2017 Bios

Michael Alvarez works in the Bronx, where he is currently the Associate Director for the Central Bronx Community Branches of The New York Public Library. A supporter and facilitator of literacy, lifelong learning and community engagement.  He is a founding member of the Bronx Book Fair Committee. With more than 30 years of experience in public service with The New York Public Library, Michael has served the public, primarily in the Bronx and Manhattan in a variety of professional roles from Librarian, Library Manager, and Chief Librarian to Associate Director. He is a leader who is passionate about working with his colleagues in promoting the vast collections, educational programs and services that are expertly and freely offered by the staff at each of the branches of The New York Public Library.

Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin is an award winning Spoken-Word performance/recording artist, actress, Self-Empowerment Speaker and Educator. Gha’il most recently hosted the 16th annual Fort Greene Juneteenth Arts Festival Celebration in Cuyler Gore Park,  other 2016 performance venues include, Kumble theatre for performing Arts at Long Island University, Symphony Space, Sisters Uptown Bookstore (director of  New Book Series reading titled “Gal what took you so long” by C. Brotherton)  Thalia Café  , Brooklyn Firehouse Space with Firey String Sistas, Roulette Theatre Space, Poughkeepsie Public Library, Besame in Harlem, and performance series titled 
“Short Plays to Nourish the Mind and Soul” at George Bruce Library in Harlem. Gha’il also coaches and facilitates an array of Creative Writing, Acting and  Self-Empowerment workshops : encouraging  participants  of all ages to speak  their truths forward with boldness, in their own style and voice.  The lyrics and vocals of her  poemologue  “She got burned” was featured in a Broadcast Award winning PSA  to promote Domestic Violence Awareness..( produced by Ann Trip (WBLS) and Safe Horizons). Gha’il is also the featured performance artist in filmmaker Al Santana’s REPARATION BLUES, and also appears in filmmaker China Colston’s DARK SEED as Spoken-word artist (nominated for best film(2016) in Chicago’s Black Harvest Film Festival) Her collaboration with Jeff Haynes  on the CD titled Storm King with the late great Pete Seeger was nominated for a Grammy(2014) and was  the winner of The Audio book of the Year Award,  (Publishers Weekly), The Nappa Silver Award and The Audio Files Earphone Award. Via her own production company  Talking Poems and Storytelling Production’s, Gha’il continues to create customized poetry for any occasion,  host events and  coach an ageless array of  individuals.  Her CD Spiritual Eclipse/Sacred moments on a string of words continues to inspire, encourage and uplift audiences throughout the USA and abroad.  http://www.ghailrhodesbenjamin.com

Américo Casiano Jr. has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than twenty years. He was the former Grants Administrator for the Bronx Council on the Arts overseeing a $350,000 organizational regrants program consisting of both public and private funds.  His efforts provided funding to 170, arts and community based organizations providing arts activities or projects ranging from performances and exhibitions to classes and/or workshops for youth and adults.  Americo Casiano Jr. was one of the original Nuyorican poets and a key founding activist for the Nuyorican art movement. He has promoted, produced and coordinated numerous readings and performance series for key arts and cultural organizations in New York City, among them, The Puerto Rican Workshop, Inc., El Museo Del Barrio, Inc., New Rican Village, Inc. the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Metropolitan Literary Program, Inc. Américo Casiano Jr. is also the founder and artistic director of NuyoRican School Poetry Jazz Ensemble, Inc, a charities registered incorporated performance ensemble whose mission is to promote the creative literature of Puerto Rican writers in the United States while providing economic opportunities to all artists.  The ensemble blends the use of the written verse with contemporary jazz, Latin jazz, theater and dance.  It maintains two distinct versions: a traveling theatre ensemble and a performance concert ensemble. Among the concert ensemble’s past members were poets Tato Laviera, Maria Aponte, Bobby Gonzalez, performing artist Wanda Ortiz, among others. Past musicians include Arturo O’Farrill, Andy Gonzalez, Phoenix Rivera, Edy Martinez, Ray Martinez, Gene Golden, Milton Cardona, Edgardo Miranda, Desmar Guevara, and many, many others. For bookings, call 718-601-1163 ext. 3 or email: poetacasiano@yahoo.com. As a development consultant, Américo has raised or assisted in raising $1,000,000 for capital, program and general operating support for schools, arts and community based organizations. Among his past clients are the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and Positive Workforce, Inc.

