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All presenters have generously donated both their time and expertise. 

Multi-media performance artist, poet and director, Kenyon Adams, has been the recipient of a National YoungArts Foundation Award, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music Director’s Prize and was named a White House Presidential Scholar in the Arts. He studied Religion & the Arts at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and has contributed art and dialogue to the National Arts Policy Roundtable, Yale School of Drama, Summit Series, Marquand Chapel at Yale, Lux Projection Festival, the Stovall Family Galleries at NYU, and The Kennedy Center: Millennium Stage. Kenyon served as Artist in Residence at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music for the 2015-16 academic year, and is currently the Arts Initiatives Director at Grace Farms Foundation.

Alexander, Elizabeth

Professor Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, and teacher. She is the author of six books of poems, two collections of essays, a play, and various edited collections.  She was recently named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, as well as the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She previously served as the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Her memoir, The Light of the World, was released in 2015 to great acclaim.

Browne, Mahogany

Mahogany L. Browne is a Cave Canem, Poets House and Serenbe Focus fellow; and the author of several books, including NAACP Image Award nominated Redbone. She has toured internationally, and her creative non-fiction has been published widely, including in the magazines Uptown, Canada’s The Word and UK’s MOBO. The co-founder of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, Browne is also founder of the Women Writers of Color Reading Room at Pratt Institute and is an Urban Word NYC Poet-in-Residence (as seen on HBO’s Brave New Voices). She earned her MFA degree from Pratt Institute, where she serves on the Board of Trustees. She is the Poetry Program Director at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Browne lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Rakia Clark is a senior editor at Boston-based Beacon Press, though she works from New York City. She acquires nonfiction that examines social justice issues through a pop culture lens. That’s mainly media, technology, sports, criminal justice, race, class, narrative nonfiction and biography/memoir. Her previous editorial posts include HarperCollins, Viking Penguin, and Kensington Publishing Corp.


Cortez, Rio -chapbook headshotRio Cortez is a Pushcart-nominated poet, who has received fellowships from Poet’s House, Cave Canem and Canto Mundo Foundations. She was a recipient of the Sarah Lawrence College Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry, the 2012 Poets & Writers Amy Award, and a 2015 Jerome Foundation Grantee. She is a graduate of the MFA program at NYU and co-founder of the Good Times Collective and BLKGRP. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Miami Rail, The Offing, Cortland Review, Prairie SchoonerHuizache and The New Yorker. Rio Cortez has been selected by Ross Gay as the inaugural winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for her manuscript, I Have Learned to Define a Field as a Space Between Mountains. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, she now lives, writes, and works in book publishing in NYC.

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Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. She is currently at work on a third poetry collection, The Coal Tar Colors.


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A native of Columbia, South Carolina, DéLana R.A. Dameron is a writer and arts and culture administrator living in Brooklyn, NY. Dameron is the author of Weary Kingdom and her debut collection How God Ends Us was selected by Elizabeth Alexander for the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize. Dameron holds a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has conducted readings, workshops and lectures all across the United States, Central America and Europe. For more information, visit

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Kyle Dargan is the author of four collections of poetry. His forthcoming collection Anagnorisis will be published by Northwestern Univ. Press. For his work, he has received the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. His books have also been finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Awards Grand Prize. Dargan has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. He’s worked with and supports a number of youth writing organizations, such as 826DC, Writopia Lab and the Young Writers Workshop. He is currently an Associate Professor of literature and director of creative writing at American University, as well as the founder and editor of POST NO ILLS magazine. His writing has been featured in Poetry, The New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed Reader, American Poetry Review and Callaloo. For more information visit

Eady, 4 color, Chip CooperCave Canem co-founder Cornelius Eady was born in 1954 in Rochester, New York. He is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Hardheaded Weather. His Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He has collaborated with jazz composer Diedre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don’t Miss Your Water; Running Man, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999; Fangs, and Brutal Imagination, which received Newsday’s Oppenheimer Award in 2002. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Literature; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry; a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Traveling Scholarship; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to Bellagio, Italy; a Prairie Schooner Strousse Award; and an Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House. He is Professor of English and the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Edim, GloryGlory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG), a Brooklyn-based book club and digital platform that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood. Her book club has met with several award-winning authors including Margo Jefferson, Naomi Jackson, Angela Flournoy and Yaa Gyasi. WRBG’s mission is to increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers. Glory has worked as a creative strategist for over 10 years at startups and cultural institutions, including The Webby Awards and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Currently, she is the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter, where she helps writers use the platform to build community and find support for their creative endeavors. Follow her on Instagram, @wellreadblackgirl, for book recommendations.

