Amiri BarakaAmiri Baraka is a prolific writer, an acclaimed playwright, and a militant political activist. He was key in the formation of the progressive Black Arts Movement in the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. His 1964 Obie Award-winning play Dutchman dramatically and powerfully examines race relations in America. In 2001, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He also received the James Weldon Johnson medal for his contributions to the arts.
Baraka was born Everett Leroy (later LeRoi) Jones on October 7, 1934, in Newark, New Jersey. His father was a postal supervisor and lift operator; his mother was a social worker. Jones attended Rutgers, Howard and Columbia universities for various periods of time without getting a degree. He finally enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1954, where rose to the rank of sergeant. But he was discharged when an anonymous letter to his commanding officer led to his superiors finding out that he read leftist literature.
Jones then moved to Greenwich Village and landed a job in a music/records warehouse where he cultivated an interest in jazz. In 1958, Jones opened Totem Press, which published works by such major cultural icons of the period as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg. Jones also married Helen Cohen and the two became joint editors of Yugen literary magazine, which lasted until 1963.
Jones’s perspective took a more political slant after he visited Cuba in 1960. But whatever venue he chose to express himself, he continued to move forward. In 1961, Jones published Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note. Two years later, he penned Blues People: Negro Music in White America. This was one of the first books to examine the development of African-American music, and it became one of the country’s most influential books of jazz criticism. His plays Dutchman and The Slave were both produced in 1964. His one-act play Slave Ship opened in 1967, and may be remembered for its avant-garde staging.
Jones was deeply impacted by Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965. He became what he called a black cultural nationalist. A month after Malcolm’s death, he left his family and moved to Harlem and founded the short-lived Black Arts Repertory Theater/School. In 1967, he married poet Sylvia Robinson who later changed her name to Amina. In 1968, he wrote Black Music, a compilation of previously published music essays.
At the time, his forays into political activism became even more pronounced. From 1968 to1975, Baraka headed the black Committee for United Newark. During this period, he also founded the Congress of African People, a Pan-Africanist group that grew to have affiliates in 15 cities. Baraka backed Kenneth Gibson’s successful bid to become the first black mayor of Newark in 1970; and he also played a major role in putting together the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, in 1971.
In 1983, he and Amina edited Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women, which won the American Book Award. Four years later, the couple published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues. From 2002 to 2003, he was appointed Poet Laureate for the state of New Jersey. Baraka is the author of more than 40 works of poetry, political essays and short fiction, including Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems and Tales of the Out & the Gone, a winner of the 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award.
In 2002, the Afrocentrist scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Baraka as one of the 100 Greatest African-Americans.
Edward Kamau Brathwaite is one of the most prominent figures in the canon of Caribbean literature. A renowned educator and scholar, Brathwaite is best known as a poet and noted for his explorations of black cultural life both in Africa and the African diasporas throughout the world. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize for Born to Slow Horses, his 22nd book of verse. Among his numerous honors, the celebrated poet has received Cuba’s Casa de Las Américas Literary Prize for poetry, the Cholmondeley Award in 1970, Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships in 1983, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1994.
Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930. He attended Harrison College, and in 1949 he won the Barbados Island Scholarship to Cambridge University in England, where, at Pembroke College, he received a B.A. in history and a certificate in education. In 1942, he had founded Bim, the West Indian literary magazine where he published many of his early works. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Sussex in the U.K. in 1968. He is co-founder of the Caribbean Artists’ Movement and served as an editor of its literary magazine Savacou. Since 1979, he has served on the board of directors of UNESCO’s History of Mankind project and was also cultural adviser to the government of Barbados from 1975 to 1979 and again in 1990.
Brathwaite’s poetry is infused with African and European influences and “explores the root of the West Indian soul.” Earlier titles include Rights of Passage, Masks, and Islands; other notable books are Black & Blues; Other Exiles; Mother Poem, Sun Poem; X/Self; Middle Passages; Ancestors; and Roots, a nonfiction work that reflects upon Caribbean culture and history. His book The Zea Mexican Diary (1992), dedicated to his wife, was The Village Voice Book of the Year.
During his career as a poet and an academic, he has worked in the Ministry of Education in Ghana and taught at the University of the West Indies, Southern Illinois University, the University of Nairobi, Boston University, Holy Cross College, Yale University and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. Brathwaite is currently a professor of comparative literature at New York University.
Dr. Brenda Greene
Brenda M. Greene is professor of English and executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. In her role at the Center for Black Literature, Greene has continued the tradition of holding the National Black Writers Conferences (NBWCs) that have been established at Medgar Evers College since 1986. Since the center’s inception in 2003, Greene has directed four NBWC conferences: “Literature as Access”; “The Life and Work of John Oliver Killens, Writer, Activist, and Mentor”; “Black Literature: Expanding Conversations on Race, History, Identity and Genre”; and “Black Writers: Reading and Writing to Transform Their Lives and the World.”
Professor Greene’s research and scholarly work includes composition, African-American literature, and multicultural literature. Greene is editor with Fred Beauford of Meditations and Ascensions: Black Writers on Writing (Third World Press, 2008) and author of “Beside Still Waters: Memories of the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color” in Black Issues Book Review (July-August 2005).
She is editor of And Then They Heard Our Thunder, 2003 and 2004, which are a selection of the “Proceedings from the National Black Writers Conference.” She is also co-editor of Redefining Ourselves, Black Writers in the Nineties (Peter Lang Publishers, 1999) and co-editor of Rethinking American Literature, National Council of Teachers of English (1997).
Aside from heading the NBWC and organizing workshops and symposiums on behalf of the Center for Black Literature, Greene worked extensively on publications, grants, and presentations in English Studies. Her most recent grants were from the New York State Council for the Humanities for the National Black Writers Conference and the Nathan Cummings Foundation for the Black Artist as Activist. She was a featured scholar on the award-winning Annenberg/PBS video production Teaching Multicultural Literature in the High Schools. She is also a Leadership Associate for the National Network for Educational Renewal.
Greene holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in Education from New York University. Currently, she serves as project director for several literary programs, which provide high-school students with access to the black literary arts. In addition, she has collaborated with various organizations to produce author programs such as the “Brother to Brother Literary Symposium,” “Gwendolyn Brooks Symposium,” and the North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color.
Greene hosts the weekly radio program Writers on Writing, which features writers from the African diaspora discussing their work and their lives. The show is broadcast in the studios of Medgar Evers College and airs over WNYE, 91.5 F.M.
Dr. Edison O. Jackson
Edison O. Jackson, former President of Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, was born in Heathsville, Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology and master’s degree in counseling from Howard University and a doctorate in education from Rutgers University.
Dr. Jackson became Dean of Student Affairs at Essex County College in New Jersey in 1969, after working as a senior counselor/instructor at Federal City College in Washington, D. C. He became president of Compton Community College in Compton, California, in 1985.
Four years later, he took over the presidency of Medgar Evers College and began the process of moving the institution forward. He created the college’s Freshmen Year Program in 1990, which was instrumental in increasing student retention. As a result of his recognition of the decreasing number of males in College, he created the Male Development and Empowerment Center which helped increase Medgar’s enrollment of black men by 13 percent. Dr. Jackson also played a major role in restoring the Medgar Evers College’s senior-college status in 1994. During his 20-year term as president, the College significantly expanded its baccalaureate degree programs, added a number of new buildings and vastly increased the size of its student population.
Dr. Jackson has also worked with a number of civic and community organizations, including the Crown Heights Coalition and the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Dr. Jackson to the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the New York State Department of Education Panel for Policy.
The Virginia native has also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. He was appointed to the President’s Round Table and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Jackson was among a group of select presidents and chancellors chosen by Secretary of Education William Riley to be part of a summit in the fall of 1999 on improving the teacher education.
Dr. Jackson has written for Black Issues in Higher Education, as well as a number of other publications. He is currently writing a book examining the role of spiritual leadership in higher education and secular institutions.
John O. Killens
John Oliver Killens was a critical voice and a major contributor to African-American literature. He was an author, essayist, and playwright whose work vividly captured black culture, the narratives being influenced by Black history. His 1954 landmark novel, Youngblood, tells the story of a family’s hardships in the segregated South. His novels And Then We Heard the Thunder (1963) and The Cotillion: or, One Good Bull Is Half the Herd (1971) were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Concerned with social protest and black pride, Killens displayed strong feelings about racism, classism and assimilation in many of his works, which include Black Man’s Burden (1965), a collection of essays, the novel ’Sippi (1967), and the plays Ballad of the Winter Soldiers (1964) and Lower Than the Angels (1965).
The “spiritual” father of the Blacks Arts Movement of the 1960s, he was an inspiration to generations of writers. He was the founder of the Harlem Writers Guild in the 1950s and instrumental in the conception of the National Black Writers’ Conference at Medgar Evers College, which was established in 1986.
Killens was born in 1916 in Macon, Georgia. Early in life, he had thoughts of becoming a physician; and during his college years, he aspired to become a lawyer. After his war experiences, however, he decided to become a writer. He attended Edward Waters College, in Florida, (1934-1935) and Morris Brown College in Atlanta (1935-1936). He moved to Washington, D.C., and became a staff member of the National Labor Relations Board, and completed his B.A. through evening classes at Howard University. He studied at the Robert H. Terrell Law School from 1939 until 1942, but left and served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945.
Throughout his adult life, Killens was a political activist and protester of racial injustices. In 1964, he and Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He supported and promoted emerging writers; and as a writer-in-residence at several colleges and universities, he formed Black Writers’ Conferences at schools where he taught, including Howard University and Fisk University.
His many honors include the vice presidency of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Distinguished Writer Award from the Middle Atlantic Writers Association. The Before Columbus Foundation, sponsors of the American Book Awards, honored Killens for lifetime achievement in 1985. Killens died of cancer in 1987.
Toni Morrison is recognized as one of the most influential and celebrated writers in American literature. In 1988, she became the first black woman and the first African-American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is known for her elegantly lyrical prose and complex storytelling that are often centered on themes of identity, intimacy, class divisions, and race. Her novel Beloved, about an escaped slave who killed her daughter rather than have her grow up in slavery, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. She was the first black and only the eighth woman to receive this award. In 2006, The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the “Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years.”
Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. She was second of four children. Her father, George Wofford, was a shipyard welder; her mother, Ranah Willis-Wofford, sung in a church choir. In 1949, Morrison attended Howard University. In high school, she had dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but at Howard she majored in English. It was during this time that she began using a shortened version of her middle name.
After graduating from Howard with a bachelor’s degree in English, Wofford earned a master’s degree in American literature from Cornell University. From 1955 to1957, Wofford taught English at Texas Southern University in Houston. In 1957, she returned to Howard where she got a job teaching. The following year, she married one of her colleagues, Harold Morrison, a Jamaican-born architect; and the couple had two sons. While at Howard, she joined a group of writers and began working on a story based on the life of a girl she knew when she was growing up who wanted blue eyes.
By 1964, Morrison was divorced and working as an associate editor with Random House in Syracuse, New York. She was soon transferred to the offices in New York City, where she edited the manuscripts by distinguished black writers of the era, including Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, and Angela Davis. Her efforts helped move black writing into the mainstream of American intellectual thought.
But Morrison had bigger ideas. Now a single mom, she attended to her sons in the evenings after she got home from work. But once they were sent to bed, she wrote. In 1970, her first novel, The Bluest Eye, based on the story she had written while at Howard, was published. Her writing career then took off. Her 1973 novel Sula was an alternate selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club and was nominated for the 1975 National Book Award. This was followed by Song of Solomon in 1977, which was the main selection of the Book-of-the Month Club. This was the first time a work by a black author had achieved this distinction since Richard Wright’s Native Son had done so in 1940. Song of Solomon also won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent novel, A Mercy, was designated as one of the “The 10 Best Books of 2008” by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Morrison has held teaching posts at Yale, Bard College and Rutgers University; and she appointed to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University at Albany in 1984, a post she held until 1989. From 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. The author of nine novels and several works of nonfiction, she was the first black woman to hold a named chair at an Ivy League school. She developed a program there—the “Princeton Atelier”—in which students worked with famous artists to develop works of art for public display. “I take teaching as seriously as I do my writing,” she said at one point. Morrison currently serves on the editorial board at The Nation magazine.
Works by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon
The Bluest Eye
What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction
The Dancing Mind
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
Chris Abani was born in Afikpo, Nigeria, in 1966. In 2009, he received the Guggenheim Fellow in Fiction; in 2008, his book Song for Night (Akashic, 2007), was winner of the PEN Beyond the Margins Award and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Abani is a professor at the University of California, Riverside; he lives and teaches in California. His prose includes The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), GraceLand (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985). His poetry collections are Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne’s Lot (Red Hen, 2003), and Kalakuta Republic (Saqi, 2001).
