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DaLeyna R. Adkinson is a leading marketing executive driving proven impact at the intersections of entertainment, sports and media. Her transformational leadership and breakthrough marketing strategies have been tapped by leading brands such as TV One, the Los Angeles Rams and Meta (formerly known as Facebook) to accelerate business growth and bolster diverse audience engagement. Currently, DaLeyna serves as the Director, Marketing – Brand Heat & Culture for PUMA North America, where she connects the brand to diverse and underrepresented communities through partnerships, product launches and cultural programming. In addition to her primary functions, she has been recognized by Adweek, Cannes Film Festival, Creative Ladder, the Association of National Advertisers, Clio and others for her extraordinary accomplishments in multicultural marketing.


Jafari S. Allen is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Global Black Studies at the University of Miami and author of his latest book There’s a Disco Ball Between Us, a sweeping and lively ethnographic and intellectual history of what he calls “Black gay habits of mind” published by Duke University Press.


Samiya Bashir is the author of three books of poetry: Field Theories, and Gospel, and Where the Apple Falls. Sometimes she makes poems of dirt. Sometimes zeros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. Her work has been widely published, performed, installed, printed, screened, and experienced. Bashir holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Poet Laureate, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received two Hopwood Poetry Awards. Bashir took the helm as Executive Director of Lambda Literary in 2022. She lives in Harlem, NY.

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Regis and Kahran Bethencourt are a husband-and-wife duo and the imaginative forces behind CreativeSoul Photography. With more than ten years of working with hundreds of children, families and brands, they specialize in child and lifestyle photography while incorporating authentic visual storytelling. As artists, CreativeSoul Photography is committed to helping kids and brands create fascinating imagery by operating as a one-stop shop offering expert creative direction, vision, planning, strategy, and execution. They've worked with brands small and large around the globe such as Disney, Amazon, Just for Me, CurlyKids Haircare, CamilleRose Haircare and more.


Rachel E. Cargle is an activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropic innovator. She is the founder of The Loveland Group, a family of companies including Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre, a literary space that celebrates marginalized voices, and The Great Unlearn, an adult learning platform that centers the teaching of BIPOC thinkers. In 2018, she founded The Loveland Foundation, offering free access to mental health care for Black women and girls. Cargle is a regular contributor to Cultured magazine, Atmos, and The Cut, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The New Yorker

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Nancy Naomi Carlson is a translator, poet, essayist, and author of twelve titles (eight translated), including Khal Torabully’s Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude (Seagull Books, 2021). An Infusion of Violets (Seagull, 2019), her second full-length poetry collection, was named “New & Noteworthy” by The New York Times. A recipient of two translation grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, she was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award and the CLMP Firecracker Poetry Award. Decorated with the rank of Chevalier in the Order of the French Academic Palms, she is the translation editor for On the Seawall.


LaTasha N. Diggs’s work is truly hybrid: languages and modes are grafted together and furl out insistently from each bound splice. She teaches at Brooklyn and Barnard College, and lives in New York City. As part of the self-interview project The Next Big Thing, Diggs addressed some of her inspirations for TwERK, including “the overall desire to communicate with other tongues. As a performer, independent curator, artistic director, and producer, Diggs has presented and performed at a wide and eclectic array of venues, from California Institute of the Arts and The Museum of Modern Art to BAMCafé and the International Poetry Festival of Romania. Learn more here.

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Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the children’s picture book BLUE: A History of the Color as  Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky, illustrated by Caldecott Honor Artist Daniel Minter. Named among the best books of 2022 by NPR, New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Kirkus Reviews, and The Center for the Study of Multicultural Literature, BLUE was honored with the 2023 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award® recognizing excellence in the writing of non-fiction for children and nominated for an  NAACP Image Award. Brew-Hammond also wrote the young adult novel Powder Necklace, which Publishers Weekly called “a winning debut”, and she edited RELATIONS: An Anthology of African and  Diaspora Voices, of which Kirkus Reviews said in a STARRED review: “This smart, generous collection is a true gift.” Every month, Brew-Hammond co-leads a writing fellowship whose mission is to write light into darkness.


Nicole R. Fleetwood is the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication in the Steinhardt School at New York University. A MacArthur Fellow, she is a writer, curator, and art critic whose interests are contemporary Black diasporic art and visual culture, photography studies, art and public practice, performance studies, gender and feminist studies, Black cultural history, creative nonfiction, prison abolition and carceral studies, and poverty studies. She is the author Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration(Harvard University Press, 2020), winner of the National Book Critics Award in Criticism, the John Hope Franklin Publication Prize of the American Studies Association, the Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, and both the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award in art history and the Frank Jewett Mather Award in art criticism.