Melissa Coss Aquino, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, is a writer and an Assistant Professor in the English department at CUNY, Bronx Community College where she also serves as the co-faculty advisor for Thesis, the Literary Journal of BCC. Her personal essay “Una Sinverguenza” (Shameless) was published in Callaloo, and her fairy tale “Pelo Bueno/Good Hair” was published in The Fairy Tale Review.  Her article “Jesús y Concha Colón: A Puerto Rican Story of Love, Tradition, Migration and Modernity in Early 20th Century New York” is set to be published in Centro, The Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies in 2017.  Her book Citizen, Radical, Rebel and Voice: 100 years of Jesús Colón, A Puerto Rican in New York is under contract and set to be published in 2018. Her fiction is currently represented by her agent Soumeya Bendimerand Roberts at HSG. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at City College, and is currently completing her PhD in English at the CUNY Graduate center. She is an alumn of VONA and serves on the board of directors of AROHO ( A Room of Her Own).

Edward D. Currelley, poet, author and multidisciplinary artist is widely anthologized. Publications include but are not limited to, Mom Egg Review, DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts published by Writing for Peace, Sling Magazine, Eber & Wein Across The Way Mountain, Metaphor Issue 5, A quarterly magazine of modern and contemporary poetry and his poem “I America” appears in Split This Rock, as part of their Poems of Resistance, Power & Resilience (2017). Honors include honorable mention by Writer’s Digest for Stage Playwriting. He is a PushCart Prize nominee. He is the president of Pen To Mind Books & Child Development Concepts, Inc. Coaching. Edward D. Currelley is known for his commitment to encouraging and assisting writers with achieving their writing goals. He says, “I listen to the concerns of those I coach and we work together as a team to achieve their goals”.

Lorraine Currelley, poet, writer, Pearls of Wisdom storyteller, multimedia artist, mental health and grief and bereavement counselor, advocate for mental health
andlorraine (2) healthy aging.  She’s the Executive director for Poets Network & Exchange, Inc., where she curates featured poetry readings, creative writing and poetry workshops, a scholar lecture series and panel discussions. She’s a literary and transformation coach. Recipient of many honors and widely anthologized. In 2017 she was elected the executive director for the Bronx Book Fair. She resides in New York City.  To learn more about the about the author visit:  http://www.poetsnetworkandexchange.com

Gesille Dixon is the Borough Director for Bronx Neighborhood Library Networks at The New York Public Library.  Gesille is a dedicated, versatile professional with extensive library operational and managerial experience. Gesille has served the public in the Bronx with distinction for 17 years in roles ranging from Librarian Trainee, Librarian, Supervising Librarian, Network Manager, Associate Director to Borough Director. Gesille’s niche is strategic problem-solving with a keen ability to work across all levels of the organization to initiate interdepartmental collaboration. An outstanding hands-on leader, who motivates, trains and provides guidance to staff aspiring to develop their own leadership and supervisory abilities.  She believes effective collaboration and a diverse team environment is key in the delivery of programs and services to the Bronx community. She is passionate about libraries and working for the New York Public Library.  An immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 13 relied on the free resources of public libraries to expand her experiences living in a new country.

Robert Farrell lives and works in the Bronx New York, where he’s a librarian at Lehman College, City University of New York. A lifelong lover of libraries and bookstores and member of the Bronx Book Fair Organizing Committee, he is also a poet whose work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Underwater New York, Unlost, The Brooklyn Review, NOON: journal of the short poem, REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Posit and other publications.

Orlando Ferrand was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, moved to New York City in his late teens and became an instant New Yorker. He is a member of PEN America and the National Writers Union (UAW Local 181/AFL-CIO). His memoir Apologia: Cuban Childhood in My Backpack, received a 5-star rating by Readers’ Favorite in 2012 and was selected as the Book-of-the-Semester by Hostos Community College, CUNY, in the spring of 2012. Ferrand’s collection of poetry, Citywalker, won the Gold Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Book Review and Award Contest in 2011. He also won the Linden Lane Press Poetry Prize in 2011 for his book La Otra Isla (Spanish Edition). He is the recipient of the 2017 NYC Department of Cultural Affairs/BCA Residency, the 2015 NYSCA/BCA Artist in Community Grant, the 2014 BRIO Award from the Bronx Council on the Arts for Excellence in Poetry and the 2011 LMCC Artist Summer Institute fellowship for visual arts and creative writing. Ferrand’s award-winning multidisciplinary series of workshops, Underneath the Accent of My Skin, was inserted in 2015 at Hostos Community College Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. He has given poetry recitals at the prestigious Jacob Javits Convention Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, Alice Austen House, Pratt Institute Memorial Hall, and the Miller Theater. A graduate of City College, Parsons, and Columbia University, he teaches creative writing and visual arts at numerous colleges and universities. Mr. Ferrand will be presenting at TEDx Program this year, organized by Westchester Community College.  http://www.orlandoferrand.net