Abani is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, and a Guggenheim Award. In 2004, he created Black Goat, an independent poetry series imprint affiliated with Akashic Books and is currently an imprint of that press. According to his Web site: “The vision behind Black Goat is simple: a commitment to publishing collections of poetry that might not otherwise find a home. Selected work will represent the finest examples of well-crafted and sometimes challenging poetry, and will also focus on experimental, aesthetically or thematically challenging work. The series also aims to create a proportional representation of African and other non-American as well as female poets on its list.” Visit his Web site, www.chrisabani.com
Catherine Acholonu is the author of more than 16 published books, a professor of African history and philosophy and former Fulbright scholar and writer-in-residence at the Westchester Consortium for International Studies, New York, U.S.A. A lecturer for more than 16 years, she now heads the Catherine Acholonu Research Center based in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. From 2009 to 2003, Acholonu was the senior special adviser on arts and culture to the Nigerian President. She doubles as culture ambassador to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, based in Bonn, Germany. Acholonu is a recipient of several awards at home and abroad, including the Phillis Wheatley Award for work that transcends race, culture and perception, and the Flora Nwapa Award, both of which she netted at the 2009 Harlem Book Fair for her groundbreaking publication They Lived Before Adam, which earned her 30 minutes on C-Span Book TV in July, August, and September 2009; the book won her the chieftaincy title of Ada Igbo Ji Eje Mba (“International Ambassador of Igbo Land”). More than a decade ago, as international visitor to the United States, Catherine Acholonu was sponsored by the USIA and the British Council to tour U.S. and U.K. universities lecturing on her research findings. Today, as a full-time researcher, she has broken many new grounds in African cultural scholarship. For information about the Catherine Acholonu Research Center, visit the Web site at http://www.carcafriculture.org.
Malaika Adero is a vice president, senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, where she acquires nonfiction and fiction trade books. She works with authors such Colin Channer, Farai Chideya, Maryse Condé, Tananarive Due, Reyna Grande, T. D. Jakes, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Victoria Rowell, Tavis Smiley, Indu Sundaresan, Damon Wayans, Sheila Weller, Kanye West, Alexis Wright, Zane, and more.
Adero is author of Up South: Stories, Studies and Letters of This Century’s African American Migrations and coauthor of Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, coauthored with Dr. Lucy Hurston. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals, most recently in Let Loose on the World: Celebrating the 75th Birthday of Amiri Baraka and Forty-Four on 44: Forty-Four American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, edited by Lita Hooper and Michael Simanga.
She is the founder of Up South, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to promote storytelling in all forms. The organization produces quality programming that features an international range of authors, artists, and thinkers in and outside of New York City. For more information, visit http://www.upsouth.org.
Meena Alexander is an internationally acclaimed author who focuses on migration and identity issues. Her memoir Fault Lines was selected as one of the best books of 1993 by Publishers Weekly. Illiterate Heart (2002), a poetry book, won the PEN Open Book Award and is included in many college syllabi.
Alexander has written six other poetry books, including Stone Roots (1980), House of a Thousand Doors (1988), River and Bridge (1995), and Quickly Changing River (2008). She is also the author of The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience (1998), a collection of essays and poems examining migration and memory. She also wrote two novels, Nampally Road (1991) and Manhattan Music (1997).
Meena was born Mary Elizabeth Alexander in Allahabad, India on February 17, 1956. Her parents were Syrian Christians. After the Sudan gained its independence in 1956, and her father got a job with the new government and relocated to Khartoum with his family.
In the Sudan’s capital, Alexander received an English education. She started attending Khartoum University when she was only 13. She had been writing poetry since age 10 and published her first poems in a local newspaper. When she was 15, she officially changed her name to Meena. Five years later, Alexander turned a long poem, “The Bird’s Bright Wing,” into her first book
Alexander received a degree in English from Khartoum University when she was 18, she then attended Nottingham University in England where she earned her doctorate. Alexander lives in New York City with her husband and is a distinguished professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York..
Dale Allender lives in Oakland, California, where he directs the National Council of Teachers of English West Coast office at the University of California Berkeley, and the Bay Area Teachers Center at San Francisco State University. His publications include Literary Guerillas, Canon Keepers, and Empire Institutions: A Black Teacher’s Narrative in Ishmael Reed’s Konch Magazine; “Prison Visit” in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal; and the edited book Trends and Issues in Secondary English published by NCTE.
Allender’s awards include the Media Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education for the eight-part professional development television series The Expanding Canon produced in collaboration with Thirteen WNET, the flagship public broadcast station located in New York City. The series brought together writers such as Ishmael Reed, Octavia Butler, and Lawson Fusao Inada with teachers, literary scholars, teacher educators and high-school students throughout the Unites States to promote and explore diverse literary works in formal academic settings. The series also won the U.S. International Film and Video Education Award. Prior to his work on the Expanding Canon, in 1997 Allender received a National Endowment for the Humanities Award for the study of American Indian literature.
Allender serves on several boards, including Cable in the Classroom’s National Education Advisory Board, Art21, Arts Engine’s Media the Matters Film Festival, the Center for Black Literature, and the Recovering the U.S Hispanic Literary Her
Grace Aneiza Ali
Grace Aneiza Ali is the founder and editor of Ofnotemagazine.org, an online magazine that celebrates people of color in the arts. The artists featured by of note demonstrate a commitment to global citizenship and social change and use their work as a means to challenge, celebrate, and engage the complex experiences of people of color around the globe. She is a writer who focuses on social justice issues and is a frequent contributor to The Defenders, the online publication of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the City University of New York (CUNY), where she teaches English literature. Ali is a former Fulbright Scholar to India, where she spent a year working with Indian women writers and activists. She is a recipient of the Henry McCracken Fellowship for graduate study at New York University, where she earned an M.A. in Africana Studies. Known for her social justice advocacy, she spent several years working for the internationally recognized Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C. Grace Aneiza Ali was born in Guyana and now resides in New York City.
Alixa and Naima
Alixa and Naima make up the tag-team, two-spirited, boundary-breaking, arts-activist duo Climbing PoeTree. Climbing PoeTree is the combined force of two mixed-race and immigrant women of color who have sharpened their art as a tool for popular education, community organizing, and personal transformation. With roots in Haiti and Colombia, Alixa and Naima reside in Brooklyn, New York, and track footprints across the country and globe on a mission to overcome destruction with creativity. In five self-organized independent tours, Climbing PoeTree has rocked 500 mikes and counting, from Oakland to Atlanta, South Africa to Cuba, with artists such as Erykah Badu, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Danny Glover, Jessica Care Moore, The Last Poets, and Dead Prez. Climbing PoeTree has led workshops in institutions from Cornell University to Riker's Island. And they have painted murals on walls from the Bronx to Cuba to Jamaica. Climbing PoeTree uses its art to expose injustice, heal from violence, and make a better future visible, immediate, and irresistible.
Esther Armah is an author, playwright, radio host and award-winning international journalist. Her first book is Can I Be Me? She has worked in print, radio and television in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Africa. As a journalist, she has written for The Guardian newspaper in London, Essence magazine, and The Defenders Online in the U.S., and West Africa magazine in Africa. As a playwright, her plays Can I Be Me?, Forgive Me? and Entitled! have all been produced for the New York stage. On radio, in New York, you can hear her host WBAI 99.5 FM’s Wake Up Call, from 6 to 8 a.m., Monday through Thursday; and Off The Page, a one-hour multimedia show about the world of books. She is a guest host and moderator on WNYC’s online live webcast series The Next New York Conversation. On radio in London, she worked with the BBC as an investigative reporter, a documentary maker and a radio host. On TV, in New York, she has appeared on BET’s Hip-Hop vs. America Part II: Where Did the Love Go?, BETJ’s My Two Cents. Armah has guest hosted and appeared on MNN’s Ancestor House with Camille Yarbrough and GRITtv The Laura Flanders Show. On TV, in London, she has worked in front of and behind the camera. She runs the multimedia and creative marketing production company Centric Productions. As a reporter and journalist, she has traveled and worked in London, Washington, Philadelphia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Lesotho. She now lives in New York.
John F. Baker Jr.
John F. Baker Jr. was born in 1962, in Springfield, Tennessee, near Nashville. Baker is the author of his first and recently published book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom, published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
When Baker was in the seventh grade, he saw a photograph of four former slaves in his social studies textbook. When he learned that two of them were his grandmother’s paternal grandparents, Emanuel and Henny Washington, he began the lifelong research project that would become The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation.
Baker tells the story of his ancestors, who were enslaved on Wessyngton Plantation and owned by the Washington family, as well as the story of the hundreds of other African- Americans connected with the plantation for more than two centuries. It is a story of family, faith, and community.
Founded in 1796 by Joseph Washington, a distant cousin of America’s first president, Wessyngton Plantation covered 15,000 acres and held an enslaved population of 274 African-Americans (the largest in the state of Tennessee), whose labor made it the largest tobacco operation in America and the second largest in the world.
Only two slaves were ever sold from Wessyngton Plantation, so the African-Americans there formed family groups that remained intact for generations. Many of their descendants, including Baker, remain in the area close to the plantation. Others, now numbering in the tens of thousands, live throughout the United States.
For more than 20 years, Baker conducted genealogical research on Wessyngton families along traditional lines. In 2003, he incorporated DNA testing to expand his research and founded the Wessyngton DNA Project. The Wessyngton DNA Project included descendants of enslaved families from Wessyngton Plantation, from 1796 to1865, and descendants of the plantation owner.
The Washington Family Papers have been Baker’s primary source of research. In the course of more than 30 years of research, he has viewed more than 11,000 documents countless times to unravel his ancestry and that of other Wessyngton families. In addition to collecting information from his own family members, he has had the honor of interviewing more than 25 children and grandchildren of former Wessyngton slaves (ranging in age from 80 to 107). They shared many firsthand accounts of life on the plantation told by their ancestors who were enslaved there.
Descendants of the plantation owners were very instrumental in this ongoing research of the plantation’s history. Many of them shared their remembrances, as well as photographs and portraits of former Wessyngton slaves. Wessyngton Plantation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a working farm. The mansion, built brick by brick by its slaves, still stands as does a slave cabin and its slave cemetery.
Research into his family’s past has been a groundbreaking work of history and a deeply personal journey of discovery. The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation is an uplifting story of survival and family; it honors the memory of our ancestors, their struggles, and their achievements.
Allen B. Ballard
Allen B. Ballard, professor of history and Africana Studies at SUNY-Albany, holds an undergraduate degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from Kenyon College in Ohio and a Ph.D. degree in government from Harvard University. He taught government at City College of New York for many years, and was the founder of the SEEK Program, the first Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) in the nation. For five years, he served as dean of faculty of the City University, where he was instrumental in the creation of the Open Admissions Program for that university.
L. A. Banks
L. A. Banks is the recipient of the 2008 Essence Magazine Storyteller of the Year Award, as well as many other publishing awards. Banks has written more than 35 novels and contributed to 12 novellas under various pseudonyms. She also writes in multiple genres, such as romance, women’s fiction, crime/suspense thrillers, and paranormal lore. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton undergraduate program and received a Master of Fine Arts from Temple University. She is a full-time writer, living and working in Philadelphia.
Novelist/essayist, Fred Beauford is the author of The New World Trilogy (The Year Jerry Garcia Died, The Hard Luck Novel, The King of Macy’s). He has also authored three additional novels: The Womanizer, Orphans and A History of the 21st Century. His collection of essays, The Rejected American is now going into a forth printing. He is co-editor of Mediations and Ascensions: Black Writers on Writing.
Because no agent or publishing house would come near him because of his out-spoken refusal to write for the African American section in the far corner of the basement at Barnes& Noble, he started Morton Books, Inc, with his brother, Rob Morton. Morton Books is now the most successful black-owned publishing company on the East Coast.
Two years ago he took his ideas, which he labels “Neo-integrationist,” even further when he lunched the Neworld Review. His publication is now online at http://www.neworldreview.com.
Beauford’s publishing career began when he was a student at NYU. There he founded The Faith newspaper and Black Creation magazine, which is now one of the most sort after publication for collectors of African-American memorabilia. He founded Neworld: The Multi-Cultural Magazine of the Arts, in Los Angeles in 1974, which he claims was the first American magazine in our history.
He served for eight years as the editor of The Crisis magazine, the official publication of the NAACP, which is one of the oldest magazines in America. Beauford has taught (Media History) at the University of Southern California (USC), UCBerkeley, Cal State Northridge, NYU and Suny/Old Westbury.
