Conference Speakers

monalisaMona Lisa Saloy, Ph.D., Author & Folklorist, Educator, and Scholar, is an award-winning author of contemporary Creole culture in articles and poems about Black New Orleans before and after Katrina. Currently, Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor and Coordinator of English at Dillard University, most recently, Dr. Saloy (with English colleagues) received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to aid in documenting contemporary Black Creole Culture. As a Folklorist, for decades, Dr. Saloy documents Creole culture and sidewalk songs, jump-rope rhymes, and clap-hand games to discuss the importance of play. As a poet, her first book, Red Beans & Ricely Yours, won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and tied for a third. She’s written on the significance of the Black Beat poets, on the African American Toasting Tradition, on Black & Creole talk, on life and keeping Creole after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Her book, Second Line Home is a refreshing collection of poems that captures the day-to-day New Orleans speech, contemplates family dynamics, celebrates New Orleans, and gives insight into the unique culture the world loves. In 2014 Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy was nominated as Best Female Faculty 2014, by HBCU Digest, out of 101 Historically Black Colleges & Universities; also, she was honored as best female artist by the Margaret Burroughs/New Orleans Chapter of the National Council of Black Artists; and honored as Exemplary faculty in scholarship and creativity on campus. In 2014, she was guest speaker at the Smithsonian on Black Creole Culture in New Orleans.


KalamuKalamu ya Salaam. Poet, editor, music producer and arts administrator, Kalamu ya Salaam was born Val Ferdinand III in New Orleans on March 24, 1947. Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes and the civil rights movement in New Orleans, Salaam became interested in writing and organizing for social change.
During the Black Arts Movement, Salaam was a member of John O’Neal’s Free Southern Theater for five years and was a founder of BLACKARTSOUTH. Changing his name along the way to Kalamu Ya Salaam, which is Kiswahili for “pen of peace,” he was a founder of Ahidiana Work Study Center. He also assumed the editorship of the Black Collegian magazine, a post he held from 1970 to 1983. Salaam published cultural and political essays in Black World, Black Scholar and Black Books Bulletin. In 1977, he was part of the first African American activist delegation to the People’s Republic of China. A respected music writer and critic, he is the arts and entertainment editor for The New Orleans Tribune and is a regular contributor to Wavelength, The Louisiana Weekly and The New Orleans Music Magazine. He was executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for many years, and produced “A NATION OF POETS” for the National Black Arts Festival.


Jerry 2015___1Jerry W. Ward, Jr., a retired Professor of English, Richard Wright scholar, and literary critic, lives in New Orleans. Among his professional honors are: Kent Fellowship (1975-77); Teacher of the Year Award from Tougaloo College (1992); two UNCF Distinguished Scholar Awards (1981-82 and 1987-88); the Humanities Teacher Award (1995) and the Public Humanities Award (1997) from the Mississippi Humanities Council; the Moss Chair of Excellence in English (1996, University of Memphis); National Humanities Center Fellowship (1999-2000). In 2000, he received the Darwin T. Turner Award of Excellence from the African American Literature and Culture Society. He was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent in 2001 and received the Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award from the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration in 2011.
A founding member of the Richard Wright Circle and co-editor of Redefining American Literary History (1990), Black Southern Voices (1992), The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008), and The Cambridge History of African American Literature (2011). He edited the anthology Trouble the Water: 250 Years of African American Poetry (Mentor, 1997), and his poems and essays have been published in such journals as The Southern Quarterly, African American Review, Literature and Medicine, Callaloo, Mississippi Quarterly, and Black Magnolias. His most recent books are THE KATRINA PAPERS: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery (2008) and The China Lectures (2014). Work –in-progress includes FRACTAL SONG (forthcoming from Black Widow Press 2016); Words and Being; Reading Race Reading America (social and literary essays), and Richard Wright: One Reader’s Responses.


mwendeMwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa is a Kenyan born, New Orleans based spoken word artist, organizer and youth worker. Known for her social justice work and poetry, FreeQuency has been described as ‘challenging’, ‘dynamic’, and it has been said on numerous occasions that “the room isn’t the same after hearing FreeQuency spit”.

A Queer, Black Immigrant Womyn poet, FreeQuency has been featured on Upworthy, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, BUST Magazine, Melissa Harris-Perry’s Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South, the National Journal, All Def Poetry, Button Poetry, BalconyTV and other sources for her work on and off the stage. She has been invited to to speak/perform at various conferences including Melissa Harris-Perry’s Gender, Sexuality and Hip Hop Conference, TEDxTU, and the Courageous Conversations on Race National Summit. In 2013, FreeQuency was voted the RAW New Orleans Performing Artist of the Year and the WhoDat Poets Rookie of the Year. A 2014, 2015 & 2016 member of Team Slam New Orleans (ranked 3rd nationally in 2014), FreeQuency placed 5th at the 2014 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, 3rd at the 2014 SouthWest ShootOut Individual Competition and 10th overall at the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Most recently, FreeQuency 3rd at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam

In addition to writing and performing poetry, FreeQuency has published articles in The Grio, For Harriet, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campus Leadership Network and is currently a co-chair and a founding member of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100 (the first BYP100 Southern Chapter), a founding committee member and host of the New Orleans Youth Open Mic (NOYOM), a board member for Patois: The New Orleans’ International Human Rights Film Festival, a blogger with the AfroFashion and Culture Blog Noirlinians and a member of Wildseeds: The New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective.