Jackie Flowers QuartetJacqueline (Jackie) Flowers was born and raised in Philadelphia. During her youth and childhood, Jackie participated in local choral groups and events in the area gaining a reputation as a talented singer.   She attended and graduated from the American University in Washington DC where she sang in the school’s choir. During her years at American University, she has sung professionally throughout the Washington, D.C. including performance of the National and Canadian anthems for the Capitals Hockey Team.   Jackie sang with a local Maryland group called the Neltones and appeared on the Tonight Show on WNBC TV. She has performed as a feature soloist in numerous churches in Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Georgia, and North Carolina. Since moving to New York City, she has sung at St. Nickolas Pub, Bronx Culture Trolley @ Hostos Community College -CUNY, NYU, Wave Hill Summer Concerts, the Hutch-Metro Center Café, and Camaradas El Barrio with the NuyoRican School Poetry and Jazz Ensemble.  Most recently, Jackie has appeared in several featured films: Black Nativity and the new Spiderman movie as well as the hit T.V. drama Law & Order.  Her new Jackie Flowers Quartet, features Ray Martinez on bass, Diego Lopez on drums, and Igor Atalita on piano.   Ray Martinez is a composer and arranger with extensive years performing in the Jazz and Salsa genres. He is the leader of Ray Martinez’ Legacy and recently produced his first Jazz Fusion CD entitled: Legacy, under his new Label: Tropical Note. Ray has performed with Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and the great Mongo Santamaria, and was a member of the Buddha All-Stars, among many, many others. Drummer Diego Lopez was born in Milan, Italy and moved to Chicago where he performed in the blues bands of KoKo Taylor and Sugar Blue. Moving to New York, he has performed with a variety of artists including the Latin jazz group SYOTOS and Gato Barbieri. Igor Atalita is a composer, arranger and educator. Igor Atalita is a native of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. He studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston and then moved to New York City, where he has been playing the piano with various singers and bands, especially in the style of salsa and Latin jazz. This year, Jackie Flowers Quartet has been showcased at various local churches including Salem UMC in Harlem and St. Paul’s UMC in Hartsdale, NY, among others.  For Bookings Call: 240-261-5106 or Email: amcas215@gmail.com

Ed Friedman’s short plays have been staged throughout the NY metropolitan area by companies including, Gallery Players, EndTimes Productions, DarkNight Productions, Village Playwrights, Turtle Shell Productions, Axial Theatre, Long Island Theatre Collective, Hand to Mouth Theatre, Aery 20/20 Festival and the Belmont Playhouse. They include Two Ships, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, It’s Time, The Jury Will Disregard, Out and About, Let No Man Tear Asunder, Places, and Secret Dreamers. His longer play The Prism has been published in the journal Audience. His monologues are published in the anthologies of Mother/Daughter Monologues: MidLife Catharsis and Urgent Maturity published by the International Centre for Women Playwrights. Ed is the co-founder of Lifetime Arts, a non-profit organization committed to promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs in organizations that serve older adults; to prepare artists to develop the creative capacity of older adult learners; and to foster lifelong learning in and through the arts by increasing opportunities for participation in community based programming. Ed is the former, long time Deputy Director of the Bronx Council on the Arts where he helped establish the Bronx Writers Center.

Lisa Gomez is a writer and teacher from the Bronx. Her writing has appeared in the New York Daily News, The L Magazine, and Time Out New York. When Lisa’s not scribbling in her notebook, she’s exploring other countries and running the culture and lifestyle blog, The Bronx Socialite.


Jean Harripersaud is the Managing Librarian of the Bronx Library Center.  She has a passion for sharing the joy of reading and firmly believes education is the way out of poverty.  She has been with the New York Public Library for 14 years and has an MLS from Queens College and an MPA from Baruch College.

