Ifa Bayeza, Keynote Speaker

Bios of NBWC 2019 Participants: “Playwrights & Screenwriters at the Crossroads”

2019 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium & Tribute to Ntozake Shange

Saturday, March 23, 2019; 11 AM – 7:00 PM

Edison O. Jackson (EOJ) Auditorium

Medgar Evers College, CUNY

1638 Bedford Avenue (at the corner of Crown St. / Directions)

Brooklyn, NY, 11225

Eventbrite - National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium 2019: “Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads” & Tribute to Ntozake Shange

2019 NBWC Participant Bios.

Participants are listed Alpha order, by last name.

(As of March 18, 2019)


Keith Josef Adkins is a playwright, screenwriter, and artistic director. Some of his plays include The West End, The People Before the Park, Pitbulls, and Safe House. His plays have been seen at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Rattlestick, Aurora Theater, National Black Theatre among others. Adkins received Samuel French’s inaugural Award for Impact and Activism in the Theater Community. He is a 2015 Helen Merrill Playwright Award recipient and a National Black Theater’s Teer Spirit Awardee. He is also the artistic director of The New Black Fest. Adkins currently writes for Netflix’s Outer Bank TV and Katori Hall’s new TV drama for Starz.


Tai Allen is a poet, vocalist, producer, and designer. He has toured nationally and internationally; and has been published in magazines such as Bomb andAfrican Voices. Tai’s work has been covered by Okayplayer, CentricTV, Soultracks, and Colorlines. He has performed/headlined at the Apollo Music Café, BAMcafé, American Jazz Museum, Art of Cool Festival, The Nuyorican Poets Café, CrimeJazz (Rotterdam), Blue Note, and Charles Wright Museum. Web: taiallen.com // IG/FB: thetaiallen


Ifa Bayeza is author of The Till Trilogy, chronicling the epic Civil Rights saga in three distinct dramas (The Ballad of Emmett Till, That Summer in Sumner, and Benevolence). Premiering at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2008, The Ballad received an O’Neill Fellowship and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for “Best Play” and has enjoyed award-winning productions nationwide, including L.A.’s Fountain Theatre, Ensemble Theatre of Houston, Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, and San Diego’s ion Theatre (Critics’ Circle Award for “Best Production of the Year”). Other innovative theater works include Homer G & the Rhapsodies (Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award), String TheoryWelcome to Wandaland and the musicals Charleston Olio, Kid Zero, and Bunk Johnson Out of the Shadows. Bayeza coauthored with her sister, renowned writer Ntozake Shange, the novel Some Sing, Some Cry. A graduate of Harvard University with an MFA in theater from UMass Amherst, she was recently named inaugural Humanist-in-Residence at the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is the author of The Voting Rights War and Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present. Her forthcoming book is titled She Took Justice. Gloria is a playwright of several produced plays. Her theater projects in-progress are Class, about race relations, and Shot, about police shooting an unarmed Black teenager. Her screenplay Freeman’s Men was a finalist or Official Selection in national and international film festivals. Browne-Marshall is a professor of constitutional law at John Jay College (CUNY), civil rights attorney, and U.S. Supreme Court correspondent. She is chair of the 400th Commemoration Committee of ASALH (The Association for the Study of African American Life and History), focused on the 1619 African arrival in Virginia. A member of PEN America, SPJ, BIO, Association of Writers and Poets, National Association of Black Journalists and the National Press Club, Gloria speaks internationally about equality, and she is working on her first novel.


Lisa Cortés is an Academy Award–nominated producer whose credits include Precious; The Woodsman; and Shadowboxer. Her work with trailblazing companies such as Def Jam Records, Lee Daniels Entertainment, and Cortés Films has defined a career that has been distinguished by her commitment to empowering inclusive voices in front of and behind the camera, producing content with challenging themes and for giving light to challenging, visionary stories. Since launching her production company, Cortés Films, she has collaborated with directors including Ernest Dickerson and Gabourey Sidibe, producing innovative features, documentaries, and short films that assert the centrality of diverse and untold stories while delighting audiences. She is currently producing with Academy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams a feature-length documentary about the legendary Apollo Theater and producing and co-directing the documentary The Remix: Hip X Fashion.