Dionne Ford is an NEA creative writing fellow and the co-editor of the anthology Slavery's Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation (Rutgers University Press). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Literary Hub, New Jersey Monthly, the Rumpus, and Ebony and won awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and the Newswomen's Club of New York. She holds a BA from Fordham University and an MFA from NewYork University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughters.

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Shanelle Gabriel is an internationally touring artist, educator, and lupus warrior from Brooklyn, NY. Widely known for featuring on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, she has shared her fusion of poetry and singing on stages with artists such as Jill Scott, Nas, Nikki Giovanni, J.Ivy, Talib Kweli, and Grand Puba. She competed in the National and Individual World Poetry Slam Competitions, performed at The Vatican, and has penned and featured in poetry campaigns with Pandora Music, NFL Draft, LifeWtr, and more. She recently released her third album of poetry, Things I Need to Remember, and is the host of the Better Together Series on on living with Lupus. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Urban Word, a youth nonprofit that uses poetry & hip-hop to promote literacy and youth voice and is the founder of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program. Learn more about her at


Farah Jasmine Griffin is professor of African American and African diaspora studies and English and comparative literature at Columbia University. She is the author of In Search of a Beautiful Freedom : New and Selected Essays, Read Until You Understand, among other works. Recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, she lives in New York.

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Claude Johnson is an author, historian, writer, and founder of the Black Fives Foundation, a 501(c)3 public charity whose mission is to research, preserve, showcase, and teach the pre-NBA history of African-American basketball while honoring its pioneers and their descendants. Claude is the author of The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era. The Black Fives Foundation Archives contain the world’s leading collection of historical artifacts from that period, known as the Black Fives Era.

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Candice Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian American writer whose books center home. They are from the Midwest by way of Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, New York. They are a proud alumna of the Rhode Island Writers Colony, and their work has earned fellowships from Lambda Literary, VONA, and Kimbilio Fiction and a residency with Hi-ARTS, where they debuted their first one-person show in 2018. Candice became a 2020 National Book Award Finalist and, in 2021, a Printz Award Honoree for their debut novel, Every Body Looking. Salt the Water is their third novel.

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Robert Jones, Jr. is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Prophets, a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Essence, and Variety, as well as in the critically acclaimed anthologies Four Hundred Souls and The 1619 Project.

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YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA’s numerous books of poems include Everyday Mojo Songs of the Earth: New and Selected Poems (2021); The Emperor of Water Clocks (2015); Warhorses (2008); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1994), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Dien Cai Dau (1988), which was awarded the Dark Room Poetry Prize; and Copacetic (1984). His essays and interviews are collected in Blue Notes (2000) and Condition Red (2017). Komunyakaa co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology (1991). He served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999-2005, and was Distinguished Senior Poet in the NYU Creative Writing Program, where he retired in 2021.

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Magogodi oaMphela Makhene is a proudly Soweto-made soul, who now makes her home anywhere with sunshine and writing space. An Iowa Writers’ Workshop alum, Magogodi is a Caine Prize, Hedgebrook, MacDowell and Rona Jaffe Award honoree. She leads immersive courses and experiences at Love As A Kind of Cure, a social enterprise she co-founded to dismantle white supremacy.

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Cynthia Manick is the author of No Sweet Without Brine (Amistad-HarperCollins, forthcoming 2023), editor of The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry (Blair Publishing, 2021), and author of Blue Hallelujahs (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, MacDowell Colony, and Château de la Napoule among others.  Winner of the Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry, Manick is Founder of the reading series Soul Sister Revue; and her poem "Things I Carry Into the World" was made into a film by Motionpoems, an organization dedicated to video poetry, and has debuted on Tidal for National Poetry Month. A storyteller and performer at literary festivals, libraries, universities, and most recently the Brooklyn and Frye museum’s, Manick’s work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day Series, Callaloo, Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. She currently serves on the board of the International Women’s Writing Guild and the editorial board of Alice James Books.

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Sarah Ladipo Manyika is a writer of novels, short stories and essays translated into several languages. She is author of the best-selling novel In Dependence (2009) and multiple shortlisted novel Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun (2016), and has had work published in publications including Granta, The Guardian, the Washington Post and Transfuge among others. Named one of the "100 Most Influential Africans” by New African in 2022, Sarah has served on a number of non profit Boards including as Board Director for the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, and as Board Chair for the women’s writing residency, Hedgebrook. She has been a judge for the Goldsmiths Prize, California Book Awards, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and Chair of judges for the Pan-African Etisalat Prize. Sarah is a San Francisco Library Laureate, an Audie finalist, a Mary Carswell MacDowell fellow, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Her most recent book is Between Starshine and Clay: Conversations from the African Diaspora.