Ana Maria Hoffman’s work explores the divine feminine. Layers of color, text, and collage create her imagery. Her narrative patchwork should be perceived as an ongoing meditative body of work that speaks to her personal journey; as a woman, a sister, an educator, a mother and ultimately a human. Although Ana Maria is influenced by the jewelry and zines she creates, her artistic practice is anchored by painting, which serves as her primary mode of personal expression. Working with paint on canvas allows her to be spontaneous, add layers, and capture her feelings in real time. She goes through a similar creative process while creating her zines, releasing feelings and emotions onto a surface. Ana Maria uses the visual and spiritual resonance of her art as a healing tool not only for herself but to the community she works with.

Gary Johnston has taught creative writing and read and performed at such places as Columbia University, The Working Theater, New Heritage Theater, White Mask Theater, African Poetry Theater, Hall of Fame Playhouse,  Castillo Cultural Center, Brooklyn Underground, Tin Pan Alley, Tremont Senior Center, Bridgefield Civic League, the Jamaica Community Adolescent Program, Spotford Youth House, the Queens House of Detention, Bronx Museum, I.S. 181, P.S. 41, Phoenix House, and numerous other locations both nationally and in the tri-state area. He has been published in, “The Black Voice”, Sunbury Magazine “American Poetry Anthology”, “New Rain”, “Practice, Journal of Politics, Economics, Psychology, Sociology and Culture”, “The Black Nation”, “Presstime”, “Long Journey Home: An Anthology”, “Something Good II: An Anthology”, “Eyeball Magazine”, “Poets On The Line”, “African Voices”, “Bum Rush The Page,” “Let Loose on the World, Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75” and other small press publications. He is a New York State Foundation on the Arts Fellow, 1993 and winner of the William C. Wolfson Award for Poetry, BRIO Award, 1989, Bronx ACE Award for Poetry. And Herbert H. Lehman College Award for Poetry. Member of Poets and Writers, Bronx Council on the Arts and African Diaspora Poets. Published: “Making Eyes Thru Morning”, 1979 “Blue Suite, Voices & Memory, CD music & poetry 2005, and two chapbooks of poetry, “Tears of Answered Prayer” 2012 and “Good Work for a Season 2013”. He is co-founder, editor and publisher of Blind Beggar Press Inc.

Ayofemi Kirby (Publicity and Public Engagement, NYPL) is a proven and trusted communications and public engagement professional who builds mission-driven brands, engaged audiences and active communities, on and offline. Through authentic message development and community engagement, strategic media relations and multimedia storytelling, Ayofemi develops culturally-relevant public engagement and communications strategies that inspire and move stakeholders to action. With more than 10 years of experience at the intersection of culture, communications and community relations, Ayofemi has managed online and corporate communications in the financial sector, developed award-winning programs that empowered Millennials across the country to be leaders in their communities and more active in our democracy, and led communications for the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill. She has also shaped community conversations about politics and civic engagement, entertainment, community and cultural projects among key influencers on the ground and online as an independent consultant. Ayofemi currently supports the New York Public Library and the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture as a senior publicist, and continues to runs her own public relations consultancy, CODE PR. Ayofemi’s work has earned media coverage in and secured partnerships with mainstream and multicultural media including the New York Times, ARTNews, Essence, Ebony, OkayAfrica, Latina, The Huffington Post, NBCBLK, BlogHer, among many others. She is passionate about helping individuals, multicultural communities and organizations across the public, private and nonprofit sectors tell powerful stories, start provocative conversations and build the relationships necessary to achieve meaningful and measurable results. She hopes her work contributes to a more just, inspired and equitable global society.

Kevin Larimer is the editor in chief of Poets & Writers, where he edits Poets & Writers Magazine; oversees the organization’s website, pw.org; directs Poets & Writers Live; and cohosts Ampersand: The Poets & Writers Podcast. He holds a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was the poetry editor of the Iowa Review. He has presented lectures on publishing at the Academy of American Poets’ annual Poets Forum, the Writer’s Hotel Master Class, the International Poetry Conference in Koprivshtitsa, and the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. He has also served on a number of panels on publishing at events such as the Library of Congress National Book Festival, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, and the Slice Literary Writer’s Conference. His poems have appeared in Poetry International, Fence, Pleiades, Verse, and a dozen other literary magazines. He has written book reviews for American Letters & Commentary, American Book Review, Chelsea, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dimitrios Lefas is an upcoming Creative Writing major; he is currently a sophomore at Lehman College, CUNY. Outside of the classroom Dimitrios writes short stories in the genre of fiction and even dabbles in poetry. Dimitrios’ goal is to get a PhD in English and teach a creative writing courses for future students at Lehman.


