Institute Scholars

Sonia Sanchez

 Keynote speaker

Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend (Beacon Press, 1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1997), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums (Beacon Press, 1998), Shake Loose My Skin (Beacon Press, 1999), and most recently, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010). A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award for 1984, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, she is a winner of the 1985 American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.) for 1989, a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for 1992-1993 and the recipient of Langston Hughes Poetry Award for 1999. Does Your House Have Lions? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medalist and a Ford Freedom Scholar from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Sonia Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, the People’s Republic of China, Norway, and Canada. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University and she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English at Temple University. She is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award, 2004, Alabama Distinguished Writer, and the National Visionary Leadership Award for 2006.

Roberto Carlos Garcia

Roberto Carlos Garcia's second poetry collection, black / Maybe, will be published in spring 2018 by Willow Books. His first collection, Melancolía, is available from Červená Barva Press. His poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in The Root, Those People, Rigorous, Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, The New Engagement, Public Pool, Stillwater Review, Gawker, Barrelhouse, Tuesday; An Art Project, The Acentos Review, Lunch Ticket, and many others. 

​He is founder of the cooperative press Get Fresh Books, LLC.

A native New Yorker, Roberto holds an MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

His website is

Jane Wong

Jane Wong's poems can be found in Best American Poetry 2015, American Poetry Review, Third Coast, jubilat and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Hedgebrook, and Bread Loaf. She is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016) and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University.

Kyla Marshell

Kyla Marshell is a creative writer whose poems, essays, articles and interviews have appeared inBookforum, BuzzFeed, Calyx,,ESPNw, Gawker, The Guardian, O, the Oprah Magazine, PEN America, the Poetry Foundation, REVIVE Music, Sarah Lawrence Magazine,  SPOOK Magazine, Vinyl Poetry, and elsewhere. She has earned an Academy of American Poets College Prize, a Jacob K. Javits fellowship, and is a Cave Canem and MacDowell Colony fellow. In 2013, named her one of "7 Young Black Writers You Should Know."

Currently, Kyla is at work on a memoir about a chance encounter with a distant relative that leads her to seek out other members of her extended family.

She is a graduate of Spelman College with a B.A. in English, and Sarah Lawrence College with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Originally from Boston, she grew up in Silver Spring, MD, Morehead, KY, and Portland, ME, and now lives in New York.

Ysabel Gonzalez

Newark, NJ native Ysabel Y. Gonzalez received her BA from Rutgers University and an MFA in Poetry from Drew University. Ysabel has received invitations to attend VONA, Tin House, Ashbery Home School and BOAAT Press workshops. She’s a CantoMundo Fellow, and has been published or is forthcoming in HEArt Journal; Paterson Literary Review; Tinderbox Journal; Anomaly; Vinyl; It was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop; Wide Shore, Waxwing Literary Journal, and others.  You can read more about her work, at

Keisha-Gaye Anderson

Keisha-Gaye Anderson is a Jamaican-born poet, author, and visual artist living in Brooklyn, NY. Gathering the Waters (Jamii Publishing 2014) is her first poetry collection. Her writing has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies. Everything Is Necessary, her newest poetry collection, will be published by Willow/Aquarius this fall. A second collection, A Spell for Living, received the Editors' Choice recognition for the 2017 Numinous Orisons, Luminous Origin Literary Award and is forthcoming from a Agape Editions in 2019 as a multimedia e-book, including music and Keisha's original art work. Keisha is a past participant of the VONA Voices and Callaloo writing workshops, and was short-listed for the Small Axe Literary Competition. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from The City College, CUNY. Learn more about Keisha's work at or follow her on Instagram (@keishagayeanderson), Twitter (@KeishaGaye1), and Facebook (

Paul LaTorre

Specializing in work that addresses male body image, eating disorders, societal issues and meme culture--Paul focuses his poetic energy on things topical & inane; universal & confessional; Sith & Jedi; light & heavy. 