In 2014, FreeQuency graduated from Tulane University with a dual degree in Political Economy (with International Perspectives) and Africa & African Diaspora Studies, receiving top honors in both departments and numerous institution wide awards for service, leadership and scholarship. In college, she was also named the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campus Leadership Program inaugural Feminist You Should Know (2013) and was responsible for resurrecting and hosting Tulane’s largest and most successful Black Arts Festival to date at the time (2014). She currently works at Women With A Vision, a social justice non-profit whose major focus areas include Reproductive Justice outreach, HIV+ Women’s Advocacy, Sex Worker Rights and Drug Policy Reform.


ct-ct-haki-madhubuti-10-jpg-20150604Haki R. Madhubuti Founder and President Third World Press
A leading poet and one of the architects of the Black Arts Movement, Haki R. Madhubuti—publisher, editor and educator—has been a pivotal figure in the development of a strong Black literary tradition. He has published more than 31 books (some under his former name, Don L. Lee) and is one of the world’s best-selling authors of poetry and non-fiction. His Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? The African American Family in Transition (1990) has sold more than 1 million copies. Selected titles include: Don’t Cry, Scream! (1969); Tough Notes: A Healing Call For Creating Exceptional Black Men (2002); Run Toward Fear (2004); and YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life, A Memoir (2006). His poetry and essays were published in more than 85 anthologies from 1997 to 2015. His recent releases are Liberation Narratives: New and Collected Poems 1966-2009 (2009); Honoring Genius: Gwendolyn Brooks: The Narrative of Craft, Art, Kindness and Justice (2011) and By Any Means Necessary, Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented (co-editor, 2012). Madhubuti’s forthcoming book, Taking Bullets: Black Boys and Men in Twenty-First Century America Stopping Violence, Seeking Healing and Standing Tall will be available early Spring 2015. Two book-length critical studies on Madhubuti’s literary works are Malcolm X and the Poetics of Haki Madhubuti by Regina Jennings (2006) and Art of Work: The Art and Life of Haki R. Madhubuti by Lita Hooper (2007). Professor Madhubuti is a proponent of independent Black institutions. He founded Third World Press in 1967. He is a founder of the Institute of Positive Education/New Concept School (1969), and a cofounder of Betty Shabazz International Charter School (1998), Barbara A. Sizemore Middle School (2005), and DuSable Leadership Academy (2005), all of which are in Chicago. Madhubuti was founder and editor of Black Books Bulletin (1970-1994), a key journal documenting the literature, scholarship and conversations of African American voices for over two decades. He was also a founding member of The Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) Writer’s Workshop (1968).

Professor Madhubuti is an award-winning poet and recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, the American Book Award, an Illinois Arts Council Award, the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award and others. In 1985, he was the only poet chosen to represent the United States at the International Valmiki World Poetry Festival in New Delhi, India. In 2006, he was awarded the Literary Legacy Award from the National Black Writers Conference for creating and supporting Black literature and for building Black literary institutions. He was named as a 2007 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine. In May of 2008, Professor Madhubuti was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Art Sanctuary of Philadelphia. In 2009, he was named one of the “Ebony Power 150: Most Influential Blacks in America” for education. In 2010, he was presented with the President’s Pacesetters Award from the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, and was awarded the Ninth Annual Hurston/Wright Legacy prize in poetry for his book, Liberation Narratives. At the 2013 “Bridge Crossing Jubilee,” Professor Haki R. Madhubuti was inducted into the Hall of Resistance at the Ancient Africa, Enslavement and Civil War Museum in Selma, Alabama; he was honored as the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame 2014 Distinguished Laureate Presenter. In 2014, Dr. Madhubuti received the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award presented by Poets & Writers Magazine; and in April of that year, Dr. Madhubuti and his wife, Dr. Carol D. Lee, were presented with the DuSable Museum’s Dogon Award at the Night of 100 Stars Celebration.

Professor Madhubuti earned his MFA from the University of Iowa and he received his third honorary Doctor of Letters from Spelman College in May of 2006. His distinguished teaching career includes faculty positions at Columbia College of Chicago, Cornell University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Howard University, Morgan State University, and the University of Iowa. He is the former University Distinguished Professor and a professor of English at Chicago State University where he founded and was director-emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center and director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. Professor Madhubuti served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett University Professor at DePaul University for 2010-11.


Zella PalmerZella Palmer, Author, Educator, Filmmaker, Scholar and current Chair of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture. Palmer previously served as a curator at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. She has also collaborated on projects with the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum and the City of Toronto Collections in Canada.

Palmer is committed to documenting and preserving the legacy of African American and Latino culinary history in New Orleans and the South. As the Chair of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture, Palmer orchestrated the first Story of New Orleans Creole Cooking: The Black Hand in the Pot academic conference that invited local and national scholars including New Orleans Civil Rights legend, A. P. Tureaud Jr. and African-American culinary historian, Michael Twitty in April 2015. In 2014, Palmer launched the Dr. Rudy Joseph Lombard: Black Hand in the Pot Lecture Series that has presented guest speakers to Dillard University students, faculty, staff and the public such as Dr. Howard Conyers, Edie Mukiibi, Vance Vaucresson and Bryant Terry.

Palmer is currently filming a documentary (The Story of New Orleans Creole Cooking: The Black Hand in the Pot) with Dillard University students about the history and contributions of African-Americans to the world famous New Orleans Creole Cuisine (Fall 2016) and writing the Dillard University Cookbook (Summer 2017). In 2016, she was a guest speaker for NYU Food Studies, Nicholls State University and Maryville University. Palmer serves on the advisory board for NOBIA, New Orleans Black Indians Alliance and the Nellie Murray Feast Steering Committee. She is also a culinary ambassador for Cuisine Noir Magazine.