Joi M. Sears

As a graduate student at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Joi was afforded the opportunity to design an individualized multi-disciplinary curriculum centered on Arts and Social Change.  It was through this experience that she was blessed with the opportunity to study the Theatre of the Oppressed technique with Augusto Boal at the “Centro de Teatro Oprimido” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before his untimely death in May of 2009, as well as with his son, Julian Boal, and contemporaries at the Theatre of the Oppressed Laboratory in New York and abroad.  As a facilitator, she conducts workshops for schools, organizations and institutions all over the world.

As an actor, Joi has performed in productions such as The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s MARAT/SADE and has trained with acclaimed playwright/performer, Anna Deavere Smith.  As a playwright, Joi’s “A Black Girl’s Guide to Going Green” was presented as a part of the Movement Theatre Company’s Go Green Festival, and her play, “The Assassination of God” will be presented in Winter of 2011.  Joi has worked in both the casting and writing departments of ABC’s “One Life to Live” and as a dancer, has trained with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and The Dance Theatre of Harlem.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Marymount Manhattan College majoring in Theatre of Arts, before pursuing her graduate studies and New York University. Joi is the Executive Director of Theatre for the Free People, an organization which is dedicated to using the arts as a vehicle for social change in marginalized and disenfranchised communities all over the world.


Nina Angela Mercer is a multi genre writer and performing artist. She is the Executive Director of Ocean Ana Rising, Inc. – an arts education non profit organization ( based in New York City and Washington, D.C. Nina’s play “Gutta Beautiful” was staged in Washington, D.C. at The Warehouse Theatre (2005) and The Woolly Mammoth Theatre (2006), and in New York City at Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement by AUDELCO award-winning Woodie King Jr’s New Federal Theatre Company (2007). “Gutta Beautiful” will be staged in Washington, DC by the American Project in 2011 and in Woodbrook, Trinidad by Griot Productions in 2011. Her one woman performance piece, “Racing My Girl, Sally” was read at The First National Conference of Women of Color Writing Plays in Chicago in August of 2008, where she was also a panelist and fellow.  In 2009, Nina participated in a collective choreopoem, installation and performance “Refuge and Resistance,” which debuted at Brecht Forum in NYC. Most recently, Nina co-curated “Women on Wednesdays (WoW)” at Brecht Forum with Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, where she also debuted her new choreopoem “Itagua Meji” in February 2010, accompanied by dancer/choreographer Kimani Fowlin and percussionist Matt “Swamp Guinee” Miller.  “Itague Meji” has also been performed at Rutgers University-Newark (March 2010) and at the Alternate ROOTS Annual Meeting in Arden, North Carolina in August 2010. She is currently developing “Gypsy & The Bully Door,” a multi media stage play with an ensemble cast, exploring a radical, contemporary movement of outlaw healers in their quest for justice, freedom, and the most absurdly profound and dangerous practice of love. Nina has coordinated outreach programs and facilitated art & writing workshops since 1993. She graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1995, and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction from American University in 2000.  Nina also put in some time at University of Maryland, College Park’s Doctoral Program in English, where she focused her studies on Transnational Feminist Literature.  She is currently teaching Composition and Drama at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. She also works as a teaching artist for Medgar Evers College’s Center for Black Literature in their “Reinvisioning Life Through Literature Program.”



Hailing for Houston, TX, Ebony Noelle Golden is a cultural worker, artist, Cave Canem fellow, and creative director of Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative. She earned degrees from New York University (M.A.-Performance Studies), American University (M.F.A.-Poetry), and Texas A & M University (B.A.-English/Poetry).  A 2009 Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee, Ebony has taught, published and performed widely.  She is currently creating and performing two bodies of work: "again, the watercarriers", a poetry and performance collection about legacy, trauma, healing, and migration; and "specula(tion): radical acts for reproductive justice.




