Meet the Participants
Chris Abani is an acclaimed novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender, and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Through his TED Talks, public speaking, and essays, Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics, and our shared political responsibility. His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and Bomb.
Hanif Abdurraqib is a New York Times bestselling poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in PEN American, Muzzle, Vinyl, and other journals. His essays and criticism have been published in The New Yorker, Pitchfork, The New York Times, and Fader. He is the author of the poetry collections, The Crown Ain't Worth Much and A Fortune for Your Disaster, the essay collection They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest. Abdurraqib was named guest curator at large at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) beginning in January 2021 and is the host of the new SONOS podcast Object of Sound. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.
Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. She is the author of One Person, No Vote, longlisted for the National Book Award
and a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award; White Rage, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics CircleAward; Bourgeois Radicals; and Eyes off the Prize. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow for Constitutional Studies. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Judy C. Andrews received a Master of Arts degree in English/Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from The City College of New York. She has worked as an educator, freelance writer, and editor. She has written two suspense thrillers: An Ocean of Jewels, and A Gift to Treasure. Her most recent work is The Gathering of Gemstones: A Poetry Collection. Ms. Andrews frequently writes about social issues and characters who seek ways to rectify dangerous experiences. Her favorite issues to explore in her writing are foster care, education, history, and Gullah/Geechee culture. She enjoys cooking, taking long walks in warm rain, and sightseeing. Her books can be purchased at your favorite bookstore.
Dr. Courtney R. Baker is the author of Humane Insight: Looking at Images of African American Suffering and Death. She co-founded the program in Black Studies at Occidental College in 2018 and served as its inaugural chair. She has published chapters in I Am Not Your Negro: A Docalogue and the award-winning collection, Black Cultural Production after Civil Rights. She has published articles in outlets such as Huffington Post: Black Voices, the Journal of American Culture, and on her blog “The Work” on Substack. She holds a B.A. cum laude from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Duke University. She is associate professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and lives in Los Angeles. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram (@drprofblacklady).
Natalie Baszile is the author of the novel Queen Sugar, which was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2014, longlisted for the Crooks Corner Southern Book Prize, nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and adapted for television by writer/director Ava DuVernay and co-produced by Oprah Winfrey for OWN. Baszile holds a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers. She lives in San Francisco.
Kay Bell is the author of two collections of poetry: Cry Sweat Bleed Write (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2020) & Diary of an Intercessor (Finishing Line Press, 2021). She received her MFA from The City College of New York where she was the 2015 recipient of the Esther Unger Poetry Prize, and the 2018 co-recipient of the David Dortort Prize in Creative Writing for Non-Fiction. Kay's poetry has appeared in numerous venues, including The Ekphrastic Review, The Write Launch, Pithead Chapel and the book, Brown Molasses Sunday: An Anthology of Black Women Writers. She lives in the South Bronx and is passionate about bringing the arts back to public school and issues that affect marginalized communities.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of a memoir and three books of poetry. Named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 NEA Fellow, Betts poetry has been long praised. His writing has generated national attention and earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, an NAACP Image Award, and New America Fellowship. Betts has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post, as well as being interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, The Travis Smiley Show and several other national shows. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, is the story of a young man confined in the worst prisons in the state of Virginia, where solitary confinement, horrific conditions, and the constant violence threatened to break his humanity. Instead, Betts used the time to turn himself into a poet, a scholar, and an advocate for the reform of the criminal justice system.
Dr. Yaba Blay is a scholar-activist and cultural creative whose work centers the lived experiences of Black women and girls. She has launched viral campaigns including #PrettyPeriod and #ProfessionalBlackGirl and has appeared on CNN, BET, MSNBC, and NPR. Dr. Blay’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Ebony, Essence, and The Root. A thought leader on Black racial identity, colorism, and beauty politics, she is a globally sought-after speaker and consultant. Connect with her online at yabablay.com.
Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is a poet & curator born in Trinidad and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of five collections of poetry, Raw Air, Night When Moon Follows, Convincing The Body, Arrival & Mama Phife Represents a verse memoir about her son Hip Hop Legend, Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) Cheryl holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University & an MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast:The University of Southern Maine.
Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer & educator. Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club & Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent works: Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, & Black Girl Magic. As the founder of the diverse lit initiative, Woke Baby Book Fair, Browne is excited to release her newest poetry collection responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children, I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love, as well as her upcoming young adult novel Vinyl Moon, a story of survival set under the Brooklyn skyline. Mahogany lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Dara Cooper, based in Atlanta, GA, is the co-founder of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. Dara has nearly 20 years of experience organizing, training, strategic thinking and planning, designing programs and providing thought leadership for transformative food systems work in Black communities throughout the U.S. Dara is the former director of the NYC Food and Fitness Partnership in Brooklyn, NY where she worked on creating and strengthening farmers markets for Black farmers, laying groundwork for a community based local food hub design and creating a farm to headstart program in Brooklyn. Prior to this work, Dara led the launch and expansion of Fresh Moves (Chicago), an award winning mobile produce market with community health programming, which quickly became a nationally recognized model for healthy food distribution and community based self-determination and empowerment.
Minnette Coleman graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, with a degree in Drama and Speech. She has performed in theatres in the south and off Broadway in New York, including the historic Ridiculous Theatrical Company in the village. She authored and toured a one woman show, 'Hand-Me-Downs", about the civil rights movement. Minnette began her writing career reporting on her high school’s activities for the city’s first integrated youth magazine. She also wrote jazz reviews for the Atlanta Daily World. Her first writing awards were for poetry on social justice and women’s rights. Since then the Harlem resident has authored three novels: The Blacksmith's Daughter, No Death by Unknown Hands, and The Tree, A Journey to Freedom. As a member of the Harlem Writers Guild she continues to write black historical fiction because she doesn’t “want our stories to be forgotten”.
Rio Cortez is a writer and Pushcart Prize–nominated poet who has received fellowships from Poet’s House, Cave Canem, and CantoMundo foundations. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Miami Rail, and Mother magazine, among others. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rio writes and lives in Harlem, New York. Her daughter was the inspiration for this book.
Ellis Cose is the author of a dozen books on issues of national and international concern, including the best-selling The Rage of a Privileged Class. Cose is a widely respected journalist who has served as columnist and contributing editor of Newsweek, editor page chief for the New York Daily News, a fellow at the National Research Council/National Academy of Science, a fellow of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a fellow of the Gannett Center for Media Studies at Columbia University, a fellow of the Center for Free Speech and Public Engagement of the University of California, and a contributor and columnist for numerous major publications, including USA Today and TIME. Cose has appeared on the Today Show, Nightline, Dateline, ABC Evening News, Good Morning America, PBS “Time to Choose” election special, Charlie Rose, CNN’s Talk Back Live, and a variety of other nationally televised and local programs. He lives in New York City.
Angela Dalton likes to think that she chose writing but, the truth is, writing chose her. She is a member of an Oakland-based social justice and #OwnVoices picture book author and illustrator collective. In addition, Angela writes children's book reviews for Multiculturalism Rocks! She is an active participant in Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge and SCBWI and was once a producer of video games. Angela lives in Oakland, California and can be found online at www.angeladalton.com
Ram Devineni is the creator of India’s first female comic book superhero -- Priya, and honored by UN Women as a “gender equality champion.” He is the co-creator of the augmented reality comic book, “Jupiter Invincible” which premiered at the Tribeca Festival in 2021. His documentary films won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.
Angela Dews used to be busy at journalism, politics, public service and government and started on a contemplative path on retreat in New Mexico's Southern Rockies. Harlem Hit & Run is the first of three murder mysteries set in the 1990s in Harlem, which is a complex character in each story. When Angela pitched it to an agent and told her the hero was a Buddhist, the agent said Buddhism in the city interested her. Angela’s 2018 book Still, in the City. Creating Peace of Mind in the Midst of Urban Chaos (Skyhorse Publishing 2018) offers two dozen stories about the fierce practice of urban Buddhism. Angela graduated from Howard University and the summer program at Columbia Journalism School that sought to increase the number of Black journalists after the street rebellions in the 60s.