Currently he is putting the finishing touch on his latest novel, The African Gentleman, and the Plot to Reestablish The New World Order; and a memoir, …and Mistakes Made Along the Way and co-editor with Brenda M. Greene of Resistance and Transformation: Conversations With Black Writers. In addition, Beauford works with The Center For Black Literature at Medgar Evers College as Publications Director, and Director of the Online Publishing Certificate Program.
Tara Betts published Arc and Hue, her debut collection of poems, in 2009. Her work has appeared in Essence, Columbia Poetry Review and Ninth Letter. It has also been anthologized in Black Writing from Chicago, Hip Hop Feminism, Fingernails Across a Chalkboard, and a number of other publications. She is a graduate of the New England College M.F.A. program and a Cave Canem Fellow. Betts is a lecturer in creative writing at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Learn more about Betts at her Web site, http://tarabetts.net/blog/.
Michael Boatman is an actor who has co-starred in several successful television series: China Beach, Spin City, Arliss, The Game, and in feature films Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield and Woman Thou Art Loosed. His work on Spin City and Arliss garnered him a whopping eight NAACP nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Most recently, he appeared in two recurring roles, as Doctor Randy, on the Lifetime comedy series Sherri, and attorney Julius Cane in the CBS drama The Good Wife. He is the author of the horror/black comedy novel The Revenant Road, the first in his The Strange Damnation of Obadiah Grudge series. His fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Dark Dreams 2: Voices From the Other Side, Dark Dreams 3: Whispers in the Night, and Dark Delicacies 3; and in magazines Weird Tales, Red Scream, and Horror Garage. Some of his stories have been herded together into the short story collection God Laughs When You Die: Mean Little Stories from the Wrong Side of the Tracks. He is also the voice of Easy Rawlins for the Walter Mosey detective audiobook series and was recently nominated for an Audie Award for his reading of Devil in a Blue Dress. He is the married father of four future writers.
Herb Boyd is an award-winning author and journalist who has published 17 books and countless articles for national magazines and newspapers. His book Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America—An Anthology, co-edited with Robert L. Allen of the Black Scholar journal, won the American Book Award for nonfiction in 1995. In 1999, Boyd won three first-place awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists for his articles published in the New York Amsterdam News. His most recent book is Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin. Among his most popular books are Black Panthers for Beginners (1995); Autobiography of a People: Three Centuries of African American History Told By Those Who Lived It (2000); The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New York’s Most Famous Neighborhood, from the Renaissance Years to the 21st Century (2003); We Shall Overcome: A History of the Civil Rights Movement (2004). In 2006, Boyd worked with world music composer Yusef Lateef on his autobiography The Gentle Giant.
Boyd has been inducted into both the Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent and the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame as a journalist. He is also the managing editor of The Black World Today, one of the leading online publications on the Internet. A graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, Boyd teaches African and African-American history at the College of New Rochelle in the Bronx, and is an adjunct instructor at City College of New York in the Black Studies Department.
Thomas Bradshaw is a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of Strom Thurmond Is Not a Racist. Other plays of his have been produced at The Ontological Theater (Songs of Love), Walkerspace (All But Forgotten), Chernuchin Theater (Revelation), Bard College (When I Woke, directed by Leigh Silverman), and Little Theater (Strom Thurmond Is Not a Racist/Songs of Love). His most recent plays are Job and The Bereaved. Bradshaw received his M.F.A. from Mac Wellman’s playwriting program and is an assistant professor at Medgar Evers College.
The New Yorker said of his work in 2008: “Slowly, almost single-handedly, however, a twenty-eight-year-old Black playwright named Thomas Bradshaw has been taking on the idea of race in the theatre. At the same time, he has sliced open the pretensions of the white avant-garde with a wittily glistening axe. In his new play, “Southern Promises” (at Performance Space 122), one can catch a glimpse of Bradshaw’s anarchic gifts, but the production is also interesting for another reason: it shows us how directorial political correctness can damage the work of an independent-minded writer.
Dr. Jacqueline Brice-Finch
Dr. Jacqueline Brice-Finch, acting associate vice president of academic affairs at Coppin State University, is also a professor of Caribbean and African-American literature. She has taught at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus; the University of Maryland, College Park; and James Madison University. She was a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department of the University of Pittsburgh during the spring 1995 semester. Prior to her position at Coppin, Brice-Finch was associate dean for the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Benedict College. She has lectured in the United States, the Caribbean, Colombia, France, and Turkey on the subjects of African-American literature, Caribbean literature, and multiculturalism.
Brice-Finch is an honors graduate of Howard University with a BA degree in English and French. She received her M.A. in literature from Indiana University, Bloomington campus, and her Ph.D. degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland.
In 1995, Brice-Finch was cofounder of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars. In 1998, she became the publisher of MaComère, its international refereed journal devoted to the scholarly studies and creative works by and about Caribbean women in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean Diaspora. She served as publications editor of ACWWS from 1996 to 2004.
Brice-Finch coedited Get It Together: Readings About African American Life, a collection including essays about important issues that have impacted the African-American community: racism, language, sports, justice, images, family, and spirituality.
Regina Brooks is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC, based in Brooklyn, New York. Her agency has represented and established a diverse base of award-winning clients in adult and young adult fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, including: three-time National Book Award finalists, the Coretta Scott King Honor and the 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Award-winning author Marilyn Nelson; Sundee Frazier, winner of the 2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award; and Bil Wright, Junior Guild Award winner. Brooks has a talent for identifying new voices and potential authors like Derrick Barnes, whose first novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove, won an American Library Association Award. Prior to opening her own agency, Brooks held senior editorial positions at John Wiley and Sons (where she was not only the youngest but also the first African American editor in their college division) and McGraw-Hill. She is the author of the children’s book Never Finished! Never Done! (2004) and Writing Great Books for Young Adults (2009). Brooks is also on the faculty of the Harvard University publishing program and a well-received blogger for The Huffington Post. Her recent sales include; In the Black: Live Faithfully Prosper Financially (HarperCollins); Handle Your Entertainment Business (Hachette); A Purse of Your Own (Simon & Schuster); (Princeton University Press); Reclaiming Our Health (Yale University Press); Beautiful Ballerina (Scholastic); We Could Be Brothers (Scholastic); Sweethearts of Rhythm (Random House); Putting Make Up on the Fat Boy (Simon & Schuster). She is a regular speaker at writer’s conferences and is interested in areas of nonfiction and literary and commercial fiction for adults, young adults and children; covering subjects such as politics, psychology and self-help, pop culture, health, science, women’s issues, parenting, cooking, and design crafts, alternative spirituality, business, science, and technology. She is always interested in new and emerging writers. Visit her Web site, http://www.serendipitylit.com.
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall
Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is the author of Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present and The U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context. She is an associate professor at John Jay College (CUNY) and the Graduate Center faculty. An award-winning playwright writing under the name Gloria J. Browne, her plays have been produced in New York City, Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee. Browne-Marshall’s plays include My Juilliard, Jeanine, Waverly Place, and Killing Me Softly; they explore race, class, and the consequence of choices.
Browne-Marshall is the founder and director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc. The Law and Policy Group is a “think tank for the community” that provides policy information, public outreach, and legal analysis on issues affecting the lives of children, women, and people of color.
Browne-Marshall is a freelance journalist with published articles as well as recurring television and radio appearances. She is a member of the Dramatist Guild, National Association of Black Journalists, and PEN American Center, as well as a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court. She speaks nationally and internationally on issues of racial justice as well as gender and law. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is the recipient of many honors, including the 2009 Ida B. Wells-Barnett Justice Award. She lives in New York City.
Marina Budhos, an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction, has published the novels Ask Me No Questions, winner of the James Cook Teen Book Award; The Professor of Light; House of Waiting; and a nonfiction book, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers. She has two books forthcoming this year: Tell Us We’re Home and Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science, coauthored with her husband, historian Marc Aronson. Her short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The Kenyon Review, The Nation, Ms., Travel & Leisure, Time Out, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Budhos has given talks at universities in the United States and abroad, and she has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, and was awarded a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Arts Council. Budhos is an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at William Paterson University. Her Web site is www.marinabudhos.com.
Randall Burkett is curator of African American Collections in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University. He is the author of two books on Marcus Garvey and created with colleagues a four-volume index to biographical sketches of approximately 35,000 individuals titled Black Biography 1790-1950: A Cumulative Index. He was associate editor of The Harvard Guide to African American History (2001).
Colin Channer, Newhouse Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at Wellesley College, is the author of the novels Waiting in Vain and Satisfy My Soul; the short-story collection Passing Through; the novellas I’m Still Waiting and The Girl with the Golden Shoes; and editor of the anthology Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction from Jamaica’s Calabash Writer’s Workshop. Channer is also founder and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which he founded in Jamaica in 2001. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Renaissance Noire, Obsidian III, and the Barcelona Review among others publications. Channer’s forthcoming novel is Lover’s Rock, to be published by Atria Books.
Staceyann Chin is a full-time writer and activist. She is a recipient of the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from The Human Rights Campaign, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, and the 2009 New York State Senate Award; she identifies as Caribbean and Black, Asian and lesbian, woman and resident of New York City.
Chin is the author of the memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, published by Scribner/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Widely known as cowriter and original performer in the Tony Award-winning play Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin’s poetry has seen the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets’ Café, one-woman shows Off-Broadway, and writing workshops in Sweden, South Africa, and Australia.
A proud Jamaican National, Chin’s voice was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she spoke candidly about her experiences of growing up on the island and the dire consequences of her coming-out there.
New York University, Pace, Willamette, Holy Cross, Harvard, Cornell, University of Illinois, University of New Hampshire, University of Miami, University of California at San Diego, Grinnell College, Yale University and The University of the West Indies are only a few of the colleges and universities at which she has been a guest speaker and performer.
Chin has enjoyed great success globally: She has been featured by access programs across the United States and Europe, by radio stations and theaters like The Joseph Pap Public Theatre in New York, and Sweden’s Kanon Hallen, with numerous performances in London, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, St. Lucia, England, Jamaica, and New York'’ own Central Park- Summer Stage.
Publications, including A, Everybody, Mosaic, Curve, Venus, Essence and Next magazines, New York Newsday, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Village Voice, The Orlando Weekly Drum Voices, The Shades Newsletter The New York Times, The New York and Washington Blade and The South African Times have all featured Chin and her prose, poems, and essays.
Chin has penned the chapbooks Wildcat Woman, Stories Surrounding My Coming, Catalogue the insanity, The Mad Hatter: Volumes I and II; and her work has been published in numerous anthologies, including Bullets and Butterflies, Def Poetry Jam, We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists, and Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution. For more information about Staceyann Chin, visit her Web site, www.staceyannchin.com.
Nick Charles is a career multimedia and communications professional, with extensive management and international experience. Most recently, Charles has served as the executive editor for Ecomii.com, the second most-trafficked Green Web site in the United States. Charles was also the vice president for digital content at Black Entertainment Television Interactive (BETi), a division of BET Networks. He was responsible for generating and ensuring quality control over news, entertainment, music, broadband (video), lifestyle, community, and health featured in all digital media, which reaches more than 3 million visitors monthly and generates close to 50-million page views per month. He was also charged with forging partnerships with other media entities.
Prior to this, he was editor-in-chief for AOL Black Voices, the No. 1 online destination for African-Americans. In his role, Charles was responsible for spearheading the day-to-day editorial activities across several channels including News, Sports, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Work & Money, and Talk (Community), and several sub-channels. He was also charged with developing partnerships with other media entities and producing video content for the site.
Charles holds a B.A. in journalism from New York University, and an M.S. in international affairs from the New School University. He possesses a wealth of teaching experience, ranging from lectures on international reporting techniques to teaching magazine writing at the Frederick Douglass Community Arts Center in New York City. Charles also serves on the Quinnipiac University School of communications Advisory Board and the board of directors of Iris House, a nonprofit organization that caters to those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Originally from London, England, Charles has resided in Trinidad and Tobago, Toronto, Canada, and Barcelona, Spain. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Donna Cohen, and son, Jordi.
Breena Clarke’s debut novel, River, Cross My Heart, was an October 1999 Oprah Book Club selection. Her most recent book Stand in the Storm (Little Brown) was one of the 100 Best Books for the Washington Post Book World and was nominated for the 2009 Hurston Wright Foundation Legacy Award.
Clarke, a native of Washington, D.C., is the recipient of the 1999 award for fiction by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the Alex Award, given by the Young Adult Library Services Association.
Clarke, who has survived the death of her only child, writes with depth and clarity about grief. Her work is marked by compassion and a magnificent use of language. Fascinated by the vast array of small and insignificant objects that contain finely detailed denigrating images of African Americans, Clarke is a passionate collector of Black memorabilia.