Tammy Lopez. Tammy Poe-it Lopez is a Dominican writer and spoken word poet from Brooklyn. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University at Albany. The Latina writer has won a number of different poetry competitions in New York, including slams at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, The Brooklyn Renaissance Slam, and the Nitty Gritty Slam in Albany. Her hobbies include singing, dancing and short walks to the fridge. Her poem ‘Do You feel the parts of You die, my dear Trees’ was published by The Acentos Review. She also published her first book ‘Rain for Under Watered Roses like You and I’ a series of poems and short stories with a diary like twist. Her book can be purchased through her website http://www.RUWRYi.com. For booking or book inquiries email Altagracia Jorge at RUWRYi@gmail.com.

Carmen D. Lucca
Born in Puerto Rico, Carmen D. Lucca is a bilingual poet, author-translator  of the first collection of Julia De Burgos’ poetry. Ms. Lucca, whose poetry has been published in Ireland, Latin America, Puerto Rico and the United States, is listed in the Directory of American Poets & Writers. Her awards include the Palma De Burgos, a Silver Medal from the Academie des Arts, Sciences et Lettres, Paris, France, a 108th Wing Essential Piece  for her contribution to the National Hispanic Heritage Month events honoring Julia De Burgos at McGuire Air Base, and a Disney Teacher-Award nomination. Ms. Lucca’s most recent poetry book is The Sunset Watcher, a collection of poetic meditations based on her observations of life.

Michael Mejias joined Writers House in 1998 and founded the Writers House Intern Program in the year 2000. Since then, nearly 100 interns have been hired on as assistants at the agency. Writers House currently employs 17 former interns including 3 senior agents and 3 junior agents. Last year, the program placed 25 of its participants in publishing positions and, to date, has placed 253 of its interns in industry jobs. From 2001-2011, Michael served as the founder, curator, and host of a popular monthly reading series at the legendary, Greenwich Village watering hole, Kettle of Fish, where he featured dozens of Writers House clients including Charlie Huston, Matt de la Pena, Keli Goff, Nalini Jones, David Yoo, Sam Apple, Marty Kihn, Scott Snyder, Daniella Brodsky, Gwen Cooper, Simon Collins, Frank Portman, Perry Moore, Megan Abbot, and Linda Lee. An advocate for diversity in publishing, Michael regularly partners with non-profit organizations including We Need Diverse Books, Girls Write Now, LitWorld, and TEAK for the purpose of creating career opportunities for young people of color. Michael has been a guest speaker at dozens of high schools and colleges, most recently, Renaissance High School (Bronx), Hostos Community College (Bronx), Borough Manhattan Community College, and the Pace University MS in Publishing Program. In March of 2016, Michael was selected by the Executive Director of the Cameroon American Council to lead their “Breaking Into Publishing” workshop. He also serves on the Advisory Board for Kweli, an online literary magazine dedicated to publishing writers from diverse backgrounds. Recently, Michael co-founded Inkluded, a group that champions diversity in publishing by supporting like-minded organizations toward actualizing their missions and goals and, in doing so, encouraging along inclusivity amongst publishing professionals and readers of all ages. Michael is also a playwright whose work has received readings, workshop productions, or full productions by the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, the INTAR Hispanic American Theatre, the Spanish Repertory Theatre, and the New Federal Theatre. His last play, Ghetto Babylon, received several national recognitions including the 2012 National Latino Playwriting Award. In 2009, Michael founded a 501 (c) 3, non-profit organization, the Dramatic Question Theatre (DQT), a playwright’s company dedicated to developing and presenting the work of diverse background playwrights. DQT developed plays have received numerous national honors and have been nominated for the Drama Desk Award, Drama Critics Circle Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Lucile Lortell Award. Michael Mejias is from the South Bronx, New York City.