Tonya Cherie Hegamin is the noted author of the Young Adult novel M+O 4EVR and co-author (with Marilyn Nelson) of the YA poetic novella, PEMBA’S SONG.  Her picture book MOST LOVED IN ALL THE WORLD was featured in Ebony Magazine.  Hegamin’s historical fiction has been lauded as “lovely”, “fresh” and “compelling” by the publication world.  Tonya received her BA in Writing from the University of Pittsburgh and her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University. Tonya has worked extensively with “at-risk” and institutionalized girls and women in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Ms. Hegamin is an alumna of Cave Canem, the first fellowship retreat for African-American poets, and Hedgebrook, a writing retreat exclusively for women. Tonya is the Creative Writing Coordinator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY and she also develops creative literacy text for a national after-school program called Rocket Learning, Inc.  Her website is


Barbara K. Asare-Bediako has studied privately with Prof. Vera Katz, Howard University Emeritus, and at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre and The Atlantic Theater. Her writing and storytelling are influenced by her Graduate studies and fieldwork on the economic and spiritual practices of Muslim African Women, and her work among urban American Homeless Women in treatment for substance abuse and women selling sex. Recent theatre credits include Roots of Rap, Black Tale featuring Rae Dawn Chong, And My Name Ain’t Peaches (Access Theatre), Edward III & Death and the King’s Horseman (Washington Shakespeare Company), and Separate Is Not Equal and We Shall Overcome (Smithsonian Museum Theatre). TV/Film credits include Snowden Crossing (Public Access Television), Temporary Dreams (BK Thriving Productions), and Some Kind of Justice (Pocket Change Productions). She enjoys reading and creating new material, and being a part of the process that brings to life art that she believes in, enjoys, and has the power to awaken minds and change society. She extends a special thanks to Deri and Abbie.


Shenelle Eaton Foster is a dance theater artist and activist.  Recent performances include: Pandora’s, Theater Row; Go Green Reading Series, Dixon Place; Voices of Africa: Niger, Estrogenius Festival, Manhattan Theater Source; Quiet Come Dawn: an aerial choreopoem, Embody Dance Studio.  She has worked with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Winifred Harris’ Between Lines, Genesis Dance Company, WOW Café Theater, and The Movement Theatre Company.  She studied African Diasporic history, culture and performance at UC Berkeley, and modern dance at The Ailey School.  She earned her MSW from Fordham University as a fellow with the New York Academy of Medicine, and served as an NGO representative to the United Nations from 2006-2007.  Shenelle is influenced by and lifelong student of African-based religion and philosophies, metaphysics, astrology, feminist/wominist/queer politics.


Lorna Lowe is the former Filmmaker-in-Residence at WGBH Boston, Lorna is currently in post-production on her second documentary film, ROMEO, featuring Haitian counselor, Antonio Arrendel. Lorna is the first recipient of the Accelerating the Creative production grant from Women in Film and General Motors.


Phakiso Collins is a producer and emerging multi-media arts-activist looking forward to showing more of her light in the world:) A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Phakiso has always had a fierce passion for bringing the stories of marginalized peoples to light, specifically in urban communities. She is Founder and Co-Producer of Breakin' Out!, an arts/ healing initiative that is education and performance based; providing workshops aka "parties" designed for women and girls to break silence surrounding body image, self-esteem, womanhood, & sexuality.  Using her television production experience as a platform for social change, she is now developing the project “Guilty Flesh”, a multi-media performance that speaks bluntly on the politics of sex, shame, and silence. Phakiso earned her B.A. in Television Production from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She now freelances within the entertainment industry as a Producer and Unit Manager for MTV, BET, VH1, BRAVO Networks, and is a Graphics Operator at MSNBC. She has also worked with Powerhouse Productions on their multiple programs airing on TV One; including "G. Garvin Road Tour", "Living it Up w/ Patti Labelle", and "Makeover Manor" hosted by Mikki Taylor. Phakiso is a proud graduate from the 2009 class of We Got Issues! Young Women’s Leadership Institute, where she gained the tools, vocabulary, and visioning that will help inform and continue her arts activism and commitment to healing & empowerment. Peace&Love!