A graduate of Howard University, Clarke is coauthor with Glenda Dickerson of “Remembering Aunt Jemima: A Menstrual Show,” which is anthologized in Contemporary Plays by Women of Color: An Anthology and Colored Contradictions: An Anthology of Contemporary African-American Plays. Her short fiction is included in Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica and Street Lights: Illuminating Tales of the Urban Black Experience. Her recollections of Washington, D.C., are included in Growing Up in Washington, D.C.: An Oral History, published by The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Clarke credits having learned to swim eight years ago with changing her life. Since completing a course of classes at New York’s Asphalt Green Aqua Center, she has become a member of an aqua aerobics class, swims three times a week and practices Qigong.
Margaret A. Cox
Margaret A. Cox is the author of Tales of Women, a collection of poetry that speaks about the experiences of women throughout the African Diaspora. She earned a B.A. in English from Baruch College, an M.A. in English from Brooklyn College, and currently teaches literature and composition at Medgar Evers College. She has written “The Quest for Autonomy in the Literature of Buchi Emecheta,” part of the anthology Re-Imaging Gender: African Narratives by Women (Pencraft 2010), edited by Anke Bartels and Mala Pandurang. Her forthcoming work titled “Where the Eagle Perches Can the Hawk Perch Also?” will be included in Things Fall Apart: A Student Companion (Pencraft 2011), edited by Mala Pandurang.
Carole Boyce Davies
Carole Boyce Davies is an African Diaspora Studies scholar who is professor of Africana Studies, English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Recruited to build the African New World Studies Program at Florida International University, she served as its director for three successful three-year appointments, which moved the program to international recognition.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, she has degrees from the University of Maryland (B.A., 1972); Howard University (M.A.,1974) and (University of Ibadan, Nigeria (Ph.D., 1978). She has been the Herskovits Professor of African Studies and Professor of Comparative Literary Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University and was also made a full professor of English and Africana Studies at SUNY-Binghamton in 1994.
She is author of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Duke University Press, 2008), which listed on Essence magazine’s best-seller list for July 2008, paperback nonfiction category. An earlier work titled Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (Routledge, 1994) is considered a theoretical base for many studies in the field. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, Boyce Davies has also published the following critical editions: Ngambika. Studies of Women in African Literature (Africa World Press, 1986); Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature (Africa World Press, 1990); and a two-volume collection of critical and creative writing entitled Moving Beyond Boundaries (New York University Press, 1995); International Dimensions of Black Women's Writing (volume 1) and Black Women's Diasporas (volume 2).
She is coeditor with Ali Mazrui and Isidore Okpewho of The African Diaspora: African Origins and New World Identities (Indiana University Press, 1999) and Decolonizing the Academy: African Diaspora Studies (Africa World Press, 2003). She is general editor of The Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora (Oxford, 2008) a three-volume encyclopedia. Currently, Boyce Davies is writing a series of personal reflections called Caribbean Spaces: Between the Twilight Zone and the Underground Railroad, dealing with the issue of transnational Caribbean/American Black identity, and she is preparing an edition of the writings of Claudia Jones, Beyond Containment: Claudia Jones, Activism, Political Clarity and Vision. Photo Credit: Charles Martin
Edwidge Danticat won the 2008 National Books Critics Circle Award for her family memoir Brother, I’m Dying, which was also a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award. She is also the author of the books The Dew Breaker; Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; and a collection of stories Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures.
Thulani Davis is a writer of novels, theater works, film, and journalism. Her most recent book is the memoir, My Confederate Kinfolk. Her other works include two novels, 1959 and Maker of Saints; and several plays and the scripts for the films Paid in Full and Maker of Saints (being shot this year). She has also written several award-winning PBS documentaries. Davis was the first woman to win a Grammy Award for liner notes and one of her operas was also nominated for a Grammy. She is currently at work on a musical on the 1881 strike by 3000 black “washing Amazons” in Atlanta.
Davis has been a recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a PEW National Theatre Artist Residency, a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of New York City, and a Fellowship from the Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY.
Davis’ script credits include: The Souls of Black Folk: An Oratorio for Actors (National Black Arts Festival); Everybody’s Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida (New York Shakespeare Festival); Adaptation, Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle (NYSF); Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon (NYSF); Amistad (Lyric Opera of Chicago); X, the Life and Times of Malcolm X (NY City Opera); The E & O Line, a blues & electronic opera (UDC); Baobab Four (PS 122); Dark Passages, an oratorio (Asian Art Museum, San Francisco); W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (Massiah/PBS); I’ll Make Me a World: African American Artists in the 20th Century (Blackside/PBS); among others.
Linda A. Duggins
Linda A. Duggins is the director of multicultural publicity at Hachette Book Group. As cofounder of the Harlem Book Fair, she has helped to create a nationally recognized venue that promotes literacy and literary expressions with writers of the Diaspora. Duggins is on the board of directors of the National Book Club Conference, based in Atlanta, Georgia, whose mission is to advance literacy and knowledge through reading and dialogue. She is also on the board of directors of the Antigua & Barbuda International Literary Festival, held in Antigua, as well as the board of directors of the Queensbridge Scholarship Fund, serving college bound students in the Queensbridge and Ravenswood housing developments. Lalita Tademy, Josefina Lopez, Alberto Ferreras, and Nalo Hopkinson are among the many great authors represented by Duggins at Hachette.
Zetta Elliott was born in Canada and moved to the United States 15 years ago, where she earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University. Her poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: An Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella Plastique was excerpted in T Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers, and her essays have appeared in The Black Arts Quarterly, Thirdspace, WarpLand and Rain and Thunder. Her first play, Nothing But a Woman, was a finalist in the Chicago Dramatists’ Many Voices Project (2006). Her fourth full-length play, Connor’s Boy, was staged in January 2008 as part of two new play festivals in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of Karamu House’s R. Joyce Whitley Festival of New Plays ARENAFEST, and in New York City as part of Maieutic Theatre Works’ Newborn Festival. Her one-act play, girl/power, was staged as part of New Perspectives Theater’s New York City festival of women’s work GIRLPOWER, in August 2008. Her award-winning picture book Bird was published in October 2008. Her young adult novel A Wish After Midnight was published by AmazonEncore in February 2010. Elliott currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Thomas Sayers Ellis cofounded The Dark Room Collective (in Cambridge, Massachusetts); and received his M.F.A. from Brown University. He is the author of The Maverick Room (2005), which won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award, and a recipient of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers’ Award. His poems and photographs have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Baffler, Best American Poetry (1997 and 2001), Callaloo, Grand Street, Poetry, Jubilat, The Nation, and Tin House.
Ellis is a contributing writer to Waxpoetics and Poets & Writers. He is also an assistant professor of writing at Sarah Lawrence College and a faculty member of the Lesley University Low-Residency M.F.A Program. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently working on The Go-Go Book: People in the Pocket in Washington, D.C. Last summer, he joined the faculty of Cave Canem for its annual retreat, as well as performed on SummerStage in Central Park and at the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival on the National Mall. Skin, Inc., a new collection of poems and photographs, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in August 2010. Photo Credit: Lynda Koolish
Charles D. Ellison
Charles D. Ellison is host of The New School on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and author of the critically acclaimed urban political thriller Tantrum. He is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, TheRoot.com, The Arena at Politico.com and Politics magazine’s “Campaign Insider.” Ellison is director of the Center for New Politics and Policy, a former University of Denver Senior Fellow, and a former visiting fellow at the George Washington University.
With more than a decade of applied political and policy experience, Ellison is considered a leading expert in politics, public policy, modern campaigns and elections, and the use of technology in elections.
A former political correspondent for WEAA-FM in Baltimore and 2000 recipient of the Washington, D.C.’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, Ellison is a former congressional staffer, speechwriter, and award-winning Internet content executive.
As a commentator and lecturer, Ellison has been featured on numerous television, radio, and publishing venues, including: CNN, SkyTV, BlackAmericaWeb.com, BET, ABC News, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, The Washington Times, Roll Call, National Journal, Salon.com, The Hill, National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, WVON-AM, KPOO-FM, WEAA-FM, WPFW-FM, The Philadelphia Tribune, RealClearPolitics.com, The Washington Post. Ellison is considered an expert on the topics of the use of technology in modern politics and the shaping of public policy; e-governance; foreign policy; twenty-first century Black political development; and trends on the state, local and federal level.
Stephen E. Epps
Stephen E. Epps, a native of Chicago and graduate of Morehouse College, is a Master of Divinity candidate at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. His academic interests engage the philosophical underpinnings of theological claims and its subsequent implications for democratic political ideals. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, at Princeton University, and published by Cambridge Press. After working at such notable religious institutions as the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Judson Memorial Church, and the Metropolitan Baptist Church in D.C., Epps serves the students of Medgar Evers College in the Male Development & Empowerment Center.
Omar Freilla was raised in the South Bronx, where he continues to live, is passionate about creating a green and democratic economy, one grounded in environmental justice. He is the founder and director of Green Worker Cooperatives, an organization dedicated to incubating green and worker-owned businesses in the South Bronx. Its first cooperative, ReBuilders Source, is a retail warehouse for salvaged and surplus building materials. It is an alternative to the wasteful practices that have flooded the South Bronx with waste facilities, and is the first of many more to come, all green; all worker-owned; and all in the South Bronx. Omar has many years of experience challenging environmental abuses in low-income communities of color in New York City having previously worked for both Sustainable South Bronx and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. His writings have been published in the 2004 book “Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity” edited by Robert Bullard and the 2007 book “Building the Green Economy: success stories from the grassroots” by Kevin Danaher, and the journal “Race, Poverty, and the Environment”. His writings have also appeared in blogs such as AlterNet; the Huffington Post; City Limits; the Drum Major Institute; Movement Vision Lab; and Black & Green..
Omar has received numerous awards for his work including the Open Society Institute’s New York City Community Fellowship, the Union Square Award for grassroots activists, the Environmental Leadership Program fellowship, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism. He has also been featured in the 2007 environmental documentary “The 11th Hour” produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. He holds a Masters degree in Environmental Science from Miami University of Ohio and a B.S. from Morehouse College where he co-founded the organization Black Men for the Eradication of Sexism.
Steven G. Fullwood
Steven G. Fullwood is founder and publisher of Vintage Entity Press, an independent press specializing in literature that foregrounds the perspectives and experiences of people of African descent and explores themes rarely engaged in the mainstream. He is also an archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where he directs the development of the Hip-Hop Archive Project. In 2000, Fullwood founded the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive (also at the Schomburg Center), to aid in the preservation of the culture and history of non-heterosexual people of African descent in the U.S. and abroad. In 2005, Fullwood was honored with a New York Times Librarian Award.
Fullwood is the author of Funny, a book of humorous essays, and coeditor of two groundbreaking publications: Think Again and To Be Left With the Body. As a cultural critic, his work has appeared in Black Issues Book Review, Lambda Book Report, Library Journal, Vibe, and XXL.
Hattie Gossett’s poem “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” was incorporated into Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s dance work Shelter that was performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1995. She was one of the first participants in the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and has worked extensively as a spoken-word artist. She was “involved in the planning stages” and was the first managing editor of Essence magazine. She has also worked as an editor with True Story, McCall’s, Redbook and Black Theater magazines.
Farah Jasmine Griffin
Farah Jasmine Griffin is professor of English and comparative literature and African- American studies at Columbia University. Griffin’s major fields of interest are African-American literature, music, history, and politics. She is the author of Who Set You Flowin’?: The African American Migration Narrative and If You Can’t Be Free Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday; and coeditor of Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, with Robert G. O’Meally and Brent Hayes Edwards. In 2000, she was nominated for a NAACP Image Award, Best Nonfiction Literary Work, for Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868.
One picture book. One young adult novella. A full-length work of YA fiction. With a trio of titles that arrived to bookstores in a single year, in 2008—a true feat for a first-time author—Tonya Cherie Hegamin revealed a rare gift for writing across age groups and genres, which includes her YA novel M+O 4EVR (Houghton Mifflin), followed by the novella Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story, written with Marilyn Nelson (Scholastic Press), and Most Loved in All the World, a picture book illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera (Houghton Mifflin).
Hegamin’s historical fiction—lauded as “lovely,” “fresh,” and “compelling”—has each received much admired attention from the publication world. Her poetry and short fiction have been featured online at Hunger Mountain, The Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal of the Arts http://www.hungermtn.org). Her book Most Loved In All The World was noted in the November 2009 issue of Ebony magazine. Hegamin received her B.A. in writing from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.F.A. in creative writing from The New School University in New York City. Ms. Hegamin is an alumna of Cave Canem, the first fellowship retreat for African American poets, and Hedgebrook, a writing retreat exclusively for women. Tonya is currently the creative writing coordinator at Medgar Evers College, CUNY in Brooklyn, New York, and she also develops the literacy curriculum for a national after-school program called Rocket Learning Inc.