Gabrielle O’Connor: I am currently a student attending Lehman college, where I am majoring in English. I’ve been writing since a very young age. Growing up I always had my head in the books, to the point that I would get in trouble for reading when it was past my bedtime. But my love for reading sparked my passion for writing, as I found my self being inspired to create my own works which I could share. My favorite forms of writing are short stories, and poetry. I am also currently a member of my schools literary magazine, Obscura, where I am able to gain more experience in the world of literary arts. I plan on pursuing a career in writing, for both journalism and creative fiction.

Noel Quiñones is an AfroBoricua educator, writer, and performer born and raised in the Bronx. He has received fellowships from Poets House, CantoMundo, and the Watering Hole, and his work is forthcoming or published in the Latin American Review, Acentos Review, Kweli Journal, Pilgrimage Press, & elsewhere.  In addition, his poetry will be included in the forthcoming collection of AfroLatinx Poets published by Arte Publico Press in the Spring. He has featured with The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and BronxNet Television as well as performed at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival, La Casita, the Nuyorican Poets Café, and Jawdance in London. His performances have been showcased on Huffington Post, Vibe, Latina Magazine, Remezcla, Medium & elsewhere. Noel is currently the founder of Project X, a Bronx based arts organization providing the borough monthly with open mics, workshops, community programming, and the Bronx’s own Slam Series to produce its first all Latinx Slam Team. Visit him at www.elninoquinones.com or @NQNino322.

Raised in New York City’s east Harlem, poet and playwright Jesús Papoleto Melendez is one of the founding poets of the Nuyorican poetry movement. His short-lined, quick-turning poems engage city life through a mosaic of metaphor and song. In a 2013 New York Timesarticle, David Gonzales observes, “The poems of Jesus “Papoleto” Melendez have a bopping rhythm, where words cascade down the page and—when he recites them—swirl around the room, through the window and out onto the streets of El Barrio. Among the founders of the Nuyorican Poetry Movement, his poems are carefully crafted reflections on urban life, with equal doses of humor, anger, love and absurdity.”
Melendez’s poetry collections include Casting Long Shadows (1970), Street Poetry & Other Poems (1972), Concertos on Market Street (1993), and the bilingual volume Hey Yo! Yo Soy! 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry: The Collected Work of Jesús Papoleto Melendez (2012, volume 1). His work is also featured in Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feeling (1975, edited by Miguel Algarin and Miguel Pinero), Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (2001, edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera), and The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2011, edited by Edna Acosta-Belén, Harold Augenbraum, María Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Pérez Firmat). His play “The Junkies Stole the Clock,” was produced by Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival’s Nuyorican Playwrights’ Unit.
His honors include a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award, an Artist for Community Enrichment  Award from the Bronx Council on the Arts.

Imani Rashid, a Yoruba priestess, has been a leader and an agent for promoting change  for more than four decades. Rashid has worked as a teacher, entrepreneur, writer, motivational speaker, performing artist, event planner and an institution builder. She’s a
retired NYC Board of Education teacher, she is the founder of the organization Kwanzaa in the LGBTQ Community and the author of “Kwanzaa in the Lesbian and Gay Family.” At 76, she shows no signs of slowing down. Her community work
 includes The Imani Rashid Retreat Center for Healing in the Hamptons, while her newest initiative, LGBTQ Kwanzaa Storytelling for Children is co-chaired with its board members, Cassandra Grant and the African Folk Heritage Circle. Working with the Kwanzaa Kids of NYC’s LGBTQ Kwanzaa Community is what she finds most 
rewarding. “They range in ages 5 to 15,” she explains. “They are learning the art of storytelling… Now some of the older children are starting to win writing awards and write their own pieces. We are currently raising funds to take the Kwanzaa Kids to
 Philadelphia in November [to attend] the National Association of Black Storytellers Festival and Conference. To date, this is my best work, of which I am most proud.” 

Born in New York City during the era that brought us “I love the 80’s!”

Charles Rice-González is a writer, long-time Bronx LGBT activist, co-founder of BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance and a Distinguished Lecturer at Hostos Community College – CUNY. His debut novel, Chulito (Magnus 2011), has received awards and recognitions from American Library Association (ALA) and the National Book Critics Circle. He’s the chair of the board for The Bronx Council on the Arts and The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.

