Voices of Liberation- NBWC 2015 Biennial Symposium Biographies

2015 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium


View Symposium program now.



CR:  Brian Bowen Smith/FOXDanny Glover (photo by Brian Bowen Smith/FOX) has been a commanding presence in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. From the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise in film to hit television shows such as ER, Glover has portrayed a myriad of popular roles and has distinguished himself as one of his generation’s most consummate actors.

Glover’s performances in such classic motion pictures as The Color Purple, Witness, and Places in the Heart have not only showcased his talent and versatility but have also brought him critical and audience acclaim. Glover has used his success and artistic expression as platforms for instilling social awareness and action in individuals and communities. In 2005, Glover cofounded Louverture Films with writer/producer Joslyn Barnes to develop and produce films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value, and artistic integrity. This New York-based company has produced a slate of progressive features and documentaries including Trouble the Water, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975; and the award-winning feature Bamako.

Glover has also gained respect for his wide-reaching community activism and philanthropic efforts, with a particular emphasis on advocacy for economic justice and access to health care and education. He has been politically active on issues involving educational programs for underserved communities in the United States, global human rights and AIDS. Glover currently serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

Glover is a native of San Francisco, California, and a devoted father and grandfather. He is a graduate of San Francisco State University and was trained at the Black Actors Workshop of the American Conservatory Theatre. In 2014, Glover received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from University of San Francisco.


Lindamichelle Baron jpeg Mistress of Ceremony – Dr. Lindamichelle Baron, a former New York City public school teacher, is presently chair of the Department of Teacher Education at York College (CUNY) in New York City. Baron has been publisher and president of Harlin Jacque Publications, a publishing and educational consulting firm for more than 20 years. As an author and poet, Lindamichellebaron’s (Baron’s pen name) books include: The Sun Is On (listed as a recommended book for New York State middle schools), For the Love of Life (2008), Anthony Ant and Grady Grasshopper (2002), and The Lion and the Man: A Fable (2008). In 2013, Baron was awarded Educator of the Year by the Middle School Principals Association. In 2008, she was one of the 25 Influential Black Women in Business by The Network Journal. Baron lives in Hempstead, New York, where she was honored with the official designation of Village Griot. To find out more, visit her Web site, Lindamichellebaron.com.

Kierna MayoMistress of Ceremony-  Kierna Mayo has written about culture and lifestyle for over 20 years. Her critically acclaimed writings have appeared in major national magazines including ESSENCE, Marie Claire, Glamour, Seventeen, Vibe and Uptown among others. Most notably, Kierna is also the co-founder and founding Editor-in-Chief of Honey magazine. Recognized for its visionary editorial direction, Honey became the first of a new genre in American magazine publishing—a young, female demographic influenced by an emerging hip-hop culture. Kierna is the former Editorial Director of Tyra.com, where she developed a cutting-edge, online women’s magazine for Tyra Banks’ Bankable Enterprises. She is also former online editor at Cafemom.com.

Post Honey, Kierna developed a 1.0 Black girls’ web venture, LikePepper.com, and was later chosen to oversee the new direction of Essence Girl, a magazine supplement for millions of ‘tween and teen African American girls. From there she served as senior editor of Cosmogirl. During her tenure, she became a founding member of the Hearst Diversity Council, an executive body created to increase minority representation within the company. In the earliest part of Kierna’s career she was an editor at The Source magazine where she covered the politics of hip-hop culture, and at City Limits magazine where she served on the development committee of NYC progressive policy think tank, Center for an Urban Future. Kierna’s work has been featured in several books including And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, and cited in numerous academic texts including The Invention of Race: Black Culture and the Politics of Representation. Before becoming Vice President, Kierna served as the Editorial Director presiding over the newly relaunched EBONY.com.

Kierna is a graduate of Hampton University with a BA in Mass Media Arts. She resides in New York City with her husband and two young sons, all of whom wear hoodies. Follow her on Twitter @kiernamayo.


Greg Carr jpegDr. Greg Carr is associate professor of Africana Studies and chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, and adjunct faculty at the Howard School of Law. Dr. Carr designed the curriculum framework for Philadelphia’s mandatory high school African-American History course and cofounded Philadelphia Freedom Schools, a community-based academic initiative that has involved more than 13,000 K-12 students. Dr. Carr’s publications have appeared in, among other places, The African American Studies Reader, Socialism and Democracy, Africana Studies, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, The National Urban League’s 2012 State of Black America, and Malcolm X: A Historical Reader. He is the First Vice President of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and a former member of the board of the National Council
for Black Studies Dr. Carr has been named Professor of the Year several times by Howard student organizations and was named 2013–2014 “HBCU Male Faculty Member of the Year” at the fourth annual HBCU Media Week Awards in a nationwide poll of students. He has led or co-led student study-abroad courses in South Africa and/or Egypt six times. Dr. Carr is a frequent commentator in a wide range of print and electronic media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Le Monde, USA Today, MSNBC, National Public Radio, TV-One, BBC World, BBC America, CCTV, C-SPAN, MTVu, Voice of America, News One Now (With Roland Martin), “The Tavis Smiley Show,” “The Dianne Rheim Show,” Diverse Magazine, and CNN, as well as a range of local radio, television and cybermedia outlets. Dr. Carr blogs at drgregcarr.com and can be reached in social media on Twitter at @AfricanaCarr.