FullSizeRenderDella Rivera Green a.k.a. RIVERA is a multimedia artist and deejay, who currently serves as the Marketing & Communications Intern at Cave Canem Foundation.  She studied English at Reed College in Portland OR, graduating with a B.A. in 2015. Della loves sound and beauty.




Tia Powell Harris‘ career as an arts educator began at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and spans over twenty years. Following her work at Ellington she served first as Manager of Community Partnerships at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and then as Associate Director of Education Programs at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. While at the Smithsonian she also acted as co-chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s Material Culture Forum. She returned to Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 2006 where she held the position of Dean of Arts and finally Director of Artistic Affairs. Tia now serves as President and Executive Director of Weeksville Heritage Center, a multidimensional museum dedicated to preserving the history of the 19th century African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn. She holds a BS in Speech and Drama Education and an MA in Communication Arts and Theatre from the University of Maryland.

Terrance Hayes is the author of Lighthead, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books are Wind In a Box, Hip Logic , and Muscular Music. His honors include a Whiting Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a United States Artists Zell Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.  How To Be Drawn, his most recent  collection of poems, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.

Israel, Yahdon

Yahdon Israel is a 26-year-old writer from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, who has written for Avidly, The New Inquiry, LitHub, ESPNW, and Brooklyn Magazine. He graduated from the New School with his MFA in Creative Non-Fiction. He currently serves as the VP of Awards and Membership for the National Book Critics Circle and runs a popular Instagram page which promotes literature and fashion under the hashtag #literaryswag.


Jackson, Major c-Marion Ettlinger

Major Jackson is the author of four books of poetry most recently Roll Deep (Norton: 2015). A recipient of a fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, he has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, Callaloo, The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Tin House, and been included in several volumes of Best American Poetry. Major Jackson lives in South Burlington, Vermont, where he is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the University of Vermont. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.

johnston amanda retreat-coordinatorAmanda Johnston is the author of Another Way to Say Enter, forthcoming from Argus House Press. She earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Her poetry and interviews have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including The Drunken Boat, New Literati, Pluck and the anthologies, Small Batch, di-ver-city and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. She is the recipient of multiple Artist Enrichment grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Christina Sergeyevna Award from the Austin International Poetry Festival. Johnston has served on the board of directors for the National Women’s Alliance, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, and is a member of the Affrilachian Poets. She is the founder and executive director of Torch Literary Arts and co-founder of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut, a campaign that encourages poets and allies to speak out against police violence.

Kelly, Donika - colorDonika Kelly is the author of Bestiary, winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, long listed for the National Book Award, and a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, she received her MFA in Writing from the Michener Center for Writers and a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University. Her poems have been appeared or are forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly ReviewTin House, and Gulf Coast. She is an Assistant Professor at St. Bonaventure University, where she teaches creative writing.

Laurentiis_Rickey_2014Rickey Laurentiis was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, to love the dark. His poetry has been supported by several foundations and fellowships, including the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, Poetry International Rotterdam, the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Poetry Foundation, which awarded him a Ruth Lilly Fellowship in 2012. In 2016, he traveled to Palestine as an invited reader for the Palestine Festival of Literature. He received his MFA in Writing from Washington University in St Louis, where he was a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow, and his Bachelors in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, where he read literature and queer theory. He is the author of Boy with Thorn, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and the Levis Reading Prize, and a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery award, as well as named one of the top ten debuts of 2015 by Poets & Writers Magazine and a top 16 best poetry books by Buzzfeed, among other distinctions.

mosley, walter - updatedWalter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

MurilloJohn Murillo’s first poetry collection, Up Jump the Boogie, was a finalist for both the 2011 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. His other honors include a 2011 Pushcart Prize, two Larry Neal Writers Awards, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem Foundation, the New York Times, the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Currently, he serves on the creative writing faculty at Hampshire College and New York University.

Tracy Sherrod is currently the editorial director of Amistad, an esteemed imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She is working with acclaimed children’s book author Jacqueline Woodson, actor and director Bill Duke, Paul Beatty, Paula Madison, Miko Branch of Miss Jessie’s, Jan Gaye, professor Pamela Newkirk, Timbaland and celebrated novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez and Dimitry Elias Leger. Sherrod established Tracy Sherrod Literary Services in New York City in 2002 and successfully managed it for twelve years. She has also held editorial positions with Henry Holt and Company, The Feminist Press, Essence magazine, and Marie Brown Literary Services. She has published and/or worked with many celebrated authors, including bestselling novelists Terry McMillan and Walter Mosley; Sapphire; the Estate of James Baldwin; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; and critically acclaimed writers Melanie Rae Thon and John Edgar Wideman, among many others.

Tracy K. Smith is the author of the memoir Ordinary Light and three books of poetry, most recently Life on Mars, which was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Wade in the Water will be published by Graywolf Press in 2018.