Kymbali Craig is a unique talent. She fuses spoken-word, comedy, theater and music to create performance pieces that address social and political issues. She is currently performing in a powerful production titled “The Passage” slavery a journey like no other.  As an artist educator and a woman of today, frustrated with recent media exposure of women being exploited in pop/urban culture and the many other concerns that continue to affect young women around the world Kymbali has created a solo performance piece titled “Male Gaze” inspired by War Zone a documentary from the 1970’s which depicts the consistent unwanted advances women experiences on a daily basis. “Male Gaze” has been in production at various school and community groups as a member of the solo performance roster for Bailey’s Café and Young Audiences of NY, The Ohio Theater SoHo, NY and was also featured in the One Dialogue Festival at The Williams Theatre in Massachusetts.  As a spoken-word artist she has open up for great artist such as, Erykah Badu, Ben Harper, The Last Poets and is currently a vocalist/poet in rock soul band Shadz of Red. Kymbali is one to look out for debuting in various independent films that have been showcased on BETJ and the Tribeca and Sundance Film festival.  As a philanthropist Kymbali is the founder of Living Urban Green and creative director/co-founder of Bailey Café a non-profit an intergenerational program that bridges the gap between youth and elders thru the arts, community service and sharing of food. For more info check,, and


Sybil R. Willliams has spent the past twelve years cultivating her craft as a playwright and dramaturg. Her work has been professionally produced by Chicago's ETA Creative Arts Theatre; New York's National Black Theater; Pittsburgh's Kuntu Theatre; and at the University of Pennsylvania. Her play DREAM OF OPHELIA was nominated for a prestigious JEFF award in 2000; and LIBERATING PRAYER: A LOVESONG FOR MUMIA has been published in AUGUST WILSON AND THE BLACK AESTHETIC edited by Dr. Sandra Shannon. She recently completed a reading of her one-act play titled ZIMBABWE at Harlem's Rebel Theatre. The work was also presented at CALARTS this past January as part of the "Arts In the One World" Conference. ZIMBABWE is a work-in-progress that speaks to motherhood as a powerful, global force for social change. As a dramaturg she has worked at the Alabama Shakespeare Theatre, The Lark Play Development Center, and The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, where she still serves as Artistic Associate. As a dramaturg, she recently completed a three-year project creating a docudrama to celebrate the lives of the Little Rock Nine on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Central High School Desegregation Crisis titled OUR LEGACY: IT HAPPENED IN LITTLE ROCK written and directed by Mr. Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. She also continues to serve as dramaturg for their first new play festival called VOICES AT THE RIVER. Sybil R. Willams is an adjunct professor at The Catholic University of America and American University in Washington DC.

Body Ecology is a performance collective comprised of artists, activists, trouble makers, and change agents. Members include:  Sydette Harry, Kristin Simpson, Ebony Noelle Golden, Mecca Meyers, Kelly Thomas, and Jessica Valoris

Kimani Fowlin is a Native New Yorker and co-founder of ChoreoConcepts. Kimani’s choreography (while at
Sarah Lawrence College) was selected to compete in the American College Dance Festival in Columbus, Ohio. She co-directed M’Zawa Danz from 1995 to 2000 with Maia Claire Garrison; during this time she choreographed and performed as an independent artist with Ronald K. Brown, David Rousseve, Youssef Koumbassa, Andrea E. Woods, Souloworks, Umoja Dance, Harambee Dance Company, Antibalis (a 15-member Afrobeat orchestra). Kimani has performed nationally and internationally in Lima, Peru where she received a grant to teach, to choreograph and perform.  There she had the great honor of collaborating with acclaimed composer and percussionists Manongo Mujica and Julio Chocolate Algendones.  Her work abroad also includes performing and teaching in Russia as part of the Fifth International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga, performing in Ghana for Panafest 2003 and choreographing and performing in Greece with funk R&B band Milo Z in 2006. Kimani had the opportunity to work with Nina on highly praised play Gutta Beautiful that premiered at the Abrons Art Center/Henry Street Settlement in 2007. As an AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor she teaches at Crunch. She also teaches at Rutgers University at Mason Gross of the Arts Campus, Sandra Cameron Dance Center and Community Works.  Kimani premiered recent works at Dance Theater Workshop in February 2008 and at BAX in November 2008.  She is currently pursuing her MFA in Dance at UWM, where she last premiered Café Study #1&2 at Dancemakers in July 2008.  Her most recent work premiered in June 2009 at Escualita’s in NYC and Milwaukee in July. Kimani wishes to thank Nina and Aimee for their creative support and inspiration.  I am forever grateful to all who give their constant encouragement on my artistic journey.