Rashidah Ismaili AbuBakrRashidah Ismaili AbuBakr is originally from West Africa. She has been involved in higher education and the arts for more than four decades. Her most recently published book is titled Autobiography of the Lower Side (Northampton House Press, 2014). Her works are widely anthologized and she has two collections of poetry and a play published by Africa World Press. Her poems have been published in a wide range of journals; Renaissance Noire/Black Renaissance, Quiddity; and a dirge she wrote for the late South African artist Dumile Femi was published in the Johannesburg Museum of Arts’ retrospect of the artist’s life. For the past 35 years she has continued to run Salon d’ Afrique, a meeting place for artists, activists, writers from Africa, the Caribbean and Europe to enjoy exchanging ideas and their works.

She currently is on the graduate faculty of the creative writing of the MA and MFA departments at Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where she teaches poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction.


Bridgette DavisBridgett M. Davis is a novelist, essayist, teacher, filmmaker, and curator. She is the author of Into the Go-Slow (The Feminist Press, 2014) which was selected as a best book of 2014 by Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, BookRiot, Bustle, and The Root.com among others. Time Out New York recently named Davis one of “10 New York Authors to Read Right Now.”

Davis’s debut novel, Shifting Through Neutral (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2004), was a finalist for the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award; a Quarterly Black Review best seller and an “Original Voices” selection by Border’s Books. She was selected as 2005 New Author of the Year by Go on Girl! Book Club—the largest national reading group for African-American women.

She is also writer/director of the critically acclaimed, award-winning film Naked Acts. A major advocate for promoting and nurturing literary talent by people of color, Davis is the books editor for the Black culture site Bold As Love Magazine (boldaslove.us); founder and curator the Brooklyn reading series Sundays @;and a founding member of ringShout, a group dedicated to celebrating and promoting ambitious literary work by African-American writers.

She has been a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. Her reviews and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Essence, O, The Oprah Magazine,TheRoot.com, Salon, and Writers Digest.

A professor at Baruch College, CUNY, she teaches creative writing and journalism, and is director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program and Co-Academic Director of the University’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program, (FFPP) where she facilitates writing workshops for female and minority faculty seeking to complete and publish their creative works. A graduate of Spelman College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Davis lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and daughter.


David Henderson’sDavid Henderson’s poetry books include the award-winning De Mayor of Harlem and Neo-California. He is a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Poetry, as well as grants from the California and New York foundations for the arts. His biography ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child is available in a new 2009 revised and updated edition. His “Bob Kaufman, Poet,” a two-hour audio documentary of the African-America Beat poet, was distributed via satellite over NPR and Pacifica Radio stations and is now available from the Pacifica Program Service. Henderson has performed and recorded with various jazz musicians, including Ornette Coleman, Butch Morris, and Sun Ra. A founding member of the legendary Umbra Poets Workshop, he is the editor of the forthcoming “Umbra Omnibus.” His most recent poetry publication Obama Obama (2012) is available as an e-book from Amazon/Kindle.



Heroes Are Gang Leaders

Heroes Are Gang LeadersHeroes Are Gang Leaders is a language-and sound-based literary-hip jazz transbluesy trio featuring Thomas Sayers Ellis (poet), James Brandon Lewis (saxophone), Luke Stewart (bass). Prophet Lee Davison (Amiri Ad libs) is an 11-year-old who attends Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn, New York.

Part avant-garde, part standard traditional “in the tradition” trio, performances include instrumental mash-ups, strange brews ranging from Prokofiev to Sun Ra, canonical texts with original work by each member, the poetry of Thomas Sayers Ellis, as well as improvised collaborations. In 2014, the trio team with other poets and musicians to record “The Amiri Baraka Sessions.”


Thomas Sayers EllisPhotographer and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis cofounded The Dark Room Collective in 1988. He is the author of The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (both from Graywolf Press). In 2014, he cofounded Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a group of poets and musicians, and recorded ‘The Amiri Baraka Sessions.” His recent work has appeared in PLUCK!, Best American Poetry 2015, Tin House, The Paris Review, The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop and Poetry. In 2015, he was the Richard Hugo Visiting Writer at the University of Montana and the Sterling A. Brown Professor of Humanities at Howard University.