He has been honored with the Joyce Carol Oates award for excellence in Creative Writing (2011). His work has been published in Aberration Labyrinth, Apollo's Creed, Narrative Northeast, Zeitgeist, is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, and was recently featured on the DREAM Act's 'Voices' public portal. 

Paul is currently a resident of Montclair, living out a dream of his--teaching at his alma mater of Bloomfield College. 

Benilde Little

Benilde Little is the bestselling author of the novels Good Hair, The Itch, Acting Out, Who Does She Think She Is? and a memoir Welcome to My Breakdown. All published by Simon and Schuster.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and numerous anthologies, including Honey Hush, About Face, Blue Light Corner and The Meaning of Michelle.

Good Hair was named one of the top 10 books by The Los Angeles Times. She was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award and the Hurston Wright award. A former reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Star Ledger and People magazine and a senior editor at Essence, Little has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, the Today Show among other media outlets.

Her work has been taught at Smith College and her alma mater, Howard University. The prestigious, national book club, the Go On Girls, selected Good Hair as the best novel of the year. Natalie Cole bought the film rights.

She has been a creative writing professor at Ramapo College, The City College of New York and currently teaches writing at The Writers Circle.

Kem Joy Ukwu

Kem Joy Ukwu’s fiction has appeared in PANK, BLACKBERRY: a magazine, Carve, TINGE, Blue Lake Review, Jabberwock Review, Auburn Avenue, The Brooklyn Quarterly and Day One. Her short story collection manuscript, Locked Gray / Linked Blue, was named as a finalist for the 2016 New American Fiction Prize and is forthcoming from Brain Mill Press. Born and raised in the Bronx, she currently lives in New Jersey with her husband. More of her work can be found at

Jonterri Gadson

Jonterri Gadson is the author of the chapbooks Pepper Girl (YesYes Books, 2012) and Interruptions (MIEL, 2014). She has received scholarships and fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Bread Loaf, University of Dayton and University of Virginia's Creative Writing MFA program.

Her poetry has been published in Callaloo, Los Angeles Review, Cream City Review and other journals. She is the assistant poetry editor for The Rumpus. Her full length poetry collection, Blues Triumphant, was published by  YesYes Books in 2016.

Nicole Franklin

NICOLE FRANKLIN is an award-winning filmmaker, published writer and Assistant Professor of Television Production at Hofstra University. Through her 27 years in the industry Nicole has been a television director, stage manager, editor, educator, public speaker, web event host and contributing writer to such publications as The Good Men Project and Toronto-based Nicole is a book author for Kevin Anderson & Associates where she works as ghostwriter and editor. For eighteen years, her company EPIPHANY Inc. has produced independent films for numerous cable networks including Showtime, BET, IFC, Nickelodeon, Sundance Channel and kweliTV. In news she has worked on several Emmy Award-winning teams in stations from St. Louis to Los Angeles to New York City and on programs such as The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS This Morning and CBS Sunday Morning. Single-topic news programs such as OJ Simpson: The Trial were also part of her earlier assignments while an editor at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

Currently Nicole is the co-producer and co-moderator of the weekly Monday night Twitter series #BlerdDating, created by Leesa Dean of ChilltownTV. Nicole has recently made her narrative feature directorial debut with TITLE VII, a film on the rarely discussed subject of same-race discrimination. Her other credits include The Double Dutch Divas!, Journeys In Black: the Jamie Foxx Biography, Black Enterprise Business Report, and corporate videos. Educational films executive produced by her company EPIPHANY Inc. include Gershwin & Bess: A Dialogue with Anne Brownand the 10-chapter series Little Brother, both titles distributed by Third World Newsreel and currently airing on kweliTV. Little Brother is a recipient of the Foundation to Promote Open Society/Campaign for Black Male Achievement Award, fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. Inspired by Gershwin & Bess…, Nicole has a screenplay in development titled BESS.