and produced playwright with award-winning essays in The Milwaukee Courier. Browne-Marshall is at work on her first novel.
Shafika Burke is a student at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. Originally from St Vincent, Shafika is an English major who will graduate in January 2021 and she plans to become an English professor. She especially enjoys reading books that highlight the struggles of African Americans.
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.
CR Capers is the CEO of Harlem Film House, a 501(c)(3) organization that operates year-round with film festivals, workshops, theatre productions, live events, and business consulting to filmmakers and content creators in underserved communities around the world. The Harlem Film House creates an economic ecosystem by providing filmmakers with funding for film projects while also offering educational services to ensure longevity in their careers in film, theater, and their entrepreneurial pursuits within the industry.
CR is also the founder of the Hip Hop Film Festival and director of documentaries, shorts, and commercials via her production company MBS Films.
Chief Baba Neil Clarke is a master African-centered percussionist, educator, independent scholar, and former fellow at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. An award-winning musician, Chief Baba Neil has collaborated and performed with countless revered artists all over the world, including Dianne Reeves, Phyllis Hyman, Third World, Norman Connors, David Sanborn, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston (for nearly three decades), and Mr. Harry Belafonte (for more than a decade). Also, Clarke studied with and was mentored by some of the world’s master percussionists, notably “Chief” James H. Bey, Baba Kwame Ishangi, Ladji Camara, Olukose Wiles, Souleye Diop, and Orlando “Puntia” Rios, among others.
The Brooklyn native has been grounded in Yoruba and Orisa traditions (and other African spiritual systems) since he was 13. Clarke enjoys educating students about his lifelong passion and has taught, lectured, or been featured at Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn Historical Society, Harvard University, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and countless other institutions.
Kayode Afolabi Clarke is an open-minded, independent thinker who proudly embraces his African traditions and culture. His friends and family call him Afolabi, which means “born with honor and dignity.” This native New Yorker is a third-generation African American percussionist and fourth-generation track athlete. A well-rounded teen whose interests include marine biology, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the world of Jurassic Park, Afolabi believes that “You should never be limited to one thing. You should be able to branch out and learn how to talk and communicate with lots of different people.” Afolabi is currently a junior at East Meadow High School in Long Island, N.Y.
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.
Vinson Cunningham 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
Lee A. Daniels has been a reporter for WGBH-TV, The Washington Post and The New York Times; and an editor of the National Urban League’s The State of Black America. He has collaborated on books with Rachel Robinson and Vernon E. Jordan Jr., and is the author of Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America (2008).
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.
Maria DeLongoria is currently chair of the Department of Social & Behavioral Science and executive director of the Caribbean Research Center at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. Her research agenda includes lynching of Black women; racial, ethnic, and cultural identity; popular culture; and Black women’s teaching and leadership pedagogies. DeLongoria is also a panelist on the cable TV show Brooklyn Savvy, which focuses on edgy, informative programming that gives voice to social issues from a woman’s perspective.
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 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.
Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and impact strategist from NYC. Her editing debut won an Emmy, and she has continued to distinguish herself as a producer, editor, and director. Sabrina was selected for the prestigious Women at Sundance career fellowship, followed by an invitation to become a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Her film Quest premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, nominated for a Peabody, two Emmys, an Independent Spirit Award, and is a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Sabrina is featured in Vogue magazine, discussing the making of the film, and disrupting American narratives about race. Sabrina also co-directed, produced and edited the Emmy-nominated BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, for which she won Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color at the African Diaspora Film Festival. She produced and edited Documented, which had record viewership on CNN and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Best Documentary. Her feature debut as a producer and editor, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, also premiered at Sundance and was one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Best Documentaries of 2007. Sabrina also produces and consults on engagement and impact campaigns and is a contributor to platforms such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, Frontline, American Masters, The Ford Foundation, and more.
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.
Marcus Guillory is currently a writer/producer on BET’s Sacrifice. Previously, he’s written for Fox’s Empire, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, VH1’s The Breaks, and BET’s Tales. He sold his hour pilot The Turf to BET and has a short-form animation series at FXX called Star Blak. His screenplay Gully, which went through the 2016 Sundance Writers Lab, starring Jonathan Majors, Terrence Howard, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Travis Scott and others, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Guillory is a 2017 PEN/Faulkner Reading Series lecturer speaking on a panel about Class in the Black Community. In his previous life as an entertainment attorney, Marcus represented some of the biggest names in early 2000’s hip-hop including Ruff Ryders Records. As a DJ/musician, Marcus is music partners with Garth Trinidad (KCRW) billed as Trinidad-Senolia. In 2014, Simon & Schuster published his critically acclaimed debut novel, Red Now and Laters, which received a starred Kirkus Review and short-listed for the 2014 Ernest Gaines Award.