“It was clear to me from the get-go that Tonya was the real thing,” said Andrea Pinkney, VP, Editor-at-Large, Scholastic Trade Book Publishing, who acquired all three books “I read the manuscript of Most Loved in All the World on the train to Brooklyn and called Tonya on my way home to give her the news.” And when Hegamin went on to write Pemba’s Song in collaboration with acclaimed author Marilyn Nelson—three-time National Book Award finalist; winner of the Pushcart Prize and PEN Winship Award, among other accolades—Pinkney confirmed that the relative newcomer could pass the ultimate test: “Can this fresh face hold her own? Can she cut it? It’s like pairing a new actor with Ruby Dee—and yes, she can.”
Editors at Houghton Mifflin were equally excited about Hegamin’s distinctive voice and subject matter. “Her writing reads like poetry,” said Amy Flynn, editor of M+O 4EVR. “Her novel crafts two parallel stories that explore the question of what it means to be free—free from slavery, free to discover yourself, free to heal from a great loss. The power of love is a strong thread.” Houghton Mifflin Executive Editor Ann Rider added, “Tonya brings a poet’s keen ear to the very poignant story of how a little girl begins her journey on the Underground Railroad in Most Loved in All the World. I remember all of us in the editorial group were immediately moved by her spare, powerful words. We worked hard to find an artist who could capture both the force and warmth of her words and were ultimately delighted with Cozbi Cabrera’s truly unique textile collages and acrylic paintings.”
Slavery is a theme that Hegamin weaves into all three of her books; in her novels it haunts contemporary characters that draw their grit and realism from the author’s own past experience working with teens in crisis. She says, “I use history in my books as a launching point, not an anchor, so that readers won’t feel bound to the past, but fulfilled by it.” Find out more about Hegamin at http://www.tonyacheriehegamin.com.
Kam Hei Tsuei
Kam Hei Tsuei (pronounced Hay Swee) was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Brooklyn. She has a B.A. from Brooklyn College and is currently a graduate student at BC in English. She has published several articles, one in the journal Socialism and Democracy, and two in ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary and Artistic African American Themes.
Obery M. Hendricks Jr.
Obery M. Hendricks Jr. is a professor of biblical interpretation at the New York Theological Seminary, an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the author of The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted and Living Water. He has served as a professor at Drew University, as a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary, and as president of Payne Theological Seminary, the oldest African-American theological institution in the United States. He lives in New Jersey.
Donna Hill is the author of more than 50 books, three of which have been adapted for television. Her latest book is titled What Mother Never Told Me. Her work has been featured in Essence, the New York Daily News, USA Today, Today’s Black Woman, and Black Enterprise among many others. She has appeared on numerous radio and television stations across the country and her work has appeared on several best-seller lists, including Essence, Emerge and The Dallas Morning News. She has received numerous awards; among them she was the first recipient of The Trailblazer Award, recipient of the Career Achievement Award, The Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, and The Gold Pen Award. Hill currently works in the Brooklyn Borough President’s office and with the Elders Writing Program through the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. Learn more about Donna Hill at www.donnahill.com.
Linda Janet Holmes
Linda Janet Holmes is a writer, independent scholar, and longtime women’s health activist. She is coeditor (with Cheryl Wall) of the anthology Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, published by Temple University Press, 2008. Her first published short story, “The True Story of Chicken Licken,” appeared in Toni Cade Bambara’s Tales and Stories for Black Folks.
A women’s health researcher, Holmes is widely recognized for her groundbreaking documentation of the practices of traditional African-American midwives. More than 25 years ago, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities provided support for an oral history project on African- American midwives, which led her to coauthor (with Margaret Charles Smith) Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife (Ohio State University Press, l996). A former assistant professor in the Nurse Midwife Educational Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, her writings have also appeared in Our Bodies/Ourselves, The American Way of Birth and The Black Women’s Health Book. As guest curator of Reclaiming Midwives, a multimedia exhibition that opened at the Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Museum, Holmes documented forgotten African-American midwifery history.
A resident of East Orange, New Jersey, Holmes recently retired from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, where she directed the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health. Holmes is a former journalist and radio broadcaster who met Bambara 40 years ago, when Bambara was teaching at Livingston College, Rutgers University. Holmes is now writing a biography on Toni Cade Bambara.
Author, publisher, and entrepreneur Cheryl Willis Hudson has been creating children’s books for more than 30 years. She is cofounder and publisher of the publishing company Just Us Books and author of more than 20 titles, including: Afro-Bets ABC Book; Bright Eyes, Brown Skin; Hands Can! and her most recent, My Friend Maya Loves to Dance.
Wade Hudson’s career as a writer spans more than three decades. He is the author of more than 20 books for young people, including Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, Jamal’s Busy Day and Powerful Words. President and CEO of Black children’s book publisher Just Us Books, Wade’s latest work is the picture book It’s Church Going Time.
Karen Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer, journalist, entrepreneur, and professor; she is also one of the most sought-after collaborators in publishing. She has seven New York Times best-sellers to her credit and has recently added “publisher” to her string of accomplishments. In 2007, Hunter launched her eponymous imprint at Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, making her one of the first African-Americans with a major publishing imprint. She published Recipes for the Good Life, a cookbook/lifestyle book with singing diva Patti Labelle; a novel with popular talk- show host Wendy Williams; and the New York Times best-selling novel Mama Dearest, by the late E. Lynn Harris. Karen Hunter Publishing (KHP) also signed pop superstar Janet Jackson to her first book deal (due out in the spring of 2010).
Karen Hunter Publishing is known for its provocative titles, touching on important social issues. Why Black Men Love White Women is a look at the history of white supremacy in America. Faith Under Fire: Betrayed by a Thing Called Love, by LaJoyce Brookshire, is about a woman who fell in love and married a man with full-blown AIDS (unbeknownst to her) and how she took care of him, in spite of his lies, until the day he died.
KHP also published Why Men Fear Marriage (which has been optioned for publishing deals in Italy and the Czech Republic), Don’t Bring Home a White Boy, by Karyn Langhorne Folan, a Black woman who married a white man despite the taboos and stigma. And for Black History Month, KHP released the critically acclaimed The Children of Children Keep Coming, an epic griotsong chronicling the history of Blacks in the New World from the Middle Passage to today. It features never-before-seen drawings by Romare Bearden and is written by Wall Street pioneer and Renaissance man Russell L. Goings.
As an author, Hunter made her name penning autobiographies for celebrities, churning out numerous best-selling books including: I Make My Own Rules (1997) with LL Cool J; Ladies First (1999) with Queen Latifah; Al on America (2002) with Rev. Al Sharpton; Wendy’s Got the Heat (2003) with nationally syndicated talk-show host Wendy Williams. Her books On the Down Low (2004) with AIDS activist JL King and Confessions of a Video Vixen forced a nation to deal with issues, both uncomfortable and important. Hunter also coauthored Raising Kanye with Donda West, mother of rapper Kanye West, and Let’s Talk About Pep with Pepa from legendary rap group Salt-N-Pepa.
In 2008, Hunter launched Karen Hunter Media, a full-service company that produces books in myriad platforms—focusing on digital and film. In addition, KHM is committed to the children’s market, producing several children’s books: Little Rhino Has No Horn and Looking to the Clouds for Daddy with award-winning illustrator Jerry Craft.
Prior to becoming a publisher, Hunter was a sportswriter, a reporter, a business writer, and an entertainment writer; she sat on the editorial board of the New York Daily News, where in 1999 she was a member of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of editorials that saved the world-famous Apollo Theatre. She also wrote editorials on school governance, which earned her a Polk Award, an AP Award, and changed the school system in the state of New York. Before leaving the Daily News in 2004, Hunter wrote a news column (the first-ever African-American female to ever have a news column at the paper) and she wrote a weekly editorial column.
Hunter was also a radio talk-show host in New York City, cohosting a four-hour morning show for three years, and her own afternoon drive show on WWRL. During that time, Talkers Magazine named her one of the “Hundred Heavy Hitters of Talk” all three years. She has interviewed everyone from Hillary Clinton and Michael Steele to Suze Orman and Robert Kiyosaki. Hunter was also a frequent contributor on CNN, MSNBC and FOXNews, giving analysis about everything from politics to pop culture. She is currently a distinguished lecturer at Hunter College, where she has served as an assistant professor in the Film & Media Department for the past seven years. She was also an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University for three years.
Lawrence Jackson teaches English and African American Studies at Emory University. He is the author of Ralph Ellison: Emergence of a Genius, the first biography of Ellison, and the forthcoming literary history The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934–1960.
Geoffrey Jacques is the author of A Change in the Weather: Modernist Imagination, African American Imaginary (2009), and a collection of poems, Just For a Thrill (2005). He teaches literature and writing at York College, CUNY, John Jay College, CUNY, and New York University. Photo credit: Mark Blackshear
Joy James is author of the forthcoming Memory, Shame and Rage: The Central Park Case, 1989–2002; her other titles include Shadowboxing: Representations of Black Feminist Politics; Transcending the Talented Tenth: Black Leaders and American Intellectuals; and Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender and Race in U.S. Culture. Her edited works include: Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy; The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings; Imprisoned Intellectuals: America’s Political Prisoners Write on Life, Liberation, and Rebellion; and The Angela Y. Davis Reader. She has contributed to South End Press books Our Enemies in Blue and What Lies Beneath. Joy James is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas, Austin, and the John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of the Humanities and college professor in political science at Williams College.
Troy Johnson is a technology expert and industry leader in marketing books on the World Wide Web. Johnson is the founder and Webmaster of The African American Literature Book Club, LLC. AALBC.com was launched in 1998, and it is now the largest and most frequently visited Web site dedicated to books by and about Black people. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, Johnson has more than 20 years of corporate experience in roles ranging from designing wide area networks to managing international projects.
Johnson has been recognized in articles that have appeared in Black Enterprise, Black Issues Book Review, Emerge magazine, Essence magazine, New York Amsterdam News, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and many other publications. He has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including C-Span2’s Book TV and The Black Family Channel’s Literary Living; and in 2006 was named one of the “50 Most Powerful African Americans in Publishing” by Black Issues Book Review magazine. Johnson has served on numerous boards and committees, including the advisory boards of the Harlem Book Fair, Black Americans in Publishing, and New York is Book Country. He is currently a board member of the Literary Freedom Project and The Syracuse University Alumni Association Board.
Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Syracuse University, a Master of Science from Polytechnic University, and an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. He lives with his two daughters in Harlem, New York.
Tayari Jones is the author of Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, winners of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and The Lillian C. Smith Awards, respectively. She has been described by the Atlanta Journal Constitution as “One of the most important writers of her generation,” and called “A Writer to Watch,” by Essence magazine. Jones has received awards and accolades from many arts organizations, including the United States Artist Foundation, Breadloaf Writers Conference, Illinois Arts Council, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and The Corporation of Yaddo. Jones’s work has appeared in McSweeney’s, the New York Times, New Stories from the South, and The Believer. She is a popular speaker and has been invited to give more than one hundred readings, lectures, and workshops—both in the United States and abroad.
Her first novel, Leaving Atlanta (2002), which is set against the backdrop of the Atlanta Child Murders, was critically acclaimed and awarded best of the year nods from the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Creative Loafing, and Atlanta Magazine. The Georgia Public Library Association includes it on its list of Ten Books Every Georgian Should Read. Leaving Atlanta has been taught in the English and writing departments at dozen of universities, including New York University, Emory University, The University of Georgia, Vassar College, Reed College, George Washington University, and The University of Illinois.
The Untelling (2005) was met with similar success, earning the Lillian C. Smith Award from the Southern Regional Council, which recognizes literary achievement from a social justice perspective. Recognized as a “Summer Page Burner” by The Root and a “Breakout Book” by Target Corporation, this novel is also featured on course syllabi and has earned Jones numerous invitations to read and lecture. In February 2007, she was a headline reader at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference. In 2008 and 2009, she traveled to Ghana and Uganda to conduct writing workshops as a guest of the U.S. Department of State. She also completed a weeklong lecture tour of Brazil.
Jones is both a writer and a professor of creative writing, and she holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. She currently serves on MFA faculty of Rutgers University, Newark, cited by the Atlantic Monthly as one of the top five MFA programs in the country. She was recently chosen as the Collins Fellow by the United States Artist Foundation. She keeps a well-read blog on writing and the writer’s life at http://www.tayarijones.com/blog. Photo Credit: Marion Ettlinger
Kelly Baker Josephs
Kelly Baker Josephs is an assistant professor of English at York College, CUNY. She teaches courses in Anglophone Caribbean literature, postcolonial literature and theory, literatures of the African Diaspora, and gender studies. She is also managing editor for Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism.
