Meet the 2024 Fellows & Faculty Fund Project Grantees

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BROOKLYN, NY — Cave Canem is happy to announce its 2024 Fellows & Faculty Fund Project Grantees: M. Nzadi Keita, Nicholas Makoha, Glenn North, and Lolita Stewart-White

Cave Canem established the Fellows & Faculty Fund in 2020, initially designed to help support members of our community during a time of global hardship. The Fund has evolved to include multiple grants, including the Project Grant, which supports members of our Fellowship to develop projects at-scale that directly support their respective communities.

Honoring Sonia Sanchez at 90
Nzadi Keita

Honoring Sonia Sanchez at 90 represents the vision of four Black Philadelphia poets — specifically specifically, Cave Canem Fellows M. Nzadi Keita, Yolanda Wisher, and Trapeta Mayson, as well as Ursula Rucker — all of whom have been readers, students, comrades, mentees, and, uniquely, neighbors of Sonia Sanchez for decades. On September 9, 2024, Sonia Sanchez will turn 90 years old. This collective of poets wishes to honor the phenomenal meanings and gifts that Sonia’s rich, full, 90th year on Earth encompasses. In a public event, multi-generational voices will come together to perform a reading, giving voice to Sonia’s breadth and depth across five decades of poetry. Those in attendance will savor and celebrate the politically conscious voice of bravery, tenderness, and vision for which Sanchez is known around the world. In hosting this birthday celebration, admirers of Sanchez will recognize the powerful orality of her work and her community-focused creative practices. 

Nzadi Keita is a first-generation urban northerner. Her first book of poems, Birthmarks, was published by Nightshade Press. Her work has since appeared on public television, and in anthologies including Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry in the 21st Century, and A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. Her poems appear in MELUS, Poet Lore, and Crab Orchard, among other journals. Grants and fellowships from Yaddo, Fine Arts Work Center, Leeway Foundation, and the Pew Center for Arts and Humanities have supported her writing and community-based arts adventures. Keita served as an adviser to the documentary, “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez.” Her essays on Sanchez appear in Impossible to Hold: Women and Culture in The 1960s and the anthology, Peace Is A Haiku Song (Mural Arts Press). She has collaborated with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, WHYY-TV/ Philadelphia, the Rosenbach Museum, Moonstone Arts Center, Germantown Arts Roundtable, and other initiatives. Keita is a Cave Canem alum and a professor of creative writing and literature at Ursinus College.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hamilton

Obsidian Foundation 2024 Retreat
Nicholas Makoha

The history of under-representation of black writers is long, with no single development space for black poets in the UK to develop their craft. Black poets are underrepresented as authors and protagonists in the U.K. and worldwide. Obsidian Foundation is a UK-based CIC initiative committed to tackling racism in literature, in particular in Black poetry worldwide. Our most powerful tool is to be sustainable. Obsidian Foundation 2024 Retreat is a yearlong ongoing creative development strategy that starts with a week-long online retreat. It is based on the Cave Canem model where Black poets from across the world can apply for the online retreat via submittable. Poets submit three poems, a paragraph of intent, and the last five poetry books they read. All workshops take place on Zoom, with the course commencing with an opening circle where all poets, faculty, and staff meet. After the retreat, project partners (Magma, Poetry London – Review – Society, Arvon, Wasafiri, RSL, Poetry Archive, Poetry School and the National Poetry Library.) run a suite of activities to encourage and support Black poets as they maneuverer the poetry industry. They provide each alumnus a year’s subscription to their magazines, free masterclasses, podcasts, etc. Its intention: is to create a community of black creative diversity where poets are fully self-expressed and free from racism.

Nicholas Makoha is a dynamic writer born in Uganda. He is one of ten contemporary poets in the UK to have been selected for Spread the Word’s Complete Works development programme. Nick Makoha was shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection for his debut, Kingdom of Gravity, which was included in The Guardian’s Best Books of 2017. He is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, Malika’s Kitchen Fellow, and Complete Works Alumni. In 2015, he won the Brunel International African Poetry prize and is the 2016 winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his pamphlet Resurrection Man. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Poetry London, Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. As Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Goldsmiths, University of London he started filming “Black Metic Poet Interviews” as part of the Metic experiences of Black British Writers. 

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Makoha

The Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series Featuring the Poets of Cave Canem
Glenn North

The Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series is a branch of the Restorative Poetics Initiative, an emerging subgenre of poetry concerned with the healing properties of poetry in our personal and communal relationships. The Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series – named after Mbembe Milton Smith, the first Black student to graduate from UMKC with a degree in Creative Writing – is a poetry series that will showcase Black poets who are using history as inspiration for their work. This iteration of the series will bring together three Cave Canem Poets who will give a 45-minute reading/presentation discussing the particular historical narrative(s) , their poetry addresses and how they researched the topic(s), followed by a 15-minute Q&A. Afterwards, attendees are invited to a light reception and a book signing. Since the readings will be held at the Kansas City Museum, featured poets will be able to sell copies of their books in the Wisteria Boutique Gift Shop before their scheduled readings. Finally, each reading would be video recorded and archived on the Kansas Museum’s YouTube channel and made available to a broader audience.

Glenn A. North is an award-winning poet, activist, educator, and arts executive based in Kansas City. He is currently the Executive Director at the Bruce A. Watkins Cultural Center. He has previously served at the American Jazz Museum and The Black Archives of Kansas City / Mid-America. Glenn earned his M.F.A. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His thesis was entitled “Pro-Black Prosody.” In addition to presenting poetry, Glenn also conducts workshops on Ekphrastic poetry, using poetry to address issues of social justice, and self-empowerment for disenfranchised students through reflective poetry.

Photo courtesy of Glenn North

Liberty City Vignettes
Lolita Stewart-White

Liberty City Vignettes is a play-in-verse, in development, by poet and playwright Lolita Stewart-White and producer, Ariel Cipolla. Deeply rooted in community, Liberty City Vignettes takes place against the backdrop of Miami’s historically black neighborhood, Liberty Square. The play-in-verse focuses on the fourteen-year-old character Liberty City Red, whose family and community face forced removal from the Pork N Beans Public Housing Projects by the Miami-Dade County Housing Authority. The play utilizes minimalist spaces, rhythmic language, and migration movements to tell the story of Liberty City’s history, climate gentrification, segregation, mental illness, and disparities in the healthcare system. The play-in-verse incorporates redlined areas of Liberty Square, Miami, which has been targeted by the Miami-Dade County Housing Authority for Urban Renewal.

Lolita Stewart-White is a poet, filmmaker, and playwright who lives and works in Miami. She is a Pushcart nominee and the winner of the Paris American Readers Series. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, The African American Review, and The Boston Review. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Her films have been exhibited at the Los Angeles Pan African Film and Arts Festival, Seattle Langston Hughes’s Film Festival, and the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca).

Photo courtesy of Lolita Stewart-White

Thanks to the support of donors like you and the Poetry Foundation, the Fellows & Faculty Fund has expanded to offer increased resources to Cave Canem Fellows and Faculty with grants of $5,000 for projects and $500 for individual support.