Board of Directors
Tyehimba Jess, President, Fellow 1997, 1999, 2001
Born in Detroit, poet Tyehimba Jess earned his BA from the University of Chicago and his MFA from New York University. He is the author of leadbelly (2005) and Olio (2016), winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
His honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award. A former artist-in-residence with Cave Canem, Jess has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, as well as a Lannan Writing Residency.
Jess has taught at the Juilliard School, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and at the College of Staten Island in New York City.
Cornelius Eady, Vice President, Cofounder
Born on January 7, 1954, Cornelius Eady was raised in Rochester, New York. He attended Monroe Community College and Empire State College.
He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008); Brutal Imagination (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001), which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry; The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; and Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), which was chosen by Louise Glück, Charles Simic, and Philip Booth for the 1985 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets.
In 1996, Eady and the poet Toi Derricotte founded Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving Black poets of various backgrounds and acting as a safe space for intellectual engagement and critical debate. Along with Derricotte, he also edited Gathering Ground (University of Michigan Press, 2006). In 2016, she and Eady accepted the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community on behalf of Cave Canem.
Novella Ford, Vice President
Novella Ford is a New York-based cultural producer, curator and current Associate Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Her work operates at the intersection of community, scholarship, visual arts, and popular culture, connecting audiences to dynamic voices and global Black perspectives through dialogue, performance, exhibitions and the archives. In more recent years, she has pursued an ongoing interest in the interplay between literature and the visual arts. She has served as the guest editor of Pen + Brush Gallery’s literary magazine, In Print No., launched the Schomburg Center Literary Festival in 2019, served as the guest curator for 2022 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Forums, and currently serves as board of Cave Canem Foundation, a home for the many voices of Black poetry. She is a graduate of Howard University and NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Hao Wang, Treasurer
Hao Wang (Treasurer) is a digital product manager at Capital One, with previous experience in finance and tech startups. He grew up in Kentucky, where he became a member (and student of) the Affrilachian Poets. He is a graduate of the Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been on Cave Canem’s Board of Directors since 2019. Hao and his family live in Montclair, New Jersey.
Allen A. Drexel, Esq., Secretary
After graduating from Stanford Law School, Allen served as law clerk to the Honorable A. Joe Fish, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He went on to practice general commercial litigation at Simpson Thacher LLP, and then, in 2003, joined Cohen Lans LLP, a highly-regarded matrimonial boutique. Immediately prior to forming Drexel LLC, Allen practiced family law at Hogan & Hartson LLP, where he represented individuals in matters involving substantial estates and novel legal issues.Allen has delivered CLE presentations and written on matrimonial law issues.
He is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Family Law Section and Co-Chair of the Section’s Marriage Equality Committee, and Allen is also a member of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association. From 2005-08, Allen co-chaired the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Committee of the New York City Bar Association, and he has been cited in the New York Times, the New York Law Journal, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Above the Law, and other publications regarding family law issues.
Kelly Davis, MPA is the Executive Director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, a non-profit
dedicated to transforming society for the holistic health and wellbeing of Black women, girls, and
gender-expansive people in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Prior to joining New Voices, she helmed initiatives at the National Birth Equity Collaborative and the NYC Health Department, where she catalyzed NYC’s first HIV public awareness campaign totally focused on women and served as one of the founding members of the Center for Health Equity, where she conceptualized the Family Wellness Suites—community respite and healing spaces for parents and children. In her last role at the NYC Health Department, she was responsible for identifying gaps in public health efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in maternal, infant, and reproductive health by incubating new initiatives and supporting anti-racist policy and advocacy strategies. As Director, she spearheaded a severe maternal morbidity/maternal mortality initiative supporting 14 maternity hospitals in a long-term institutional transformation process that addresses structural racism, bias, resilience, and trauma-informed care. She also is the Co-Founder and Chief Equity Officer of KINSHIFT, a boutique consulting firm that supports healthcare and public health transformation through evidence-based practices rooted in actionable principles of trauma-and-resilience-informed care and anti-racism.
Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University, where her senior thesis explored how Black women and Latinas experienced contraception in the 20th Century, and a Master of Public Administration degree from New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Toi Derricotte, Cofounder
Poet Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan and received her B.A. from Wayne State University and an M.A. in English Literature from New York University. Her books of poetry include The Empress of the Death House (1978), a collection that draws on her early experiences at her grandparents’ funeral home in Detroit, Natural Birth (1983), Captivity (1989), Tender (1997), winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and The Undertaker’s Daughter (2011). She has also published a collection of prose, The Black Notebooks (1997), which won the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.
In 1996, with poet Cornelius Eady, she founded Cave Canem, an organization committed to furthering the artistic and professional opportunities for African American poets. Cave Canem won the 2016 National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Derricotte served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012-2017. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.
Robert Polito’s books include Savage Art, a biography of Jim Thompson, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the poetry collections Hollywood & God and Doubles. He edited Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, for the Library of America, and in collaboration with filmmaker Michael Almereyda and novelist Jonathan Lethem edited Manny Farber: Paintings and Writings. His writing is anthologized in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, and Best American Film Writing. The founding director of the New School Graduate Writing Program and of the Riggio Honors Program: Writing & Democracy, he served as President of the Poetry Foundation (2013-2015). Current projects include a book about Bob Dylan, and a book of poems focused on director and actress Barbara Loden, poet John Wieners, and artist Mike Kelley.
Lynne Thompson is the 2021-22 Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles and the author of Start With a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, and Fretwork, winner of the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize. A Pushcart Prize nominee and Artist Fellow for the City Thompson’s work has been published in Pleiades, The Common, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2020, among others. She sits on the Board of the Los Angeles Review of Books and recently completed her term as Chair of the Board of Trustees at her alma mater, Scripps College.
Dawn Lundy Martin
E. Ethelbert Miller