Victor LaValle is the author of the short-story collection Slapboxing with Jesus and the novel The Ecstatic. His most recent novel is Big Machine: A Novel. Among his awards and fellowships are a Whiting Writers’ Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, and the key to Southeast Queens.
Louis Massiah is the founder and executive director of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, a media arts center that provides low-cost workshops and equipment access to emerging videomakers and community organizations. At Scribe, he has facilitated and executive produced more than 300 documentaries, documenting issues and concerns facing urban communities. A current project, eSights, eSounds, has supported community groups and individual artists in using various new media platforms as creative tools to explore community issues.
As a documentary filmmaker, Massiah’s award-winning works include W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices, The Bombing of Osage Avenue and Louise Alone Thompson Patterson: In Her Own Words. Currently, he is producing Haytian Stories, which explores the history of the 200-year relationship between the United States and Haiti.
A MacArthur Foundation fellow, Massiah has also received awards from Columbia-DuPont, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Global Village Documentary Festival, the National Black Programming Consortium, and an Emmy. Massiah received a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.S. from MIT. In addition to teaching at Scribe, he has been an artist-in-residence and on faculty at City College of New York, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, American University, and Haverford College. Photo Credit: Ken Yanoviak.
James McBride is an author, musician, and screenwriter. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, is considered an American classic and read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was translated into a major motion picture directed by American film icon Spike Lee. It was released by Disney/Touchstone in September 2008. McBride also wrote the script for the film. His newest novel, Song Yet Sung, was released in paperback in January 2009.
McBride is the worst dancer in the history of African-Americans, bar none, going back to slavetime and beyond. He is legally barred from dancing at any party he attends. He dances with one finger in the air like a white guy.
He is a former staff writer for the Boston Globe, People magazine and the Washington Post. His work has appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. His April 2007 National Geographic story titled “Hip Hop Planet” is considered a respected treatise on African-American music and culture.
McBride is a saxophonist who tours with his six-piece jazz/r&b band. He served as a sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott, among others. He has written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, Gary Burton, and even for the PBS television character Barney. He did not write the “I Love You” song for Barney but wishes he did. He received the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award for his musical Bo-Bos co-written with playwright Ed Shockley. His “Riffin’ and Pontificatin’ ” Tour was captured in a 2003 Comcast television documentary. He has been featured on national radio and television programs in America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
McBride is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a distinguished writer-in-residence at New York University. He is married with three children. Visit his Web site, http://www.jamesmcbride.com/, for more information.
Bernice L. McFadden
Bernice L. McFadden is the author of the forthcoming Glorious (2010) and several critically acclaimed novels, which include the classic Sugar and Nowhere Is a Place, which was a Washington Post Best Fiction title for 2006. McFadden is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist for fiction, as well as the recipient of two fiction honor awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her sophomore novel, The Warmest December, was praised by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison as “searing and expertly imagined.” McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is working on her next novel.
Tony Medina is the author of 13 books for adults and children, including DeShawn Days, Love to Langston, Committed to Breathing, and Follow-Up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response. Featured in the documentaries Nuyorc 1999, A Weigh with Words: An Inside Look at How Words Create Conflict or Compassion, and Furious Flower II: Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition: Roots & First Fruits/Cross-Pollination in the Diaspora/Blooming in the Whirlwind, Medina’s poetry, fiction, and essays appear in more than 80 publications and two CD compilations. An advisory editor for Nikki Giovanni’s anthology Hip-Hop Speaks to Children, his most recent work is featured in the anthologies Poets Against the Killing Field; Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones; Fingernails Across a Chalkboard: A Literary and Artistic View of HIV/AIDS Affecting People of Color, Full Moon on K Street; and Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75. Medina has taught English at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus and Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, and has earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University, SUNY. Associate professor of creative writing at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Medina’s latest books are I and I, Bob Marley (Lee & Low Books, 2009), and My Old Man Was Always On the Lam (Nightshade Press, 2010). Medina was most recently featured in interview on blackbookshelf.com’s Black History Month 28 Days Campaign.
Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from New York University. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze: A Novel, has received star reviews. A recent Pushcart Prize nominee, she was named “New Literary Idol” by New York Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Ninth Letter, and 42opus, has been translated and published into German and Romanian for Lettre International, and can be found in the Seal Press anthology Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place and Time. A recipient of fellowships from the Prague Summer Program, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo, she currently lives in New York.
Nina Angela Mercer
Nina Angela Mercer is a multigenre writer and performing artist. She is the executive director of Ocean Ana Rising Inc., an arts education nonprofit organization (www.oarinc.org). Mercer’s play Gutta Beautiful was staged in Washington, D.C., at The Warehouse Theatre (2005) and The Woolly Mammoth Theatre (2006), and in New York City at Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement (2007). Gutta Beautiful will be staged in Woodbrook, Trinidad, by Griot Productions in October 2010. Her one woman play Racing My Girl, Sally was read at The First National Conference of Women of Color Writing Plays in Chicago in August 2008, where she was also a panelist and fellow. In 2009, Mercer participated in a collective choreopoem, installation and performance Refuge and Resistance, which debuted at Brecht Forum in New York City. Mercer’s short story “Espiritu Takes a Lover” will be published in Woman’s Work, an anthology of short fiction to be published by Girl Child Press in 2010. Most recently, Nina cocurated “Women on Wednesdays (WoW)” at Brecht Forum with Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, where she also debuted her new choreopoem “Na Mabuzu Sole Sole” in February 2010. Mercer graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from American University, and put in some time at University of Maryland, College Park’s Doctoral Program in English. Mercer is currently teaching writing and literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Medgar Evers College. She lives in the Bronx, New York, with her two daughters, Aya Imani and Raisa Selam, along with their twin turtles, Lima and Cairo, and their trusty cat, Hapi.
Phyllis Montana-Leblanc was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, she lost everything and used writing as a means of escape and therapy. She participated in Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke and read a poem at the end of the documentary. Her upcoming book Not Just the Levees Broke, a Hurricane Katrina memoir, features her Katrina poems and recounts her experiences during and after Hurricane Katrina.
John Murillo is a poet, playwright, and an educator. He is a two-time Larry Neal Writers’ Award winner. A New York Times Poetry Fellow and Cave Canem alum, he has an M.F.A from New York University. His poems have appeared in publications such as Ninth Letter, Lumina and Ploughshares and in the anthology D.C. Poets Against the War. Murillo is the current Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Visit his Web site at www.johnmurillo.com.
Pamela Newkirk is professor of journalism at New York University and editor, most recently, of Letters from Black America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), a collection of more than 200 letters written by African-Americans from all walks of life from the 1700s to 2008. She is also editor of A Love No Less (Doubleday, 2004) and author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (New York University Press, 2000), which won the National Press Club Award for media criticism. Her articles on media and African- American art and culture have been published in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, ARTnews, Essence, and The Nation. Prior to joining the faculty at New York University, she worked as a daily reporter at four news organizations, including New York Newsday, where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. Photo Credit: Joe Henson
Courttia Newland was born in 1973 to parents of Caribbean heritage. In 1997, he published his first novel, The Scholar: A West Side Story. He followed up with critically acclaimed works Society Within (1999) and Snakeskin (2002).
He has written and staged eight plays to date, including an adaptation of Euripides’ Women of Troy, and he was a featured playwright in the Hidden Gems anthology, published by Oberon in 2008.
Newland has been a writer-in-residence at the London College of Communication (2003–2004), for the British Council at Trinity College, Dublin (2005), and Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (2007).
He is the coeditor of the anthology IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (2000) and has short stories featured in other anthologies, including The Time Out Book of London Short Stories: Vol. 2 (2000) and England Calling: 24 Stories for the 21st Century (2001).
Newland’s radio work includes an Afternoon Play, Hands, for BBC Radio 4 and a short story, an Afternoon Read, Flight of Freedom, also for Radio 4. His latest books include a novella, The Dying Wish (2006), and a collection of macabre short stories, Music for the Off-Key (2006). In 2007, he was short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library Award.
Patrick Oliver is founder and program development specialist for Say It Loud! Readers and Writers, a literary arts program dedicated to promoting reading and writing as tools of empowerment. Through a variety of innovative projects, Say It Loud! engages children, youth, and adults in activities such as community forums, author talks, book discussions, and developmental workshops. Oliver currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with programmatic partnerships in Memphis, Tennessee; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Washington, D.C.
Oliver is creator, executive producer and host of Literary Nation Talk Radio, a live weekly broadcast that dialogues with local and nationally authors, activists and artists such as Houston Baker Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, Common, Nikki Grimes, Hill Harper, Haki R. Madhubuti, Mos Def, Sonia Sanchez, Susan L. Taylor and numerous others. He is publisher and editor of the Essence magazine best-selling anthology Turn the Page and You Don’t Stop: Sharing Successful Chapters in Our Lives with Youth.
Oliver was director of sales and marketing at Third World Press (Chicago); director of programs for the Open Book Program, a citywide after-school reading program in Chicago; former senior contract administrator in the defense industry in Los Angeles, California. He has organized and facilitated panels at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, American Library Association, the American Library Association Joint Conference of Librarians of Color Conference, Texas Library Association, College Language Association, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Harlem Book Fair, and numerous other conferences and events.
Major Owens is a former congressman who represented the state’s 11th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He retired at the end of his term in January 2007 and was succeeded by Yvette Clarke. He has published on activism, education, and politics. Owens advocates a strong connection between communities and their libraries. His opening address to the 1992 National Conference of African American Librarians centered on the theme “Culture Keepers: Enlightening and Empowering Our Communities.” Having dedicated his life to public service, Owens functions as the voice of social awareness in the New York borough of Brooklyn, linking the populace to their literary, cultural, and political roots. In 1983, he became the only librarian in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Willie Perdomo is the author of Where a Nickel Costs a Dime (1996) and Smoking Lovely (2003), which received a PEN America Beyond Margins Award. He has also been published in The New York Times Magazine, Bomb, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, OCHO, and African Voices. His children’s book Visiting Langston (2005) received a Coretta Scott King Book Award honor; his follow-up, Clemente! will be published in May 2010. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Woolrich Fellow in Creative Writing at Columbia University and is a 2009 fellow in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is cofounder/publisher of Cypher Books. Photo Credit: Gabriella Ramirez
Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, African American Review, North Carolina Literary Review and The Richard Wright Newsletter. Born and raised in Memphis, a graduate of Harvard, and a former George McCandlish Fellow in American Literature at George Washington University, Perkins-Valdez, 36, currently lives in Washington, D.C. A finalist for the 2009 Robert Olen Butler Short Fiction Prize, judged by Butler, and a participant in this summer’s Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Wench is her first novel.
James Braxton Peterson
James Braxton Peterson is an assistant professor of English at Bucknell University. He has been a visiting lecturer and preceptor in African American studies at Princeton University and was the founding media coordinator for the Harvard University Hip Hop Archive. He is also the founder of Hip Hop Scholars, LLC, an association of hip-hop generational scholars dedicated to researching and developing the cultural and educational potential of hip-hop, urban, and youth cultures. Peterson has written numerous scholarly articles on hip-hop culture, African-American literature, culture, and linguistics, as well as urban studies. He has conducted interviews with Gil Scott-Heron, Manning Marable, Sistah Souljah, Snoop Dogg, Dead Prez, DJ Jazzy Jeff; and he generally applies his journalistic skills and his ethnographic training toward innovative academic inquiry. Peterson has been featured on/in BET and Bet.com, The Michael Eric Dyson Show, Hot 97’s Street Soldiers, The Michael Baisden Show, and the award-winning PBS documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes. He has appeared on Fox News, CBS News, MSNBC, ABC News, ESPN, HLN, and various local television networks as an expert on hip-hop culture, popular culture, urban youth, and politics. He has published his scholarly work in Callaloo, Black Arts Quarterly, XXL, and African American Review. Peterson is currently working on his first book, Major Figures: Literary Approaches to Hip Hop Culture (Mississippi University Press). He has also been featured and/or quoted in Vibe magazine, Philadelphia Weekly, Southern Voices and The Wall Street Journal. For more information, speech clips and media appearances, please go to: http://www.youtube.com/DrJamesPeterson.