Sandra Guzmán is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, author, and documentarian whose work explores American identity at the intersection of culture, race, gender, sexuality, and spirituality. She creates art that fosters empowerment through the telling of stories of people and communities outside the margins by reframing exclusionary narratives and celebrating marginalized voices. Sandra was the last journalist to interview Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison for the artful film Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. She’s the author of The New Latina’s Bible. Her film work has appeared on PBS, Netflix, HULU and HBO, and her stories have aired on NBC News and CNN among others.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and creator of the landmark 1619 Project. In 2017, she received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, known as the Genius Grant, for her work on educational inequality. She has also won a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards, three National Magazine Awards, and the 2018 John Chancellor distinguished journalism award from Columbia University. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a training and mentorship organization geared towards increasing the numbers of investigative reporters of color.
Curtis Harris is founder and executive director of Green Earth Poets Café, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company that exists to promote performing, literacy, self-confidence, communication, community, and educational development among young people in New York City through performance art. Founded in 2013, Green Earth Poets Cafe assists in the development of performance artists and creative writers and inspires, encourages, and empowers adults to discover their voice and express this voice poetically. Green Earth Poets Café has worked with youth as young as five years old at its free Saturday morning poetry writing workshop. It also works with senior citizens helping them create and publish their own Anthology of Poetry and with the incarcerated at NYC prisons. Harris is a candidate for the New York City Council, 35th District, representing Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn, N.Y.
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 throughout 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
Moikgantsi Kgama is founder and executive director of ImageNation Cinema Sol Cafe. Kgama is an audience development specialist and her credits include: I Will Follow, Academy Award-nominated Trouble the Water, and Lumumba to name a few. She is also the founder of the ImageNation Cinema Foundation, a Harlem-based nonprofit media arts organization. Kgama was named one of 25 Women Who Are Shaping the World by Essence, received the Trailblazer Award from Reel Sisters Film Festival, and a proclamation from the City of New York for her work. She resides in New York City’s Harlem community with her husband and partner, Gregory Gates, and their son.
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 Yasiin Bey (formerly known as 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. Learn more at www.kweliclub.com
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.
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 a techno choreopoem entitled Salt City. Learn more at www.jessicacaremoore.com Photo Credit: Kennette Lamar/Annistique Photography.
Shaun Neblett is a Brooklyn-based playwright and theater producer. His plays have been produced Off-Broadway and at national venues such as The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. More importantly, his work has been produced in spaces for Black people’s empowerment such as The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Through his theater company Changing Perceptions Theater, Shaun has created theater education programs throughout New York City. IG: @burntheater Online: www.shaunneblett.com
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 an 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: an 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 nonfiction. 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 13th. www.lizajessiep.com
Dr. Antoinette Roberson, A native Houstonian, is currently senior director Career Management Services at Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York. She is an educational scholar and one of contemporary music’s trailblazers with a career spanning more than 20 years. She has worked with such notable artists as Gerald Levert and Busta Rhymes. She co-wrote, produced, and did vocal arrangements for members of Kirk Franklin’s God Property Choir. She is CEO/President of Antoinette Roberson Consultants.
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
Photo by Solwazi Afi Olusola.
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-topping 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. 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.
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 on What 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
H. “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 an 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.
Educated in the UK, Akula Agbami has lectured at University of Bourgogne, University of Franche-Comte, University of Huddersfield, University of Leeds Beckett, and University of French West Indies. Agbami’s research in literature, theater, and film has examined identity and historic positioning.
Donnetrice Allison, PhD, serves as professor of both Communication Studies and Africana Studies at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey. Dr. Allison has been a Communication Studies scholar for more than two decades and has published several articles and conference presentations on hip-hop culture and media portrayals of African Americans.
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 co-founder 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).
Iyun Osagie is a 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 a 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.