Dr. Ainehi Edoro-Glines is an Assistant Professor of Global Black Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature and digital culture. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper, an online literary magazine for readers of African Literature.
Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Death of Vivek Oji, which was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize; Pet, a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature; and Freshwater, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and shortlisted fort the PEN/Hemingway Award, The New York Public LibraryYoung Lions Fiction Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize. Selected as 5 under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation, they are based in liminal spaces.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is the author of four critically acclaimed books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State, 2000), Outlandish Blues (Wesleyan, 2003), Red Clay Suite (Southern Illinois, 2007), and The Glory Gets (Wesleyan, 2015). As a prose writer, her essays and fiction stories have appeared in Black Renaissance Noire, Callaloo, Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Indiana Review, JENda: A Journal of Cultural and African Studies, The Kenyon Review Online, New England Review, StoryQuarterly, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks on Race(Scribner 2016), and Virginia Quarterly Review. For her works of fiction, she has won the Emerging Fiction Fellowship from the Aspen Summer Words Conference, the Tennessee Williams’ Scholarship in Fiction from the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the Goodheart Prize for Fiction from Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review. One of Honorée’s short stories was shortlisted for Best American Short Story, and I earned Honorable Mention for the Zoetrope: All-Story prize in fiction. Her blog, PhillisRemastered, has gathered over a quarter of a million hits.
Tim Fielder is an Illustrator, concept designer, cartoonist, and animator born in Mississippi. He has a lifelong love of Visual Afrofutuism, Pulp entertainment, and action films. Tim has worked over the years in the storyboarding, film visual development, gaming, comics, and animation industries for clients as varied as Marvel Comics (‘Dr Dre: Man With A Cold Cold Heart’), The Village Voice, Tri-Star Pictures (‘The Mothership Connection’), to Ubisoft Entertainment (‘Batman: Vengeance). He is known for his graphic novel Matty’s Rocket and his TEDx Talk and BLACK ENTERPRISE interview on the subject of Afrofuturism. His projects, Matty’s Rocket, INFINITUM, Black Metropolis and High John Conqueror are graphic stories from his company Dieselfunk Studios.
Isaac Fitzsimons grew up in the DC suburbs but spent his summers in England and France. When not writing young adult fiction, he enjoys trying out new recipes, supporting his soccer team, Manchester City, and butchering songs on the banjo, piano, and ukulele.
His dream vacation would be traveling around Europe via sleeper train to see every top-tier soccer team play a home game. He currently lives outside DC and works for an arts advocacy nonprofit in the city.
Farah Jasmine Griffin was the inaugural chair of the Department of African American & African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, where she is also William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature. The author of numerous books, she lives in New York.
Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and Scenes of Subjection. A MacArthur Genius Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. In addition to her books, she has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo,Bomb, The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She is a professor at Columbia University and lives in New York.
Eartha Watts-Hicks is the founder of Earthatone Publishing and Earthatone Books. She is a NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) artist/entreprenuer, as well as a fiction fellow of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Center for Black Literature and North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color. In June of 2013, she received the Just R.E.A.D. “Game Changer” Award in the fiction category from the NYCHA branch of the NAACP for her debut novel, Love Changes and was named New York City literacy ambassador. A PR writer and affiliate of BlackPR.com, she specializes in press releases for entrepreneurs, ministries, and nonprofits. She also leads writing, self-publishing, and publicity workshops for the New York Public Library, The National Writers Union, and The New York City Parks Department. Eartha has recently published a collection of poetry and short stories, entitled Graffiti Mural and is now the creator of the A Planner Is A Girl’s Best Friend series of planners, calendars, and journals she calls #APlannerIsAGirlsBestFriend.