Kevin Powell is widely considered one of America's leading political and cultural voices in these early years of the twenty-first century. A longtime activist and award-winning writer, Powell was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, and is the product of a single mother-led household, extreme poverty, fatherlessness, and violence. In spite of these harsh circumstances, Powell studied at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and he has become one of the most prolific and respected writers and leaders of his generation. He is the author or editor of 10 books, including his newest, Open Letters to America, a collection of essays that examine American leadership, politics, and various social issues in the era of Barack Obama. Additionally, Powell’s writings have appeared in a range of publications, including the Washington Post, Newsweek, Essence, Ebony, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Vibe, where he was a senior writer for several years documenting, most famously, the life and times of the late Tupac Shakur. As an activist, Powell has worked on a range of concerns, including voter registration, Hurricane Katrina relief, education, the environment, and eradicating poverty. As an extension of his activism work, Powell also routinely does college, corporate, and community lectures across America and internationally. He is a frequent presence on television and radio, offering his commentary on a range of issues, including on the Oprah Show where he was a part of the national conversation on domestic violence and how men can help to end the assault on women and girls. Powell is not only a writer and activist, but also a businessowner; he has a particularly keen interest, these days, in community development and incubating small and medium-size American businesses. Finally, a longtime and proud resident of Brooklyn, New York, Kevin Powell was a Democratic candidate for Congress in Brooklyn in 2008.
Tzarina T. Prater
Tzarina T. Prater is currently an assistant professor of English at LaGuardia Community College and her areas of specialization are: late-nineteenth and twentieth-century African-American literature, American literature, anglophone Caribbean, gender and cultural studies. She is currently working on transforming her dissertation, “ ‘Sharp Bones’: (Re)imagining the Heroic in 20th Century Black Fiction” into a book manuscript.
Felicia Pride is a writer, speaker and voice of her generation. She’s the author of several books including The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs, which has been used in educational institutions around the country and the YA novel Patterson Heights, an American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. As an author, Pride has been featured by prominent media outlets, including USA Today and National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation. She is also a contributor to The Root.com and Publishers Weekly. Previously, she was the book blogger for AOL Black Voices, and her writing has appeared in various publications, including Vibe, the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore’s City Paper, and Popmatters.com.
In 2004, she founded BackList, an organization that produces entertaining and engaging content across genres, formats, and styles. She speaks on an array of topics including writing, publishing, media, popular culture, hip-hop, and literacy, and she has been an invited speaker at schools, institutions, and events around the country. Pride has an M.A. in writing and publishing from Emerson College. Visit her online at www.feliciapride.com or follow her at twitter.com/feliciapride.
Eugene B. Redmond
Eugene B. Redmond was named poet laureate of East St. Louis (Illinois) in 1976, the year Doubleday Publishing Co. released his best-selling book, Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry. Earlier, he spent two years (1967- 1969) as teacher-counselor and poet-in-residence at Southern Illinois University’s Experiment in Higher Education (ESL), where he taught with Katherine Dunham. (In 2006, he coordinated the International Memorial Celebration for Miss Dunham.) From 1970 to 1985, he was professor of English and poet-in-residence at California State University-Sacramento. During that time, he won an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, an Outstanding Faculty Research Award, a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, and served as a visiting professor at universities in the United States, Africa, and Europe. In 1986, a year after he returned home to East St. Louis, local authors created the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club in his honor.
Redmond is the author/editor of 25 volumes of poetry, collections of diverse writings, plays for stage and TV, and posthumously published works of Henry Dumas. Redmond read a poem at Maya Angelou’s 70th birthday gala (1998) hosted by Oprah Winfrey. (In April of 2008, his photo exhibit “Eighty Moods of Maya” was featured at Angelou’s 80th birthday party in Palm Beach, Florida.) The year 2008 also capped a long line of awards and accolades when he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from SIUE. Additionally, Redmond has won an American Book Award (for The Eye in the Ceiling), the Sterling Brown Award from the American Library Association’s African American Literature and Culture Association, a Staying the Course Award from ETA of Chicago, and a St. Louis American Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award (Salute to Excellence in Education Gala 2009).
Louis Reyes Rivera
Louis Reyes Rivera is an award-winning poet who has been studying his craft since 1960 and teaching it since 1969. He has assisted in the publication of over 200 books, including John Oliver Killens’s Great Black Russian, Adal Maldonado’s Portraits of the Puerto Rican Experience, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, The Bandana Republic, and his own award-winning collection Scattered Scripture. He has taught Pan-African, African-American, Caribbean, and Puerto Rican history in colleges and community centers since 1986. His essays and poems have appeared on Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam on HBO, and in Areyto, Boletin, The City Sun, African Voices, In Defense of Mumia, ALOUD: Live from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, among others. He has recently completed a 150-page epic poem Jazz in Jail; and he continues working with jazz bands, conducting a writing workshop at Sistas’ Place, in Brooklyn, and hosting Perspective on WBAI radio station (99.5 FM; www.wbai.org).
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Jewell Parker Rhodes is a novelist, the Virginia G. Piper Chair in creative writing, the artistic director of Piper Global Engagement, and founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center in Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She is the author of five novels: Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau, Magic City, Douglass’ Women, Voodoo Season, Yellow Moon, and a memoir, Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness. A sixth novel, Hurricane Levee Blues, is forthcoming, as well as a young adult book from Little, Brown titled Ninth Ward.
Her first novel, Voodoo Dreams (Picador USA), focused on the spiritual development of Marie Laveau, a nineteenth-century free woman of color who became a leader for women’s and Black people’s rights in the racist and sexist society of nineteenth-century New Orleans. The novel was selected for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Series” and received a rare diamond from Kirkus Reviews and a star from Booklist. Voodoo Dreams has been published in England, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. A staged reading of Rhodes’s play Voodoo Dreams (based upon her novel) was produced by the Institute for the Study of the Arts at Arizona State University and received a “Most Innovative Theater” Award from the Arizona Republic.
Rhodes’s novel Magic City was published in hardcover and paperback by HarperCollins. Magic City focuses on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 in which the Black community, Deep Greenwood, was bombed from the air by National Guardsmen. Both a white woman’s and a Black man’s sexuality were exploited as the cause for the riot. Weaving African-American spiritual traditions and Houdini’s Jewish heritage and dreams, the novel was selected by the Chicago Tribune as one of its favorite books of 1997; its reviewer said the novel “gleams with clarity and with vivid—yet succinct metaphors. With Magic City, Rhodes has captured many truths, refining the crusted raw materials of history into a luminous work.”
Rhodes’s third and fourth books, Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors and The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Nonfiction, both writing texts, were published by Doubleday.
Rhodes’s latest historical novel, Douglass’ Women, was published by Atria Books. The novel was awarded the 2003 American Book Award, 2003 Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award for Literary Excellence, the 2003 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Fiction and for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Douglass’ Women received a five-star review from Book magazine and was cited as a “courageous and beautiful book” by the Washington Post Book World. This novel explores the inner lives of the women who contributed to the greatness of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Both Anna Douglass, Douglass’ wife of 30 years, and Ottilie Assing, a German, half-Jewish and Christian intellectual, and Douglass’ longtime mistress, provided substantial support that has been historically undervalued and unrecognized.
Rhodes’s novel Voodoo Season (Atria Books) begins a contemporary trilogy focusing on a voodooienne who is also a medical doctor in New Orleans’s Charity Hospital. Yellow Moon was published in paperback in 2009; Hurricane Levee Blues will be published in 2010. Rhodes’s memoir Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness was published by Simon & Schuster in 2006. A reading and interview can be found at http://www.npr.org.
Rhodes’s short fiction has been anthologized in Gumbo, edited by Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris; Children of the Night: Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present, edited by Gloria Naylor; in Ancestral House: The Black Short Story in the Americas and Europe, edited by Charles Rowell; and in many other journals.
Rhodes has received a Yaddo Creative Writing Fellowship, the National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction, and was selected as writer-in-residence for The National Writers Voice Project. She has been awarded the California State University Distinguished Teaching Award. At Arizona State University, she has been awarded the Dean’s Quality Teaching Award, Outstanding Thesis Director from the Honors College, and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Extended Education. She has also received the 2005 Faculty Women’s Association Excellence Award and the Ronald McDonald Charities 2004 Award for Excellence in Education. Recently, she received the “Outstanding Leader in Communications” award by the YWCA.
Rhodes has received a Bachelor of Arts in drama criticism, a Master of Arts in English, and a Doctor of Arts in English (creative writing) from Carnegie Mellon University. Visit her Web site at http://www.jewellparkerrhodes.com.
Kalamu ya Salaam
Kalamu ya Salaam (“Pen of Peace”) is a New Orleans-born writer, educator, and moviemaker. He and his son, Mtume, moderate Breath of Life: A Conversation About Black Music (www.kalamu.com/bol). Salaam moderates e-drum, a listserv of more than 800 Black writers and diverse supporters. He is codirector of Students at the Center, a writing program in the New Orleans public schools. An extensive collection of Salaam’s writings, plus a feature-length interview, are online: (http://nathanielturner.com/kystable.htm).
Sonia Sanchez, a John Oliver Killens Lifetime Literary Award recipient, is a poet, playwright, activist, and scholar. Her latest book, Morning Haiku, was recently published by Beacon Press. She is a national and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice; sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a board member of MADRIE.
Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University; she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English and was professor of women’s studies at Temple University until her retirement in 1999. Sanchez is of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement and the author of more than 16 books, including Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems (2000); Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems (1998); Does Your House Have Lions? (1995), which was nominated for both the NAACP Image Award and National Book Critics Circle Award; Wounded in the House of a Friend (1995); Under a Soprano Sky (1987); Homegirls & Handgrenades (1984), which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; I’ve Been a Woman: New and Selected Poems (1978); A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1973); Love Poems (1973); Liberation Poem (1970); We a BaddDDD People (1970); and Homecoming (1969).
Sanchez’s published plays are Black Cats Back and Uneasy Landings (1995); I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t (1982); Malcolm Man/Don’t Live Here No Mo’ (1979); Uh Huh: But How Do It Free Us? (1974); Dirty Hearts ’72 (1973); and The Bronx Is Next (1970). Her books for children include A Sound Investment and Other Stories (1979); The Adventures of Fat Head, Small Head, and Square Head (1973); and It’s a New Day: Poems for Young Brothas and Sistuhs (1971).
Among the many honors she has received is the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women; the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF); the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities; and a National Endowment for the Arts Award. She is the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medalist, Ford Freedom Scholar for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and a recipient of The Otto Awards for 2001.
Sanchez earned a B.A. in political science from Hunter College, and she also did postgraduate work at New York University. She has lectured at universities and colleges in the United States, and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She lives in Philadelphia.
Rakesh Satyal is the author of the novel Blue Boy, a gender-bending comedy about an Indian American boy’s fascination with the Hindu god Krishna. Satyal is an editor at HarperCollins, where he edits such authors as Paulo Coelho, Clive Barker, Armistead Maupin, and Paul Rudnick. A member of the planning committee for the annual PEN World Voices Festival, he speaks frequently at writers’ conferences. He also sings a popular cabaret show in the city. His Web site is www.rakeshsatyal.com.
April R. Silver
April R. Silver is a social entrepreneur, activist, and writer. She heads AKILA WORKSONGS Inc. (AW), a communications agency that services the unique needs of progressive artists, activists, advocates, and organizations. Since 1993, AW has provided a variety of premium services to a diverse roster, ranging from emerging poets to hip-hop artist/actor Mos Def to The Ford Foundation. The company is also known for creating Put on BLAST!, a widely trusted e-mail marketing service that houses more than 32,000 subscribers nationwide.
Silver is also editor of the anthology Be a Father to Your Child: Real Talk from Black Men on Family, Love, and Fatherhood (Soft Skull/Counterpoint, 2008). In 2006, she was a TV talk show host on BETJ’s My Two Cents (first two seasons).
Dorothea Smartt is an engaging poet and artist, London born and based, with Barbadian heritage. Dubbed “Brit-born Bajan international” [Kamau Braithwaite], she braids together standard and Caribbean English; poetic form and speech rhythms; myth, history, observation and reflection. She moves, informs, and entertains—whether read on the page or heard on stage.
A former Attached Live Artist at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, Smartt is described as “accessible and dynamic,” her work was selected to promote the best of contemporary writing in Europe. Highly respected, she is considered “among the best of her generation of poets” [Carole Boyce Davies, Cornell University]. With her books taught in several U.S. universities, she reads, performs, and leads workshops around the United Kingdom, in the United States, as well as internationally. A former part-time lecturer at Birbeck College, University of London, she is a skilled, experienced, and inspirational facilitator, currently leading residentials for the U.K.’s Arvon Foundation and mentoring on Apples & Snakes’ Evolve program.