Dr. Mudiwa Pettus, assistant professor, English Composition and Rhetoric at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. Dr. Pettus earned a PhD in English and African American & Diaspora Studies, and an MA in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Composition from Pennsylvania State University. Her research is located at the intersection of rhetorical education, public intellectualism, and poetics, with a focus on the Post-Reconstruction-Pre-Harlem Renaissance Era.
Joanna Sit is the author of three books of poetry—the most recent is Track Works. She is working on a book about 1960s New York Chinese immigrants and Cantonese Opera. She teaches at City University of New York, Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Five Willows, Ezra, and other journals. Her upcoming poem “Roshomon Redux” will appear in the Winter 2020 issue of The Gyroscope Review.
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.
Dr. Carlyle Van Thompson is a Professor of American and African American Literature In the Department of English at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. His publications include The Tragic Black Buck: Racial Masquerading in the American Literary Imagination (2004), Eating the Black Body: Miscegenation as Sexual Consumption in African American Literature (2006), and Black Outlaws: Race, Law, and Male Subjectivity in African American Literature (2010). He has also published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals.
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 – 9th POETRY CAFE
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.
I.S. Jones is a queer American / Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole and holds fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Brooklyn Poets. I. S. hosts a monthlong workshop every April called The Singing Bullet. She co-edited The Young African Poets Anthology: The Fire That Is Dreamed Of and served as the inaugural nonfiction guest editor for Lolwe. She is a book editor with Indolent Books, editor at 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, freelances for Vinyl Me Please, Complex, Earmilk, NBC News Think, and elsewhere. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Washington Square Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shade Literary Arts, and elsewhere. Her work was chosen as a finalist by Khadijah Queen for the 2020 Sublingua Prize for Poetry. She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at UW-Madison, where she was the Inaugural 2019–2020 Kemper K. Knapp University Fellowship recipient. She splits her time between Southern California and New York.
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.
PARTICIPANTS – POETRY SLAM
Nicole Najmah Abraham aka Najmah53 is the 2018 Zanette Lewis Environmental and Social Justice Slam Champion (Yale) and 2018 Black Writers Conference Slam Champion (Medgar Evers College). As a teaching artist, she facilitates workshops, lectures, and programs for justice-involved juveniles, inmates, adults and seniors. She is the program manager of Green Earth Poets Cafe, a 501(c)(3) literary arts nonprofit organization. As an entrepreneur, Najmah’s digital media business, Najm Designs, is known globally for graphics/websites, marketing, and photography, working with notable brands like Gap Inc., and being published in international publications such as Vogue Arabia and Newsweek. She is also the marketing director of the international film production company Halalywood Entertainment. Najmah53’s goal is to continue using her talents to spread powerful messages that foster positive changes in her community.
Tarishi “Midnight” Shuler is a native of New Haven, Conn., that now resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has performed and won various poetry competitions across the country and around the world. He has won the title of CT Grandslam Champion in 2011, 2012, and 2016. He is a 2017 Nuyorican Grand Slam finalist. He won first place at The Martin Luther King Jr. Family Festival of Environmental and Social Justice/Zannette Lewis Invitational Poetry Slam at the Yale Peabody Museum in 2016 and 2017. He is the 2019 Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium Spoken Word Ambassador and he is 2020 Lizard Lounge MVP (Most Valuable Poet) in Cambridge, Mass.
He has opened for Saul Williams at Wesleyan University. He opened for President Bill Clinton at the Madison Ballroom in Time Square for Love146 10th Anniversary. He performed on Hot 97 New York as a tribute for the 15th anniversary of 9/11. He has opened for Grammy-nominated singer Dwele and the legendary Abiodun Oyewole, artist, poet and member of The Last Poets. Schuler is the artistic director of Green Earth Poets. He enjoys connecting people with his art. The most important thing he wants you to know is that your voice needs to be heard.
15th NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
THE DR. EDITH ROCK ELDER WRITERS WORKSHOP
WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR AND MODERATOR
Eisa Nefertari Ulen is the author of Crystelle Mourning (Atria), a novel described by The Washington Post as “a call for healing in the African American community from generations of hurt and neglect.” Eisa 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. Her essays on African American culture have been widely anthologized, most recently “Black Parenting Matters” in Who Do You Serve? Who Do You Protect? (Haymarket), which won the Social Justice / Advocacy Award for 2017 from the School Library Journal’s In the Margins Book Committee. Eisa has contributed to The Hollywood Reporter, Essence, Parents, The Washington Post, Ms. Health, Ebony, Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, Pen.org, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Root, Truthout, The Defenders Online, The Grio, and Creative Nonfiction. Eisa graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. She has taught literature at Hunter College and The Pratt Institute, and she teaches fiction writing at Baruch College. A founding member of ringShout: A Place for Black Literature, she lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.