Chris Jackson is the publisher and editor-in-chief of One World, an imprint of Random House. He’s the editor of a wide range of award-winning and bestselling authors, including Bryan Stevenson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jill Leovy, Trevor Noah, Karla Cornejo-Villavicencio, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, Heather McGhee, Alicia Garza, Valarie Kaur, and Eddie Huang. His own writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Callalloo, The Atlantic.com, and other outlets. He lives in New York.
Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations and Bestiary, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and a founding member of the collective Poets at the End of the World. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and Foglifter. She is an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.
Malik Kirkwood, born in Los Angeles, CA, is a graduate of Howard University c/o 2018. He studied both Finance and Business Administration at Howard and the University of Amsterdam, respectively. After graduation, Malik relocated to Harlem, NY and pursued a brief career in Corporate Finance in Manhattan, until deciding to pick back up his career in the creative arts (started at the age of eight). Since his corporate departure, Malik has employed both his artistic talents and financial education, building a small, international publishing house, dubbed ‘The Black Market’. Here, he has published two books of his own and continues practicing the “Art of Publishing.”
Yusef Komunyakaa's Pulitzer Prize winning collection, “Neon Vernacular,” pulls together all of the most powerful strands of his poetic vision. The images are those of the South and its culture, of Black resilience to white supremacy, of war in Southeast Asia, of urban experience, and of musical forms such as blues and jazz.
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kiese Laymon, Ottilie Schillig Professor in English and Creative Writing and the University of Mississippi, is the author of the novel Long Division, the memoir Heavy, and the essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.
Haki R. Madhubuti is an award-winning poet, one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement, an essayist, educator, founder and publisher (Emeritus) of Third World Press (1967) and Third World Press Foundation. He is the author/editor of over thirty-six books of poetry and nonfiction including Don’t Cry, Scream(1969), Run Toward Fear: New Poems and a Poet’s Handbook (2004), YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life (2006); Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1967-2009 (2009), Honoring genius, Gwendolyn Brooks: The narrative of Craft, Art, Kindness and Justice (2011); and the best-selling Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? (1991). A long-time community activist and institution builder, Madhubuti is a co-founder of the Institute of Positive Education and its three schools in Chicago. He retired in 2011 after a forty-two-year distinguished teaching career that included Cornell University, Howard University, Chicago State University where he was appointed its first University Distinguished Professor and was the founding Director of its MFA Program in Creative Writing, and DePaul University, where he served as the last Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor. Madhubuti’s most recent books are, Taking Bullets: Terrorism and Black Life in Twenty-First Century America (2016), co-editor of Not Our President: New Directions From the Pushed Out, the Others, and the Clear Majority in Trump’s Stolen America (2017) and Taught By Women: Poems As Resistance Language New And Selected (2020).
Kwame Mbalia is a husband, father, writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and a former pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and it—along with the sequels TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD and TRISTAN STRONG KEEPS PUNCHING, out October 5th—is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion.
He is the co-author of LAST GATE OF THE EMPEROR with Prince Joel Makonnen, from Scholastic Books, and the editor of BLACK BOY JOY, a middle grade anthology from Delacourte, out August 3rd. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he survives on Dad jokes and Cheezits.
Dr. C. Nicole Mason is the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). As one of the nation’s foremost intersectional researchers and scholars, Dr. C. Nicole Mason brings a fresh perspective and a wealth of experience to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. For the past two decades, Dr. Mason has spearheaded research on issues relating to economic security, poverty, women’s issues, and entitlement reforms; policy formation and political participation among women, communities of color; and racial equity. Prior to IWPR, Dr. Mason was the executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the nation’s only research and policy center focused on women of color at a nationally ranked school of public administration. She is also an inaugural Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.
Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD is an associate professor in the iSchool at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Information, Technology and Public Life (UNC) and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, and a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. Dr. Audiences and institutions have lauded her work for its incisive analysis and impact. Her current research examines racial capitalism in platform economies and what she calls “hustleprenuership.” From her award-winning essay collection THICK (National Book Award finalist, 2019) to the critically acclaimed Lower Ed, McMillan Cottom shapes the discourse to change the narrative.