Her latest publication, Ship Shape (2009, Peepal Tree Press Ltd.), is a rich collection connecting past and present, presence and absence. At its heart is a sequence of “bluesy, well-crafted poems of loss, and desire” that excavate the missing history of an African who died within days of his arrival in eighteenth-century Lancaster, and is presumed buried at Sunderland Point. “Well researched and often punctuated with refrains, it leaves us wanting to know more.” [Patience Agbabi, Poet]
Her first collection, Connecting Medium [2001, Peepal Tree Press], was highly praised and features a Forward Prize-commended poem and poems from her outstanding performance works “Medusa” and “From You to Me to You” [An ICA Live Art commission]. She explores issues of heritage and identity, with an evocative and spirited voice, which “coils up your feelings, around granite chips of truth...unwinds solace, in the most soothing volleys”[Caribbean Times].
Her poetry video installation Landfall was part of an international exhibition “LandFall” [2009, Museum of London Docklands] featured new works exploring the Atlantic Ocean as a natural phenomenon and transporter of dreams and peoples, building on “Tradewinds” [2006, Project Row Houses] residency and installation in Houston, Texas.
In November 2009, she was a guest at the Badilisha Poetry Xchange, in South Africa. As an African Writers Abroad [PEN] member, her most recent commission, “C-Words,” explored climate change and justice, demonstrating her “…uniquely powerful gift…exercise[d] with exquisite mastery and graceful eloquence, and a pure and simple honesty” [Daleen Baker, MPhil]. Her latest work appears in Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry, edited by Kwame Dawes [Peepal Tree Press, 2010]; and her “Writer’s Diary” will be featured in Wasafiri magazine’s forthcoming Black British issue. She is Sable LitMag’s poetry editor and codirector of Inscribe, the Black and Asian writer’s development program of Peepal Tree Press. For more information about Smartt, visit http://dorotheasmartt.wordpress.com and http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/americas/
Michelle (Folami) Smith-MuhammadMichelle (Folami) Smith-Muhammad is a native Atlantan and advocate for community empowerment through education and technology. She freelances as an academic editor, and most recently launched an online tutorial service, AllThingsAcademic.com. She has earned both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Clark Atlanta University and has completed graduate coursework at Howard University.
The Ricardo Strobert Family Band
The Ricardo Strobert Family Band has performed at the past two Writer’s Conferences at Medgar Evers College. The members include, Ricardo Strobert, saxophone and flute; 15-year-old Marrie Strobert on keyboard; 18-year-old Martez Strobert plays the six-string bass; 15-year-old Power Pleasant on drums; and musician, writer, and historian John Mason plays the congas.
Karen D. TaylorKaren D. Taylor has been an editor for Amistad Press, Scholastic, and Audubon Magazine. She has also worked for the Feminist Press, CUNY, and the College of New Rochelle. As an adjunct, she taught English. She holds a M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also sings.
Susan L. Taylor
Susan L. Taylor is synonymous with Essence magazine, the brand she built—as its fashion and beauty editor, as editor-in-chief and editorial director. For 27 years, she authored of one of the magazine’s most popular columns, “In the Spirit.” For nearly three decades, as the driving force behind one of the most celebrated Black-owned businesses of our time, Taylor is a legend in the magazine publishing world.
She was the first and only African-American woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award—the industry’s highest honor—and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of the NAACP President’s Award for visionary leadership, and has honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities.
A fourth-generation entrepreneur, Taylor grew up in Harlem working with her father in his women’s clothing store. She founded her own cosmetics company, a first for Black women, which led to the beauty editor’s position at Essence. She is the author of four books: In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she coauthored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and her most recent, All About Love: Favorite Selections from In the Spirit on Living Fearlessly. She is a much sought-after speaker, inspiring hope and encouraging us to reclaim our lives and create sustainable communities.
She is an avid supporter of a host of organizations dedicated to moving the Black community forward, but her passion and focus today is the National Cares Mentoring Movement, a call to action, which she founded in 2006 as Essence Cares. The Cares mentoring movement is a massive campaign to recruit one million able adults to help secure our children who are in peril and losing ground. “Not on our watch!” she says. “Our children are the mothers and fathers of our tomorrows, and their future is in our hands.” The goals of the Cares movement are to increase high-school graduation rates among African-American students, end the violence in Black communities and the over-incarceration of our young. “Creating safe, top-tier schools in every underserved community in this nation is the mandate—and it’s doable,” Taylor says.
Taylor is a cofounder of Future PAC, the first national political action committee devoted to providing a network of support and sources of funding for progressive African-American women seeking federal and state-level political offices. She is cochair with Danny Glover of Shared Interest, a capital campaign to raise money to build housing in the rural areas of South Africa, and serves on the boards of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has worked passionately to help restore the lives of people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region who were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Johnny Temple is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books, an award-winning, Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction. Temple won the American Association of Publishers’ 2005 Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing. He is the chair of the Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz’s Literary Council, which helps to organize in the annual Brooklyn Book Festival. Temple plays bass guitar in the band Girls Against Boys, which has toured extensively across the globe and released numerous albums on independent and major record companies. He has contributed articles and political essays to various publications, including The Nation, Publishers Weekly, AlterNet, Poets & Writers, and BookForum. He studied Caribbean and African-American literature at Wesleyan University and received a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.) from Columbia University in 1993. He was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and currently resides with his wife and two sons in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Touré is an NBC contributor and a regular on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. He is also the host of the Hip Hop Shop on Fuse. He was the host of BET’s The Black Carpet and the host of Treasure HD’s I’ll Try Anything Once, an action-adventure reality show where he dove into wild challenges like demolition derbying, sumo wrestling, skydiving, and playing semipro football with women. He was also CNN’s first pop culture correspondent, and the host of MTV2’s Spoke N Heard. He’s the author of three books: Never Drank the Kool-Aid, a collection of essays about hip-hop and life; Soul City, a novel; and The Portable Promised Land, a collection of short stories. He is currently at work on a book about the future of blackness. He remains a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he’s been writing for over fifteen years and did cover stories on Jay-Z, Beyonce, Eminem, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, DMX, 50 Cent, N’ Sync, and many others. He has appeared on the Today Show, The O’Reilly Factor, Nightline, American Morning, Anderson Cooper 360°, Paula Zahn Now, and Topic A with Tina Brown, where Brown called him “a one-man media conglomerate.” His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Art Forum, Tennis, Blender, Men’s Journal, Playboy, The Best American Essays of 1999, the Best American Sports Writing of 2001, the CA Cap Best Music Writing of 2004, the Best American Erotica of 2004, theDailyBeast.com, and Huffingtonpost.com. He studied at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Creative Writing and lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, with his two children. You can follow Touré on Twitter @Tourex.
Eleanor W. Traylor
Eleanor W. Traylor is professor of English and chair of the Department of English at Howard University; she is also project director of From Text to Stage to Text: Great Moments in African American Literature. Traylor wrote the Introduction for The Black Woman: An Anthology, a collection of essays, poems, and stories edited by Toni Cade Bambara. She is the recipient of The Marcus Garvey Award for community service, the Hazel Joan Bryant Award of the Midwest Black Theatre Alliance for service in community theater, and the Catholic University Alumni Achievement Award in literary criticism. Traylor obtained a BA. from Spelman College; an M.A. from Atlanta University; and a Ph.D. from Catholic University, where she pursued her interests in African-American literature and mythology, concentrating this focus in a dissertation on Richard Wright.
Krishan Trotman, director of Trotman-Ink, has worked in publishing for five years. Recently, she was an editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, one of the most successful publishers in the country. At Simon & Schuster, she contributed to developing innovative projects, especially for the18–35 year old demographic in the adult division—exercising proficient editorial skills. She has worked on projects by prominent and celebrity figures including Prince, T.D. Jakes, Tavis Smiley, Blair Underwood, Pamela Anderson, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and many more—to help effectively publish their work. Her creative skills and eye for detail have enabled her to produce content that is engaging yet smart, in identifying and attracting today’s reader.
At Trotman-Ink, she works as a publishing consultant with authors, agents, and publishers to develop their editorial work as well as to implement creative and fresh marketing strategies to promote their books. To learn more, check out her blog Publishing Superstar at http://publishingsuperstar.tumblr.com/.
Cheo Tyehimba is an award-winning journalist, writer, author, and screenwriter. He has a master’s degree in creative writing from the City College of New York. In the mid-nineties, he wrote the widely acclaimed nonfiction book The Ghetto Solution.
Tyehimba has taught writing at The City College of New York and the University of San Francisco, among other schools. He has written numerous articles for Web sites and publications such as American Legacy, Entertainment Weekly, Essence, George, People, Savoy, the Washington Post, and Vibe, among others. Tyehimba won national distinction for “Best Magazine Article on Foreign Travel” by Society of American Travel Writers for his investigative cover story on the former slave dungeons of Ghana, West Africa. He has also written travel stories covering the international scene in cities such as Paris, Salvador de Bahia, Cape Town, and Toronto.
Tyehimba is an alumnus of several writer’s workshops, including the Hurston/Wright Writers’ Week, the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center, and the Voices of Our Nation’s Arts (VONA) Writer’s Workshop. In addition, both his nonfiction and fiction have been published widely, including Be a Father to Your Child (Softskull Press, 2008) and Black Silk (Warner Books, 2005).
Tyehimba’s new book, Like Loving Backward, a “slightly supernatural” collection of short stories about how Black men learn to love, has received critical praise in several publications, including the literary journal ForeWord magazine. Currently, Tyehimba writes a blog for theGrio.com, directs the Museum of the African Diaspora’s digital stories project, and is working on a novel. To learn more, visit http:// www.likelovingbackward.com
M G Vassanji
M G Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. He is the author of six novels, two collections of short stories, and a travel memoir. Vassanji’s first novel, The Gunny Sack, won the Commonwealth First Book Prize for Africa. He is also twice winner of the Giller Prize for best work of fiction in Canada, and the Governor General’s Award for his travel memoir. His most recent novel, The Assassin’s Song, was short-listed for several prizes in Canada and in India. The themes of his fiction include myth-memory-and-history and the illusory nature of modern identity, within the context of Africa, India, and North America.
Carletta Joy Walker
Carletta Joy Walker, an American-based writer, poet, and performer as well as journalist and producer, uses the media and her work in public to encourage communication and respect. Walker wishes to encourage through her work an appreciation of our stories as essential elements to our well-being.
Cheryl A. Wall
Cheryl A. Wall, Board of Governors Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English at Rutgers University, is the author of Worrying the Line: Black Women Writers, Lineage, and Literary Tradition (2005) and Women of the Harlem Renaissance (1995) and the editor of the Writings of Zora Neale Hurston in two volumes published by the Library of America (1995) as well as two collections of essays about Hurston’s work. She also edited Changing Our Own Words: Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women (1989) and with Linda J. Holmes coedited Savoring the Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara (2008).
At Rutgers, Wall has been honored for her teaching, scholarship, and service. From 1997 to 2003, she served as chair of the Department of English. Currently, she is cochair of the President’s Council on Institutional Diversity and Equity.
Wall was Charter President of the Board of Crossroad Theatre and is a former member of the Highland Park, New Jersey Human Rights Commission. She is the proud mother of Camara Rose Epps.
Frank B. Wilderson III
Frank B. Wilderson III was born April 11, 1956, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the author of Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid (South End Press); Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2010); and The Black Position: Civil Death in Civil Society (submitted); and the director of Reparations…Now, a critical documentary in progress.
His literary awards include The American Book Award 2008—awarded for Incognegro—The Eisner Prize for Creative Achievement of the Highest Order; The Crothers Short Story Award; The Judith Stronach Award for Poetry; The Jerome Foundation Artists and Writers Award; The Loft-McKnight Award for Best Prose in the State of Minnesota; and The Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America. Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid was also a winner of 2009 the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award (nonfiction category) and finalist for ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year.
Wilderson spent five-plus years (1991–1996) in South Africa, where he was an elected official in the African National Congress; a member of the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto We Sizwe; a university lecturer; a dramaturge at the Market Theater; and as an elected official in the Congress of South African Writers. He is an assistant professor of drama and African American Studies at University of California, Irvine.
Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, a New York Times Notable Book. He has also written a book of essays about his hometown, The Colossus of New York. His most recent novel, Sag Harbor, was published last spring. Whitehead’s reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s and Granta. A recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in Brooklyn.
Terrie M. Williams
Terrie M. Williams is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of The Terrie Williams Agency and The Stay Strong Foundation. She is also the best-selling author of four books, including her latest, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting (Scribner). Currently, Williams is committed to guiding people to live emotionally healthy lives.
Tiphanie Yanique is the author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf Press, 2010). Her fiction and poetry have won the Boston Review Prize in fiction, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright in creative writing, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. Her work has also appeared in Callaloo, Transition magazine, American Short Fiction, the London Magazine and other places. She is a professor of creative writing and literature at Drew University. Yanique is from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.