Glenda Martin Pollard was born and reared in the Edenwald Projects circa mid 1950s. 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 for 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.
William Craig was born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, and he attended schools in Brooklyn and New York City. After graduating from Columbia University College of Pharmacy, he commenced his professional career as a pharmacist. As a pharmacist, he realized that much of the illness that he saw occurred due to poor nutrition. This observation sent him into the nutritional arena and back to school, where he studied naturopathic and allopathic nutrition and completed a postgraduate degree in clinical nutrition. William has been blessed with two children, one who is a social scientist and a published author, residing in Virginia with her family, and the other who is an esquire residing in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. William’s writing, music, and art have served as a release valve for him, which, given the spiritual and social upheaval we are experiencing today, have served him well, as he looks forward to new and greater beginnings!
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 traveling, 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 an 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, a daughter, two grandsons, and one great-grandson.
15th NATIONAL BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE
AFRICAN VOICES/REEL SISTERS AND IMAGENATION SOL CINEMA FILM SERIES
Rev. Malika Lee Whitney, WBAI Radio Show host, is a performing artist, educational consultant, author, and social activist. Her book Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World on the iconic music legend received international acclaim. Interest and support of independent film have evolved into many roles including media coverage as a broadcast producer and host, audience development, guest services, and volunteer coordination.
The New York African Film Festival, Reel Sisters, Human Rights Watch, Jamerica Film Festival, Urban World, Creatively Speaking, Tribeca Film Festival, ImageNation, Independent Filmmaker Project, African Diaspora International Film Festival, Black Documentary Collective, HBO’s Frame by Frame, and Harlem Stage are among the popcorn places she frequents.
Jessica Colquhoun is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Splitting her time between London and Los Angeles, Jess aims to explore people and subcultures with a focus on social and environmental change and impact. Her documentaries Valley of a Thousand Hills (Best Family Film–San Francisco Film Festival 2017) and The Black Mambas (Winner Glamour Magazine x Girl Gaze #NewView Film Competition 2017) are two fine examples of her attention to heart and detail. Her series of photographs entitled “Fired Up!” was recently exhibited at the historic Wiltern Theatre. Clients include Apple Music, FOX, Levi’s, Vice, and Pepsi.
Nicole London is the Grammy-nominated producer of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, a major international documentary on the legendary musician Miles Davis. Her recent credits include American Masters Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, The Talk: Race in America, and 16 short films now playing in the Segregation Gallery of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. Three of her recent films have been nominated for NAACP Image Awards: Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool; American Masters August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand; and Firelight Media’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, the latter of which was also nominated for a 2016 Primetime Emmy.
Stanley Nelson is among the premier documentary filmmakers working today. His feature-length films combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and underexplored aspects of the American past. In addition to honors for his individual films, Nelson and his body of work have garnered every major award in the industry. He is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and was awarded an individual Peabody Award, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and he received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama. 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. The screening marked Nelson’s 10th premiere at the prestigious festival in 20 years, the most premieres of any documentary filmmaker.
Nadhege Ptah is an actor/writer/producer/dancer/director of film, stage, and theater. She began her artistic journey dancing in her mother’s womb and made good on that promise winning awards for choreography and dance with various modern dance ensembles and garnering acknowledgment from The United Nations for her work. She has starred in several leading and supporting roles and has worn many hats for various productions. In 2017, she was selected to participate in the CBS diversity actor’s workshop. All of her work has received critical acclaim. She’s been reviewed on established platforms such as The Huffington Post, Harlem Times, Backstage, and Off-Off-Broadway, to mention but a few. She is a passionate and powerful artist who uses her work to connect deeply with her audience. Her performances always seek to explore the human condition.
Her past projects include three award-winning short films, including Harlem Love, in which she starred, produced, guided and supervised the direction in post-production. It premiered privately in February 2017 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance with Sonia Sanchez, whose voice and poem are featured in the film.
