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New Federal Theatre Sets 2020 Poetry Jam This Month


The event will take place on September 21 and 28 at 7:00 PM.

On September 21 and 28 at 7:00 PM, Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre will present "2020 Poetry Jam: She Speaks, He Speaks, We Speak, Generations Speak."

On both nights, three generations of outstanding African-American poets will accompany the audience on a spoken word journey. The lineup includes Mahogany L. Browne, Yusef Komunyakaa, Haki Madhabuti, Jessica Care Moore, Abiodun Oyewale, Sonia Sanchez, Shadenia Sivad, Quincy Troupe, Camryn Bruno, Renée McRae and Nathaniel Isiah Swanson. The program is designed to honor powerful voices, from revolutionary trailblazers to torch-bearing young artists, who invigorate today's Black verse.

The evenings will be emceed and curated by Rev. Rhonda "Akanké" McLean-Nur and will also feature her along with other special guests. Director is Petronia Paley, an award winning actor, playwright and director. Technician is Sarah Joseph.

This virtual event is hosted by New Federal Theatre's Audience Development Committee. Attendance is free and unlimited, but audience members must reserve by going to New Federal Theatre's website: Donations will be gratefully accepted.


Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer and educator. She is Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club, Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC and Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research and Rauschenberg. She is the author of "Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice," "Woke Baby & Black Girl Magic" (Macmillan), "Kissing Caskets" (Yes Yes Books) and "Dear Twitter" (Penmanship Books). She founded the Woke Baby Book Fair, a nationwide diversity literature campaign. As an Arts for Justice grantee, she is completing her first book of essays on mass incarceration. She lives in Brooklyn.

Camryn Bruno was a 2019 Youth Poet Laureate of New York and is a student at CUNY York College. She spent much of her childhood in Trinidad and Tobago and is a multiple-time participant at Brave New Voices, the largest youth poetry slam in the world. She received several literary and leadership awards including the 2016 Zelma A. Cowie Award for Social Changes, the Ms. Tobago Heritage Personality Competition, and several Tobago Youth Awards. She is a fierce advocate for the rights of women, immigrants, minorities, and other historically silenced groups. She is working on a full length collection of poems and as part of the Youth Poet Laureate program and received a book deal to publish her poetry.

Yusef Komunyakaa's books of poetry include "Dien Cai Dau," "Neon Vernacular" for which he received the Pulitzer Prize; "Warhorses," "Emperor of Water Clocks" and "Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth." His honors include the William Faulkner Prize (Université Rennes, France), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally and include "Saturnalia," "Wakonda's Dream," "Testimony" and "Gilgamesh." He teaches at New York University. In the New York Times, Bruce Weber described Komunyakaa as "Wordsworthian," adding that the poet has a "worldly, philosophic mind... His poems, many of which are built on fiercely autobiographical details-about his stint in Vietnam, about his childhood-deal with the stains that experience leaves on a life, and they are often achingly suggestive without resolution."

Haki Madhubuti was encouraged by Gwendolyn Brooks to publish a collection of his poetry. The result, "Think Black," appeared in 1966 and was entirely self-published and distributed. The following year, Madhubuti and two partners launched the Third World Press in the basement of his Chicago apartment with $400 and a mimeograph machine. Since then, Third World Press has published such luminaries as Amiri Baraka, Chancellor Williams and Gwendolyn Brooks herself. Among Madhubuti's own writings to emerge from Third World are "Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The African American Family In Transition" (1990), "Claiming Earth" (1994), "GroundWorks" (1996) and "HeartLove: Wedding and Love Poems"(1998).

Renée McRae is an author, poet, teaching artist, motivational speaker, transformation coach and most recently, recording artist. Through her fun-filled workshops and assembly performances, she specializes in success skills by focusing on life skills. Ms. McRae has published 17 books of student poetry with schools around the country. Her rap/song, "You Can Live Your Dreams," is available on all download and streaming platforms. She is co-author, with Deepak Chopra, of "Stepping Stones to Success."

Jessica Care Moore is an internationally renowned, award-winning poet. She is Executive Producer and Founder of the 16-year old rock & roll concert and empowerment weekend, Black WOMEN Rock! She is a 2018 Joyce Award Winner, a 2019 and 2017 Knight Arts Recipient, a 2016 Kresge Art Fellow, a 2013 Alain Locke Awardee and winner of the 2015 NAACP Great Expectation Award. In the 90's she won the legendary "It's Showtime at the Apollo" competition five times in a row with a poem. Her poetry and voice are prominently featured on the fourth floor of the Smithsonian's New National Museum of African American History. She lives in Detroit where she is raising her 13-year old son, King. (Note to editors: the spelling of her name is stylized.)