Meriam Rodriguez is a lover, fighter, sister, Titi, friend, humanist, self proclaimed revolution. Yes, revolution not revolutionary. She is provocative when digging for deeper insights into the human condition, and is constantly striving to challenge the status quo. Meriam has been a member of The NYC Latina Writer’s Group since 2010. At the start of her career, she performed at State and City Colleges throughout the country with Latino Flavored Productions. Starring in the gender bending roles of Jose Can Speak. As well as a supporting character in the comedic, interior world and real life breast cancer battle Pink: The Chronicles of BC Jenny. Meriam was a Co-Writer, Co-Producer, and one of five performers in the highly successful production of Soledad Speaks: A Spoken Word Journey in October 2013, celebrated during Latino Heritage Month. Meriam Rodriguez is the author of the independently published book Adelina’s Perfect Girl; a rare story of young love gone terribly wrong. Which is currently under Option for a film adaptation. She is currently polishing and revising unreleased manuscripts that include; When She Was My King, Chocolate Saved My Life, In Vitro, Krash, and Playing In Traffic. Stay tuned for more releases from this artist.

Peggy Robles-Alvarado is a tenured New York City educator, a CantoMundo, Academy for Teachers and Home School Fellow as well as a two time International Latino Book Award winner and author of Conversations With My Skin and Homenaje A Las Guerreras / Homage to the Warrior Women. She is a 2014 BRIO performance poet award winner and in 2016 she was named one of the 25 Most Influential Women of the Bronx, a BCA Arts Fund and Spaceworks Bronx Community Artist grant recipient. Peggy has been published in 92Y’s #wordswelivein, NACLA, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and The Bronx Memoir Project. She has been featured on HBO Habla Women, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Poets and Writers Connecting Cultures Reading, and The BADD!ASS Women Festival.  Peggy is continuously creating and supporting literary events through Robleswrites Productions and is currently pursuing her MFA in Performance and Performance Studies at Pratt Institute. Her latest book The Abuela Stories Project, an anthology of women writers, debuted December 2016 at The Bronx Museum of the Arts. Peggy Robles Alvarado is a performance poet, producer and publisher who coaches writers interested in publishing their work, creating interactive and interdisciplinary community based events and presenting poetry or prose in a manner that fosters transformative experiences for both the writer and the audience.  For more information please visit Robleswrites.com.

Noëlle Jen-ai Santos is a millennial, Afro-Latina, hailing from the Bronx in New York City. OK, this third-person mumbo is torture…I’m Noëlle; representing the Bronx. I was born to Puerto Rican & stolen African parents and came of age in Soundview where my mother and step-father groomed me Black Panther & HGTV-style; lessons of Louis Farrakhan, Katie Brown, Tupac, Oprah, and Suze Orman fine-tuned me into the multifaceted woman you see today. At age 16, I was a high school graduate living independently in Parkchester; and in 2008, I became a resident of Crotona Park East, where I reside today. My studies at The City University of New York-Lehman College earned me both a bachelor’s degree in business/accounting (2009) and a master’s degree in human resources management (2012). I also hold the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Society for Human Resources Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) designations. When I’m not working as the Director of Human Resources & Payroll (for a health IT & analytics firm), I’m exploring New York & abroad, operating my book club, Readers & Shakers, and striving towards opening the only independent bookstore in my borough. The Lit. Bar will be just as multifaceted as me: a bookstore/wine bar/community center in the Bronx. I dream of a graffiti & chandelier theme, much like my life.

Aisha Sidibe has had a deep love for books her entire life. She was nine when she began to share her writing. As a multi-ethnic writer, intersectionality has been a driving force behind her work. She is working on her first memoir and learning her fifth language – German. She hopes to perfect both by 2020. Aisha is an adjunct professor at the City University of New York. She lives with her husband, a fiction writer, and two sons in New York.

Oren J. Teicher is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Booksellers Association, the national trade association for independent booksellers, and he has been working on behalf of independent bookstores for more than 20 years, beginning in 1990 as the ABA Associate Executive Director, then as Director of Government Affairs, as the founding President of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and, through 2009, as ABA’s Chief Operating Officer. He was appointed as ABA’s CEO in 2009. Teicher has played an integral part in ABA’s IndieBound program, Local First initiatives, and he works closely with independent business alliance boards and other independent retail trade associations. Before joining ABA, Teicher was the Director of Corporate Communications for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and he served for many years as a senior staffer in the U.S. Congress.