An award-winning director and producer, Kamilah Forbes is the Executive Producer for the Apollo Theater, a commissioning and presenting organization and theater located in Harlem, New York. Approaching its 85th year, the Apollo Theater remains dedicated to the projection of the African American narrative and its role in the development of American and global culture. Forbes’ recent projects include directing the sold-out world premiere and theatrical adaption of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ New York Times best-selling novel Between the World and Me and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark by Lynn Nottage at Signature Theatre.

Forbes is noted for having a strong commitment to the development of creative works by, for, and about the hip-­hop generation. Prior to her tenure at the Apollo Theater, Forbes led the Hip-Hop Theater Festival (now known as Hi-Arts), growing it from a fledgling project into an independent nonprofit organization.


Dr. Brenda M. Greene is Chair of the English Department, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature, and Director of the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.  Professor Greene’s research and scholarly work include composition, African American literature, and multicultural literature. She is editor of The African Presence and Influence on the Cultures of the Americas, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2010) and co-editor of  Resistance and Transformation: Conversations with Black Writers, Morton Books (2010),  Meditations and Ascensions: Black Writers on Writing, Third World Press (2008), Redefining Ourselves, Black Writers in the Nineties, Peter Lang Publishers (1999) and Rethinking American Literature, National Council of Teachers of English, (1997).  As a scholar and literary activist in English Studies and African Diaspora literature, Dr. Greene has led literary and writing seminars and been acknowledged for her professional work by many educational, advocacy and educational organizations and institutions.  Dr. Greene has extensive essays, grants, book reviews and presentations in English Studies and literature.


Amina Henry is a Brooklyn-based playwright, essayist, and educator. Her productions include: Hunter John and Jane at JACK, Ducklings at JACK, The Animals at JACK, Happily Ever at Brooklyn College, An American Family Takes a Lover at Theater for the New City, Water produced by Drama of Works, The Minstrel Show, produced as part of the 2013 Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival at 13th Street Theater/CSC (NYC), and Bully at Interrobang Theater, Clubbed Thumb and SUNY Purchase. She is currently working on commissions from The New Group, HERO Theater, and Project Y Theatre. Her work has been developed by, produced and/or presented at: The New Group, The Flea, Ars Nova, Clubbed Thumb, Page 73, National Black Theater, Barefoot Theater, Little Theater at Dixon Place, HERE Arts Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR), Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas, Tex.), Interrobang Theatre (Baltimore, Md), and Texas State University, among other theaters and venues. She was a 2017–2018 recipient of a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) Space Grant and a 2018 Dixon Place Space Residency. Upcoming productions include New Light Theater’s production of The Great Novel, June 2019 at The Flea. She has a BA from Yale University, an MA in Performance Studies from New York University, and an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College. Currently, she is an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College, as well as a teaching artist for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative and the Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Selected publications include: “Hello, My Name Is Joe” in The Brooklyn Review and 24 Gun Control Plays (NoPassport Press, 2013), “Bully” in The Kilroys List: 97 Monologues and Scenes by Female and Trans Playwrights (Theatre Communications Group, 2017) and the essay “Lessons in Beauty” in the forthcoming issue of Suzy Magazine. 


Ladee Hubbard received a BA from Princeton University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of the novel The Talented Ribkins, which received the Ernest J. Gaines Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. She lives in New Orleans.


Jamal Joseph has written and directed for Black Starz, HBO, Fox TV, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., and A&E. His produced screenplays include Ali: An American Hero (Fox), New York Undercover (Fox), Knights of the South Bronx (A&E), and The Many Trials of Tammy B. (Nickelodeon). He wrote and directed Drive By: A Love Story, Da Zone, and the docudrama Hughes Dreams Harlem for Starz.  Joseph is currently co-executive producing and writing a dramatic musical for BET.  He is adapting his memoir Panther Baby (Algonquin Books) into a feature screenplay, which he will direct.