Desmond Meade is the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and a graduate of Florida International University College of Law. As a formerly homeless returning citizen, he fought to restore voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. He was recognized by Time as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2019. Today, Desmond continues fighting against new restrictions placed on Florida voters that have been likened to Jim Crow laws. Desmond and his wife and five children live in Florida. Connect with him @desmondmeade.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the author of the novel A Girl is a Body of Water. She is also a recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize. Her first novel, Kintu, won the Kwani? Manuscript Project Prize in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. Her story “Let’s Tell This Story Properly” was the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Jennifer lives in Manchester, UK, with her husband and son.
Ben Okri was born in Minna, Nigeria. His childhood was divided between Nigeria, where he saw firsthand the consequences of war, and London. He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road, and his novel Astonishing the Gods was selected as one of the BBC’s “100 Novels That Shaped Our World.” His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He also writes plays and screenplays. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a vice president of English PEN, and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates. His latest novel, The Freedom Artist, was published by Akashic Books. Prayer for the Living is his latest short story collection.
Jodie Patterson is a social activist, entrepreneur, and writer. She is the author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation and was Family Circle magazine’s Most Influential Mom in 2018. She works closely with a number of gender/family/human rights organizations and is the chair of the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign. She is a sought-out public speaker addressing a wide range of audiences about identity, gender, beauty, and entrepreneurship. She is the mother of five children, two of whom are self-proclaimed gender nonconformists—one transgender and another genderqueer. Jodie raises her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Marc Polite, born and raised in Harlem, New York, is a poet and essayist. He writes about social justice, labor issues, film, technology, and literature. His reviews and striking commentary appear in Poets & Writers, Black Star News, Madame Noire, The Amsterdam News, The Grio, TIME Magazine, The Atlanta Post, New England Informer, and Harlem’s own Harlem News Group and Harlem World Magazine. Mr. Polite is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the social and political commentary blog site, Polite On Society, recognized by the New York Association of Black Journalists [NYABJ] for “Best Blog Commentary” of 2014. Mr. Polite has also published four books: The Poetic Ruminations of Mr. Born Nice; Everything To Learn, Nothing To Teach; Poetic Ruminations: Volume 2; The Binge Watcher’s Guide to Black Mirror: An Unofficial Companion.
Diane Richards, novelist, playwright, and producer, serves as Executive Director of The Harlem Writers Guild. Her play, Sowa’s Red Gravy, was produced in 2012 by Woodie King Jr. of the New Federal Theater; The New York Times called it “an irresistible, lusty celebration of passions.” Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Beloved Harlem: A Literary Tribute to Black America’s Most Famous Neighborhood, Essence Magazine, and The Harlem Writers Guild Press. In 2015, she co-produced Amiri Baraka’s final play—Most Dangerous Man in America—based on the life of W. E. B. Dubois.
Dr. Andrea Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Texas A&M University and founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project (TXFCP), a research & social justice initiative documenting disappearing Black settlements. She's the creator of The TXFCP Atlas, a website filled with descendants’ images & origin stories of Texas’ 500+ Black settlements founded after Juneteenth. Her Black planning history & heritage conservation scholarship is published widely, & she owns Freedom Colonies Project, LLC, a preservation consultancy. She is a National Monument Audit Advisory Board member, a ’20 Whiting Public Engagement Fellow, and was a ‘20 Visiting Scholar at Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, Abolition. She is currently writing a book about Black historic preservation practice for The University of Texas Press.
John Robinson is a spoken word poet. Born and raised in the Bronx, he began his early writing after being influenced by the pioneers of New York’s Hip Hop Music scene. Soon after being introduced to the Last Poets, he ventured into other forms of poetic verse. He has performed freestyle poetry and spoken word regularly at popular venues—Bowery Poetry Café, Brooklyn Moon, South of France Spoken Word Events, Nuyorican Poets Café, and Black on Black Rhyme among countless others. Founder of A DEEPER SHADE OF SOUL, LLC, John is the author of A Spoken Word Soliloquy and co-author of The Book Sygnifyn Harlem in collaboration with Jade Banks. In 2019, he was selected Most Valuable Poet [MVP] during Epiphany Radio Battle of the sexes and now co-hosts THE GET DOWN, a weekly internet talk radio show.
Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the poetry collection Counting Descent. The book won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He has received fellowships from New America, the Emerson Collective, the Art For Justice Fund, Cave Canem, and the National Science Foundation. His writing has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, The Paris Review and elsewhere. Born and raised in New Orleans, he received his B.A. in English from Davidson College and his Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University.
Kadiatou Tubman is an educator, scholar, writer. She has over 10 years of youth development, facilitation, and historical research experience, which has equipped her with a critical understanding of history, systemic oppression, social movements, and individual impact. As Manager of Education Programs and Outreach at the Schomburg Center, Kadiatou directs the Schomburg Center's renowned Junior Scholars Program, founder/executive producer of the Schomburg Center's annual Black Lives Matter Teen Conference, and a lead producer of the annual Black Comic Book Festival. She also hosts a number of the Schomburg Center's Live Conversations, which have featured scholars like Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., Dr. Imani Perry, activist & author Ilyasah Shabazz, and Superbowl Champion & activist Michael Bennett. Her most recent work includes the “By Any Means Necessary Project”, which showcases research and art created by the Junior Scholars Program. Kadiatou is currently receiving her MA in Social Studies Education at Columbia University Teachers College.
Brian Tate is a cultural curator and marketing strategist who develops major public programs that examine the issues of our time. He has built forward-looking projects at the nexus of culture and ideas for more than 20 years, and he is expert at convening fearless thinkers for discussions of ethics, politics, and the future. He is the founder of Tate Strategy, a Brooklyn, NY-based consulting firm that specializes in strategic marketing, public programming, community engagement, partnership development, and critical analysis. Economic growth and narrative change around issues of equality are at the core of its practice. He is guided in his work by the example of his parents, Charles and Florence Tate, brilliant civil rights activists who espoused selfless action to drive social change.
Dawnie Walton is a writer, editor, and author of the novel THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV (2021). She earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (2018) and holds a journalism degree from Florida A&M University (1997). Formerly an editor at Essence and Entertainment Weekly, she has received fellowships in fiction writing from MacDowell and the Tin House Summer Workshop. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, she lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband.
Sylvia White is a freelance writer, novelist, and poet. Ms. White has published articles in the New York University College of Dentistry Global Health Nexus and The Positive Community magazine. A specialist in corporate communications, as well as external and public affairs, she has received numerous awards from community-based organizations, including: The Black Wall Street Award for Community Service, the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club Freedom Award, and the Women Builders of the New Harlem award. Ms. White earned her undergraduate degree from Rutgers College and her Master's Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College. Sylvia White serves as Executive Vice President of The Harlem Writers Guild.
Ashley L. Woods is a comic book artist, writer, and creator from Chicago known for her work on the “Niobe,” “Ladycastle” and “Tomb Raider” series. Her most prominent work is “Niobe: She is Life” with actress Amandla Stenberg and Sebastian A. Jones of Stranger Comics. Her latest artwork can be seen with Marvel, Image Comics and VAULT Comics.
Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.
Dr. Robert J. Woodbine grew up in Harlem and the South Bronx amidst the social and economic upheaval of the 1960s. In 1971, Dr. Woodbine was a member of Sonia Sanchez’ year-long Writers Workshop at the Countee Cullen Library in Harlem and was published (under the pseudonym of Ntigurd-Nensad N’Sabe) in her anthology, 360 Degrees of Blackness Coming At You. Most recently, he co-authored, Sun Chasers-a novel, with Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming and wrote the Foreword to the Dao De Jing-A Qigong Interpretation. In addition to his creative writing, Dr. Woodbine has studied vocal overtoning and throat singing with a variety of teachers: Nestor Kornbloom, Fabian Maman, David Hykes, members of Huun-Huur-Tu, and Rollin Rachelle. He also plays the Australian Yidaki (Didgiridoo) and Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls. He is a current member of the historic Harlem Writers Guild.