Luke Stewart_croppedLuke Stewart
is a multi-instrumentalist hailed as
“One of the hardest working creative musicians in D.C.” by Twins Jazz. Luke has performed with the legendary saxophonist
Marshall Allen and with Danny Ray Thompson,
both seminal members of Sun Ra’s Arkestra.




James Brandon Lewis_croppedJames Brandon Lewis is a saxophonist and composer earning a bachelors from Howard University and a Master of Fine arts degree from California Institute of the Arts. Ebony Magazine hailed James as one of seven jazz musicians to watch in today’s scene. His second album, “Divine Travels,” was released by historic imprint Okeh Records via Sony and features William Parker , Gerald Cleaver, and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis.



Randall Horton_Approved_croppedRandall Horton (poet) is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea González Poetry Award and most recently a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in literature. Horton is a Cave Canem Fellow and a member of the Affrilachian Poets. Triquarterly/Northwestern University Press is the publisher of his latest poetry collection Pitch Dark Anarchy. Horton is assistant professor of English at the University of New Haven.



Ryan FrazierRyan T. Frazier (trumpet) is a musician, writer, and physicist based in Philadelphia. As a musician, he has been a contributor to Philadelphia’s free jazz and Afro-futurist punk scenes for almost a decade. He has performed or recorded with a wide range of musicians and artists, from the underground hip-hop/punk band Mighty Paradocs, to renowned poets Sonia Sanchez and Thomas Sayers Ellis, and principle free jazz bassist William Parker. With his own band, Napoleon Dolomite, his musical approach is built from the mathematics of Thelonious Monk and Eric Dolphy, along with those of Wu Tang Clan and MF Doom, set in a rhythmic and free cosmic sound vision. Studying music and jazz culture/tradition with the great Donald Byrd as a teenager, he is currently an apprentice in the Sun Ra Arkestra, studying under its legendary director, Marshall Allen. Having studied African and African-American literature at Hampton University, his current research focuses on the energy dynamics of human culture, using language and the culture of bebop to build a model of the cosmos, its function, composition, and origin. He has taught music at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, in Oakland, California, as well as in Philadelphia correctional institutions.


Janice LoweJanice Lowe (piano) is a New York City-based composer and poet. She has composed and created vocal arrangements for the bands Digital Diaspora and w/o a net. Her works for musical theater include “Langston and Zora,” book by Charles E. Dre Jr. (Wild Project) Lil’ Budda, text by Stephanie L. Jones (Eugene O’Neill National Musical Theater Conference; NAMT Festival of New Musicals) and “Sit-In at the Five & Dime,” libretto by Marjorie Duffield (New Harmony Project.) She is librettist and composer of the opera “Dusky Alice.” She created music for the plays “Born of Conviction” (Irondale Arts) by Kathryn Dickinson; “12th and Clairmount” (Stage Left, Chicago) by Jenni Lamb;”Door of No Return” by Nehassaiu deGannes and Shafrika; “The White Girl” by Anika Larson. She is the librettist of “Little Bird Loose,” a song cycle collaboration with composer Nils Olaf Dolven. Her poems have been published in journals including Callaloo, The Hat, and American Poetry Review. She is a cofounder of the Dark Room Collective and of Absolute Theater Co. Lowe is a frequent contributor to Write Night @Frank’s Lounge.


Margaret MorrisMargaret Morris (vocals) is a vocalist and improvisor who integrates her backgrounds in classical operatic and extended vocal techniques. She is a longtime collaborator with Chicago-based choreographer J’Sun Howard. In 2013, she co-founded New York City-based women’s choral and improvisation a capella ensemble LushTongue with Onome.  Onome and Morris performed under the moniker Inner Child, a collaborative, multidisciplinary performance trio with Keisha Turner at Chicago and New York City venues including Links Hall and Wow Cafe Theater. Morris was featured in The Exponential experimental album “Encuentro” with Ben Perkins and Brian Murray, with whom she performed throughout 2011–2012. Morris worked as a choreographer in Chicago where she was honored to be a Chicago Dancemakers Forum LAb Artist, a Link-Up resident artist with Links Hall, and collaborated with local dance artists including Asimina Chremos, Ni’ja Whitson, Angela Gronroos, Ayako Kato, and Erika Wilson Perkins.  Her practices of contact improvisation and authentic movement continue to inform her work.