Shawn Martinbrough is the author of “How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling” by Penguin Random House and an Eisner Award nominated artist whose comic book projects include; “Batman: Detective Comics”, “DMZ”, “Luke Cage Noir”, “The Black Panther: Man Without Fear” and “Hellboy”. Shawn is a co-author of “Judge Kim and the Kids’ Court”, a children’s book series published by Simon & Schuster. Shawn has given lectures about his career at Walt Disney Animation, Lockheed Martin, The Pentagon, TEDx Mid Atlantic, The International Spy Museum, The California African American Museum, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Society of Illustrators, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art, Columbia University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Savannah College of Art & Design, The University of Michigan and Temple University.


HASNA MUHAMMAD Ed.D is a visual artist, writer, and educator whose work focuses on family, social justice, education, and the human condition. Her photography has been exhibited in various cities in the United States, and her writing has been published in Medium, Essence Magazine, at, and in Crisis Magazine. Hasna recently published her first book, Breathe In the Sky: Poems Prayers & Photographs. @birthmarkmedia

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Claudia Rankine is the author of five books of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric; three plays including HELP, which premiered in March 2020 (The Shed, NYC), and The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson/ American Repertory Theater) and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019; as well as numerous video collaborations. Her recent collection of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation, was published by Graywolf Press in 2020. She is also the co-editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, Rankine co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Claudia Rankine joined the NYU Creative Writing Program in Fall 2021. She lives in New York.

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Stacy Spikes is an award-winning entrepreneur, co-founder and co-chairman of MoviePass, founder of the Urbanworld Film Festival, and a former film marketing executive and producer. Named by USA Today as one of the 21 most influential Blacks in technology, Spikes is also the founder and CEO of PreShow Interactive, a branded content app that rewards gamers for watching long-form video content. In his senior executive roles at Motown Records, Sony Music Entertainment, and Miramax, he worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Boyz II Men, Stevie Wonder, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, and Eddie Murphy. Spikes is originally from Houston, Texas and now lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.


Danté Stewart is a speaker and a writer whose work in the areas of race, religion, and politics has been featured on CNN and in The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Sojourners, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, Comment, and elsewhere. He received the Georgia Author of the Year Award for his memoir, Shoutin’ in the Fire. He received his BA in sociology from Clemson University and is currently studying at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Vanessa Walters is the author of The Nigerwife, currently being developed into a drama series for HBO by Insecure's Amy Aniobi. Her previous books are Rude Girls, Best Things in Life and Smoke! Othello! She also writes plays, the most recent of which was Michael X.

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Irvin Weathersby is a Brooklyn-based writer and professor from New Orleans. He is a 2022 ACLS/Mellon Community College Faculty Fellow and teaches at Queensborough Community College and in the graduate creative writing program at City College. His writing has appeared in Guernica, Esquire, The Atlantic, EBONY, and elsewhere. His memoir in essays, IN OPEN CONTEMPT, is forthcoming from Viking and explores art, white supremacy, and public space.

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Tyriek Rashawn White is a writer, musician, and educator from Brooklyn, NY. He is currently the media director of Lampblack Literary Foundation, which seeks to provide mutual aid and various resources to Black writers across the diaspora. He has received fellowships from Callaloo Writing Workshop, New York State Writers Institute, and Key West Writers’ Workshop, among other honors. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Mississippi.


Candace Williams is a poet and interdisciplinary artist. I Am the Most Dangerous Thing (Alice James Books, 2023) is their debut full-length poetry collection. Candace earned their Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Claremont McKenna College and Master of Arts in Education from Stanford University. They grew up in the Pacific Northwest and found love and poetry in Brooklyn, New York. Now, Candace lives and makes art in New England.

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Ibi Zoboi is the author of numerous titles including American Street (2017), which was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Young Adult’s Literature, a Time Magazine Best YA Book Of All Time, and a Kirkus Best Book of the Year; Pride (2018), a contemporary remix of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; and My Life As An Ice Cream Sandwich (2020), a moving middle-grade debut of a girl finding her place in a world that’s changing at warp speed. Zoboi is also the co-author of the Walter Award and L.A. Times Book Prize-winning Punching the Air (2021) with prison reform activist Dr. Yusef Salaam. Her more recent titles include Okoye to the People: A Black Panther Novel (2022) for Marvel; Star Child (2023), an illumination of the young life of the visionary storyteller Octavia E. Butler in poems and prose; and the novel Nigeria Jones (2023).

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