A New York native, Gabriella Callender is a singer/ songwriter humanist and activist who  is known to use her soulful folk  songs  to inspire community building and growth.  In addition, Gabriella is the musical director and performance artists in the ground breaking , thought provoking performance ensemble, Mahina Movement. Gabriella has performed on over 1000 stages from the Brecht forum to Lincoln center and her songs have  been used to inspire thousands by  the March for World Peace Organization,  the  Human Rights Organization , Anomaly  the Film, and many others. Stay tuned for her upcoming album EMMA, June 2010.



Matt "Hambone Swamp Guinee" Miller is an all around percussionist, musician, performer, recording artist, songwriter, actor, and educator. Matt got his start as a percussionist playing Go-Go music (Washington, DC's indigenous underground genre). Over the years, he developed as a well grounded and versatile percussionist/artist in a variety of musical styles and units, including Jazz, Latin, Folk, World Beat, Reggae, Blues, and Rock-N-Roll. Matt also has a background in the theatre arts, ranging from acting, to set and lighting design. Matt's most recent acting roll was in Tawfik Al-Hakim's "A Fate of a Cockroach" which featured in DC's annual Capital Fringe Festival. He is currently performing and recording with groups such as Pure Light Seed, Bambu Station, Union Street Band, Ras Lidj & Deep, and is the vocalist/percussionist in for his solo project, Hambone Swamp Guinee.


Toni Blackman is affectionately known as the world’s Hip Hop Ambassador.  Ms. Blackman has visited 24 different countries and worked in others via digital satellite. The U.S. Department of State selected her as the first ever hip-hop artist to work as a Cultural Ambassador.  Toni’s traveled throughout Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia, often working in some of the world's most war-torn nation states to help bring reconciliation and rehabilitation to those regions, also sharing her gifts in Brazil, Canada and across the U.S.   Toni, an international champion of hip-hop culture, is a rap lyricist, writer and master teacher/coach, and an award-winning artist and social entrepreneur.  Passionate about the power of music to heal, she traveled the world demonstrating ways music and the creative arts can be used to promote important social causes.  Her visionary thinking gave birth to Freestyle Union Cipher Workshop where improvisation is used to develop socially responsible rap artists, its groundbreaking initiative Rhyme Like A Girl and her own unique brand of Afro Global Hip-Hop Soul -music that is inspiring and ‘decidedly grown’. Toni is executive director of the Lyrical Embassy and is recording new music while developing the script for a musical. 


-Toni Blackman and RLAG


Rhyme Like A Girl  (RLAG) was initially launched as the Artist Development Institute (ADI) by Toni Blackman after being selected for the competitive Soros Fellowship Award with the Open Society Institute.  The two year funding provided her with the seed money needed to flesh out the vision for creating an artist development project focusing solely on female hip hop artistry, audience development and leadership.  Girls Inc. served as the first organizational partner, but RLAG has gone on to partner with numerous other projects including Girl Scouts of America, the US Department of State, DJ Beverly Bond’s Black Girls Rock, and a host of school programs.  RLAG has featured in Eve Ensler’s V-Day Festival, at events with ESSENCE Magazine, the New York Restoration Project’s Spring Festival, and at Lincoln Center’s 25thAnniversary tribute to break-dancing with famed photographer Martha Cooper and the international B-girl battle. Operating as a performance collective that features some of the world’s fiercest freestyling femcees, RLAG’s 2010 line-up includes AtLas, Mala Reignz, Haze, Tash Spadee, and Nedelka.