Jamal JosephJamal Joseph credits the time he spent as a youth in the Black Panther Party and  Leavenworth Federal Prison as the fire that forged his creative sword. He is a professor of Professional Practice and the former chair of Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program. As an artist/activist, he has worked in film, theater, spoken word, music, and books. He has written and directed for Starz, HBO, Fox TV, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., and A&E. His produced screenplays include “Ali: An American Hero” (Fox); “New York Undercover” (Fox); “Knights of the South Bronx” (A&E); and “The Many Trials of Tammy B.” (Nickelodeon). He wrote and directed “Drive By: A Love Story,” “Da Zone,” and the docudrama “Hughes Dreams Harlem” (PBS.) His memoir Panther Baby, based on his experiences as a youth in the Black Panther Party, has been recently published by Algonquin Books. He has also the author of Tupac Legacy, an interactive biography about Tupac Shakur. Joseph is the cofounder and artistic director of IMPACT, a Harlem-based youth theatre company, and executive director of New Heritage Films, a not-for-profit organization that provides training and opportunities for minority filmmakers. Jamal Joseph wrote and directed the independent feature film “Chapter and Verse,” starring Daniel Beaty, Loretta Divine, and Omari Hardwick. He has received a Cine Golden Eagle, a Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award, a Union Square Award, and a best song Oscar nomination for the film “August Rush.”


Christian Ademola LewisBrooklyn born and raised Christian Ademola Lewis is a student at Medgar Evers, a poet, an aspiring recording artist and a social activist.  Majoring in Psychology, he hopes to help people help themselves, learning from first hand experience that if we don’t help one another to become better people, then we’ll end up no where.  His parents instilled in him a very strong will and a foundation on black pride, knowing one self, knowing where we come from so we can know where we’re going.

As a poet he’s been proactive in “Urban Word NYC” since 2009.  Having both parents supportive and open minded in how to help their child express himself and finding a creative outlet, it was greatly open in his household.  Performing across New York City at famous poetry venues like the Bowery Poetry Club and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe he’s an avid performer.  He’s also performed at many schools throughout the boroughs on behalf of Urban Word NYC on helping inspire the children in the D.O.E use something they’re not traditionally taught to use as a creative way to express themselves.

Ademola envisions helping youth to use spoken word as a platform for therapy. As a result, children can uplift their spirits with the power of their own words.  The possibilities are endless and as an elder told him “We are the impossible people”.


Haki R. Madhubuti_Dr.Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti—poet, publisher, and educator—has published over thirty books including YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life; Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1967-2009; Honoring Genius, Gwendolyn Brooks: The Narrative of Craft, Art, Kindness and Justice ; and the best-selling Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? The African American Family in Transition. He founded Third World Press in 1967. He is a founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept School, and a cofounder of Betty Shabazz International Charter School, Barbara A. Sizemore Middle School, and DuSable Leadership Academy, all of which are in Chicago. Among his many honors and awards, Dr. Madhubuti received the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award presented by Poets & Writers Magazine and was honored along with his wife at the 2014 DuSable Museum’s Night of 100 Stars Celebration. He retired in 2011 after a distinguished teaching career that included Chicago State University and DePaul University where he served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor.


sam pollard jpegSam Pollard is an accomplished feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director whose work spans almost 30 years.  He recently completed as producer/director a 90-minute documentary titled “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand” for the PBS series “American Masters.”

His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton’s Blackside production “Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads.”  For one of his episodes in this series, he received an Emmy Award. Eight years later, he returned to Blackside as coexecutive producer/producer of Hampton’s last documentary series “I’ll Make Me a World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community,” for which he received The George Peabody Award.

Between 1990 and 2010, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films:  “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Jungle Fever,” “Girl 6,” “Clockers,” and” Bamboozled.”  Pollard and Lee coproduced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen:  “Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson,” a biographical sketch for HBO for which Pollard received an Emmy Award; “Four Little Girls,” a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, which was nominated for an Academy Award; and “When The Levees Broke,” a four-part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. In 2010, he coproduced and supervised the edit on the follow-up to “Levees” titled “If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise.”

 Pollard completed as a producer/director “Slavery By Another Name,” a 90-minute documentary for PBS that was in competition at the Sundance Festival in 2012; that same year he edited the feature-length documentary “Venus and Serena” that was televised on Showtime.


SapphireSapphire is the author of two best-selling novels, Push and The Kid. Push was made into the Academy Award-winning major motion film Precious, and the film adaptation received the Academy Award for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. Sapphire’s work has been translated into thirteen languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States and Europe. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in The Black Scholar, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Teacher’s Voice,
The New Yorker, Spin, and Bomb.



Jacqueline WoodsonJacqueline Woodson is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. The author of more than two dozen books for young adults, middle graders and children, among many awards, she is also a three-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a Coretta Scott King Award winner.  Her books include The Other Side, Each Kindness, Beneath the Meth Moon, the Caldecott Honor Book Coming On Home Soon,  Feathers, and Miracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and was adapted into a miniseries directed by Spike Lee.  Woodson is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, the winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and was the 2013 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.


View Symposium program now.