Abiodun Oyewole is a poet, author, teacher, and a founding member of the American music and spoken-word group The Last Poets, which laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop. Oyewole is one of several poets credited for liberating American poetry by creating open, vocal, spontaneous, energetic and uncensored vernacular verse that paved the way for spoken word and hip-hop. He has dedicated his craft to retro-acting the perils of poverty, racism, and uplifting his people. Over the years, Oyewole has collaborated on more than a dozen albums and several books.

Sonia Sanchez is a multi award-winning poet, writer and professor. She was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement and has authored over a dozen books of poetry as well as short stories, critical essays, plays, and children's books. In the 1960s, Sanchez released poems in periodicals targeted towards African American audiences and published her debut collection, "Homecoming," in 1969. In 1993, she received Pew Fellowship in the Arts and in 2001 was awarded the Robert Frost Medal for her contributions to the canon of American poetry. She has been influential to other African-American poets including Krista Franklin. Sanchez is known for her innovative melding of musical formats, such as the blues and traditional poetic formats like haiku and tanka. She also uses spelling to celebrate the unique sound of Black English, for which she gives credit to poets such as Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown. "BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez," a documentary film by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, spotlighting Sanchez's work, career, influence and life story, was released in 2015. She was appointed Philadelphia's first Poet Laureate by Mayor Michael Nutter and served from 2012 to 2014.

Shadenia Sivad is an actress, poet and songwriter whose spoken word performances and poetry are infused with hip-hop, social justice and activism. A protégé of Rev Rhonda and George Faison, the Tony Award-winning theater producer, dancer and choreographer, she has performed at venues including the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem North Carolina, The United Nations and The World-Famous Apollo Theater. Influenced by the late Maya Angelou as well as the rappers Missy Elliot and DMX and the late great singer Nina Simone, Shadenia's profound performances, word craft, intense delivery, and depth of feeling and perception will leave you shaken, stirred and wanting more.

Nathaniel Isiah Swanson is an 18-year-old artist hailing from Brooklyn. Through Urban Word NYC, he was a member of the Youth Leadership Council, the 2018 National Slam Team, a 2017 and 2018 Federal Hall Fellow and a 2019 Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador. He has performed at The Apollo Theatre, The Shed, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Brooklyn Museum, Harlem Stage, The Delacorte Theatre and many more. He has been published several times, most recently in Joy and Hope and All That: A Tribute to Lucille Clifton and the Why Be Heard poetry anthology. He has also been featured in videos produced by HBO and NYC Youth, which was nominated for a Webby Award. He attends DePauw University with the esteemed full-tuition POSSE scholarship.

Quincy Troupe is an awarding-winning author of ten volumes of poetry, three children's books and six non-fiction works. Earl the Pearl: My Story, a memoir of legendary NY Knicks basketball star, Earl Monroe, is Troupe's newest non-fiction work. In 2010, Troupe received the American Book Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Among his best-selling works are "Miles: The Autobiography of Miles Davis" and his memoir, "Miles & Me," soon to become a major motion picture. Other notable works are "The Pursuit of Happyness," an autobiography written with Chris Gardner that became a major motion picture and was a New York Times bestseller for over 40 weeks, "The Architecture of Language," a book of poems that won the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, and "Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems," which won the 2003 Milt Kessler Poetry Award and was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best books of poetry in 2002.

Rev. Rhonda "Akanké" McLean-Nur (Emcee, Curator) is an actress, arts educator, founder of visionary youth arts programs and an interfaith minister. She is a board member of New Federal Theatre and the Laroque Bey School of Dance.

Petronia Paley (Director) last directed New Federal Theatre's production of "Looking for Leroy" by Larry Muhammad, a play about LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka that won six AUDELCO Awards in 2019 including Best Direction and Best Play. She has also directed at EST, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Cherry Lane Theater and National Black Theatre Festival. Well-known as an actress, she has appeared in classics, modern plays and TV. Her one person show, "The Way to Timbuktu," won an AUDELCO Award. She is author of three plays, a book of monologues and a children's book and a member of The Actors Studio.

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