Margot Terc is a Dominican zine-maker, writer, and artist based in the Bronx. Much of her work is focused on reaffirming realizations, processing life waves, and utilizing creativity as a tool and power. Margot recently organized ZINISTER, a zine fest focused on showcasing and amplifying the voices and work of POC and LBTQ artists and writers during the annual BAAD! Ass Women Festival by BAAD! Bronx. Margot also facilitates media workshops focused for youth focused on video production and zine-making. During the summer of 2013, Margot received a Certificate in Filmmaking from the NYU School of Professional Studies. She does assistant editing work, and is the video maker and Communications Manager at DWDC’s Health Promotion Programs. Her work can be found at margot-terc.com.

Mercy Tullis-Bukhari is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. She finds inspiration from being Afro-Latinx-American from The Bronx, and Honduran/Garifuna of Jamaican descent. She has read at the Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets Café, the Bronx Library Center, and for the Caribbean Cultural Theatre. Her first collection of poetry called SMOKE (published by Blind Beggar Press) can be found on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Mercy is currently writing her first novel through the MFA program at The College of New Rochelle, and she is compiling poems for her second  poetry collection. Mercy Tullis-Bukhari is an experienced writing and editing coach, inspiring confidence in her clients. She says, “I hope this confidence, ignites a stronger drive to submit their pieces to publications. She utilizes her skills to help clients put their thoughts on to paper. Connect with Mercy at mercytullisbukhari.com to learn about her adventures.

Kevin Young is the new Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation. Also an editor, essayist, and curator, Young’s ten books of poetry include: Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015 (Knopf, 2016); Book of Hours (Knopf, 2014); Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Knopf, 2011), winner of an American Book Award; Dear Darkness (Knopf, 2008); For the Confederate Dead (Knopf, 2007); Black Maria (Knopf, 2005); To Repel Ghosts (“Remix,” Knopf, 2005); Jelly Roll: A Blues (Knopf, 2003), a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize; and Most Way Home (William Morrow, 1995), winner of the National Poetry Series and the Zacharis First Book Award. Book of Hours was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and won the 2015 Lenore Marshall Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets—a prize that recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year. In the Judges citation, A. Van Jordan wrote: “As if walking through a gallery of grief, reverie, and transcendence, Kevin Young’s Book of Hours exemplifies what poetry can do in the world when language works at its full power. The poems in this collection hold emotion taut on each line while allowing for the nimbleness of language to drape over them, bringing tension between the heart and the mind, as Young consistently surprises us with profound elegance.” Actor and author Mary-Louise Parker has described it as a memoir-in-verse and that “These glorious verses put me in some kind of trance.” Young’s next nonfiction book, Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News, will be out from Graywolf Press November 14, 2017. His previous nonfiction book, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (2012), won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the PEN Open Book Award; it was also a New York Times Notable Book for 2012 and a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. The PEN judges said of the book: “Like Duke Ellington’s fabled, Harlem-bound A Train, Kevin Young’s The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness propels us across a panorama of African American history, creativity, and struggle with a lightning-brisk brilliance and purpose. Here’s what happens when an acclaimed poet makes his first foray into nonfiction: madcap manifesto and rhapsodic reportage create a formidable blend of scholarship and memoir that tackles cultural and personal history in one breath. Young goes far beyond just being a documentarian of American Black identity—he shows us how Black identity is indispensable to American culture.” Young is the editor of eight volumes, including The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965 – 2010 (BOA Editions, 2012 and winner of the Hurston-Wright Prize); The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink (Bloomsbury, 2012); The Best American Poetry 2011; and The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing, one hundred and fifty devastatingly beautiful contemporary elegies that embrace the pain, heartbreak, and healing stages of mourning (Bloomsbury, 2010). Young’s poetry and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Callaloo. From 2005-2016, Kevin Young served as Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library—a 75,000-volume collection of rare and modern poetry housed at Emory University. As curator, Young was responsible for growing the collection, running a reading series, and mounting exhibitions. In 2008, Young was also named Curator of Literary Collections, and continued to add to the outstanding growing collections at Emory’s Rose Library, which holds the archives of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes; National Book Award–winner Lucille Clifton; influential iconoclasts Flannery O’Connor, Jack Kerouac, and Salman Rushdie; Pulitzer Prize–winners Alice Walker, Natasha Trethewey, and Alan Dugan; and current British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The former Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and English at Emory University, Young’s many honors include a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and an honorary doctorate from Beloit College. Young will be Poetry Editor of the New Yorker starting in November 2017.