Nadhege Ptah co-produced and directed a multimedia stage performance for the legendary Nana Camille Yarborough and directed the film documentary montage presented at the Schomburg on February 14, 2019. She directed the artist She Loves’ music video. She wrote and directed the multi-award-winning short film Paris Blues in Harlem, in which she also acted alongside several talented and established performers, including Tony Award-winning actress Tonya Pinkins, legendary Broadway star Arthur French, and the artistic director of the Negro Ensemble and actor the late Charles Weldon. Ptah is a member of SAG, AFTRA, AEA, The Cru Black Documentary Collective, and NYWIFT. She wants to inspire and uplift her audience by taking on compelling themes, ideas, and stories.
Marquis Smalls was born and raised in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, where he graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the most respected and distinguished secondary schools in the world. He then went on to graduate from Pennsylvania State University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African/African American Studies and a minor in sociology. Upon graduating from Penn State, Marquis joined Teach for America and concurrently enrolled at New York University’s continuing education screenwriting program to enrich his skills and gain knowledge that would later afford him the opportunity to pursue his passion while becoming an award-winning educator, coach, screenwriter, director, and producer. During his 15-year career as an educator in New Jersey and New York City, Marquis enhanced the lives of many students, leaving a positive and lasting impression in the classroom.
Quincy Troupe is the author of 20 books, including 10 volumes of poetry and three children’s books. His awards include the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, the Milt Kessler Poetry Award, three American Book Awards, the 2014 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, a 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from Furious Flower and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Award, January 25, 2018, in Detroit Michigan. His writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Troupe’s latest book of poems is Errançities (2012). Forthcoming are two new books of poems, Seduction and a book-length poem entitled Ghost Voices (Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press). He is also writing a novel, The Legacy of Charlie Footman; a memoir, The Accordion Years; and an untitled book of nonfiction prose. Mr. Troupe is co-author with Miles Davis of Miles: The Autobiography; Earl the Pearl with Earl Monroe; and The Pursuit of Happyness with Chris Gardner. He is the editor of James Baldwin: The Legacy and co-editor (with Rainer Schulte) of Giant Talk; An Anthology of Third World Literature. Troupe is also the author of the Miles and Me (Seven Stories Press), a chronicle of his friendship with Miles Davis. Mr. Troupe wrote the screenplay for Miles Davis: Birth of The Cool.
President and CEO of iN-Hale Entertainment LLC, Nathan Hale Williams is a storyteller. Named a Black Enterprise Magazine Modern Man of Excellence, Nathan is a multihyphenated entertainment professional, who is an award-winning filmmaker, best-selling and award-winning author, entertainment attorney, and television personality. His film 90 Days, which he wrote, directed and executive produced, was screened at more than 30 top international festivals receiving several “Best” awards, including, an African Movie Academy Award (Africa’s Oscar equivalent) for Best Diaspora Short and Overall Winner. Nathan is the executive producer and producer of the NAACP Image Award and GLAAD Media Award-nominated film Dirty Laundry (FOX/Codeblack). In 2019, a dream came true when Nathan was hired to direct and produce live-action films for Sesame Street’s 49th Season, including films for Elmo’s Wonderful World. His latest film, Burden, which chronicles the micro- and macro-aggressions faced by men of color in America, premiered at the American Black Film Festival and is now being used by Fortune 200 companies in unconscious and racial bias trainings. Currently, he is in post-production for the feature-length documentary It Can Be Done: Ending Homelessness in America, which is scheduled for release in 2020. Nathan is a board member of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival and a founding board member of Emil Wilbekin’s Native Son.
A career content producer, Riley S. Wilson is a writer, director, and producer hailing from Columbia, S.C. A graduate of the Howard School of Business, Wilson got his start reporting at Advertising Age and Creativity-Online before eventually going freelance as a content producer and copywriter for brands. He is the writer and director of Orange Bright, a short film based on his 2011 novella my ID. In 2018, Wilson founded ATS.4 Inc., a production studio and multimedia services provider that specializes in the development and marketing of multimedia and new media, including comic books, television programs, films, animation, games, and interactive content with a specific tilt toward super-serving people of color. His most recent work, Little Apple is the winner of the 2019 American Black Film Festival Jury Award for Best Web Series.