k'uychiq ñañankuna
(sisters of the rainbow)-Guest Curated by Latasha N. Nevada Diggs

Writer, vocalist, and sound artist, Latasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of three chapbooks which include Ichi-Ban and Ni-Ban (MOH Press), Manuel is destroying my bathroom (Belladonna Press), and the album, Television. Her work has been published nationally, performed internationally, and has received scholarships, residencies, and fellowships from Cave Canem, Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, Naropa Institute, Caldera Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts (2003/2009), the Eben Demarest Trust, Harlem Community Arts Fund, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Grant for Women. As an independent director and curator, LaTasha has produced and directed literary and musical events with The Black Rock Coalition Orchestra. LaTasha is a 2009-10 LMCC Workspace Artist in Residence. She is a Harlem Elohi Native.

Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue. She is a Cave Canem fellow. Tara teaches creative writing at Rutgers University. Her work has appeared in several publications such as Essence, Callaloo, Gathering Ground, Bum Rush the Page and both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies. 








Tonya Foster is the editor of Third Mind: Teaching Writing through Visual Art. Swarms of Bees in High Court, her first full-length poetry collection, is forthcoming in Fall 2010 as the first joint-venture between Belladonna Books and Futurepoem Books. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Callaloo, PoEp, DrumVoices, Free Radicals: American Poets Before their First Books, Poetry Project Newsletter, poetry foundation, and elsewhere. Monkey Talk, her polyphonic piece about surveillance, race and paranoia, was staged this January as part of Small Press Traffic's Poets Theater. Currently a PhD student in English at CUNY Graduate Center, Tonya has an MFA from University of Houston. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Grad Center. A New Orleanian, she resides and cooks in the Harlem hills.



New York native Mimi Jones(aka Miriam Jones) is a multi talented bassist, vocalist and composer whose elegant sound is an eclectic mix of genres based on a strong jazz foundation. In September 2009 she released her debut CD, “A New Day,” which is bursting with original compositions seamlessly melting from one song to another and caressed by the warmth of Mimi’s sultry voice. As a “side man” Miriam Sullivan has shared the stage with such talents as the great Lionel Hampton, Roy Hargrove, Rachel Z, Sean Jones, Kenny Barron, and Joshua Redman. A graduate from the Manhattan School of Music she has also studied with Lisle Atkinson, Ron Carter, and Milt Hinton, Dr. Billy Taylor, Yusef Latif, Max Roach, and Latin bass techniques with Guillermo Edgehill.  She has toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States and participated in the Department of State and Jazz at Lincoln Center Rhythm Abroad Program. A reoccurring face since 2000 at the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival as Miriam Sullivan, now "Mimi Jones" brings her new project to the stage. For more about Mimi Jones:



PALOMA McGREGOR’s choreography has been presented at many New York venues, including The Kitchen, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Bronx Academy of Art and Dance and SolarOne Arts Festival, as well as at UCLA, Yale University, The Dance Place in Washington, DC, and Cleveland Public Theatre. She co-founded Angela's Pulse, a collaborative performance company, with her sister Patricia McGregor. Paloma has performed at City Center, the Joyce Theater, the Kennedy Center, BAM and the United Nations.  Since 2005, she has toured internationally with the critically acclaimed Urban Bush Women dance company. NY critics have lauded Paloma as an “extraordinary” dancer with “magisterial carriage” and in June 2009 was featured in Dance Magazine for her “marriage of power and sensuality.” Also a journalist, Paloma has been published in The Washington Post, and Dance Magazine, among others, and teaches dance-and-text workshops around the country.  She earned her BS in Journalism from Florida A&M University and her MFA in Dance from Case Western Reserve University.