Joseph is the author of Tupac, Legacy (Simon & Schuster). He has also written the script for a Broadway musical based on the life of Tupac Shakur. He is the founder and artistic director of IMPACT, a Harlem-based youth theatre company, and executive director of New Heritage Films, a not-for-profit organization that provides training and opportunities for minority filmmakers.


Tracie Morris has performed, researched, and presented work in more than 30 countries. Her sound installations and performances have been featured at many national and international museums and galleries. Her most recent poetry collection is Hard Kore: Poemes/Per-Form: Poems of Mythos and Place (in English and French—Joca Seria, 2017 France/2018 United States). The second edition of her first creative nonfiction work, Who Do With Words (Chax Press, 2018), will be coming out in 2019. She has an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University, and has studied acting technique at Michael Howard Studios and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; and she has been a professor for more than 20 years. This year, Morris was designated a Master Artist by the Atlantic Center for the Arts, a Visiting Writer at the Vermont Studio Center, and the 2018–2019 WPR Fellow at Harvard University.


As a playwright, Shaun Neblett was first produced Off-Broadway when he was 18-years-old at the Joseph Papp Public Theater. Since then, his plays have been produced internationally, Off-Broadway and at regional theater venues. Shaun is completing his “7 Homages for 7 MCs” play cycle, which is a suite of seven original plays that originate from the spirit of classic hip-hop albums. The second play in the cycle pays homage to the rapper Slick Rick’s debut album and was presented at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., last autumn. Shaun is the founder and executive director of Changing Perceptions Theater, a theater company that provides theater and performance training to youth in urban communities. www.shaunneblett.com IG: @cptheater.



Marlon Rice is a novelist, journalist, and educator. He is a published author and the former culture editor for Heart & Soul magazine. Rice is a contributing writer for numerous blogs, and his work has appeared in the New York Amsterdam News. He is the lead columnist for Our Time Press. Marlon Rice is also the creator and lead instructor of the First Voices Writing and Mentoring Workshops, a program geared to introducing elementary school students to creative writing.



April R. Silver is an entrepreneur, cultural worker, and author. The Howard graduate founded AKILA WORKSONGS—a communications agency—in 1993 to support visionary artists, activists, and organizations. For more than 25 years, she has been a leading voice of her generation. She has been covered in The Washington Post; Ms. magazine, Essence, Ebony; and appeared CNN and other outlets. Her first book, Be a Father to Your Child (2008), was published to critical acclaim. Her second book, an anthology on Black women artists and healers, is due in 2020.


Kel Spencer is a well-rounded figure in entertainment, education, business, and the community. His pen has garnered Grammy, Soul Train, and MTV Video Music Award nominations, as well as won an American Music Award. Working on chart topic projects with corporate tie-ins has allowed Spencer to grow a unique perspective on writing, branding, and cultural awareness. This perspective has also prompted his Pens Of Power youth program in schools throughout New York City. While new projects (including music, film, and an adjunct professorship) are on the horizon, Spencer continues to blaze an artistic trail toward future mogul status.


Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, theater critic, and journalist. His plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, London, and Toronto. Squire is a coproducer on the TV show “The Good Fight” and has been a writer on “This Is Us” and “Braindead.” As a journalist, he has worked at The New Republic, Talking Points Memo, American Theater magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and ESPN. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




Attika J. Torrence is an innovative, award-winning filmmaker who has taken strides to make a significant impact on the film industry by applying his filmmaking skills, experience and expertise to several film and television projects as an actor, director, writer and producer. A native of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York, but raised partially in Liberia, West Africa, Attika has a vastly creative view and unique approach to the art of filmmaking.