Participant Bios

Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria. He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award. He is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.


Homi Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, at Harvard University. Bhabha is the author of numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, and cosmopolitanism, among other themes.


Aymar Jean Christian is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and a Fellow at the Peabody Media Center. Dr. Christian’s first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television on New York University Press, argues the web brought innovation to television by opening development to independent producers.


Aimee Cox is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan where she also held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Center for the Education of Women. Aimee is also a choreographer and dancer. She trained on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and toured extensively as a professional dancer with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble/Ailey II.


Romi Crawford is Associate Professor in Visual and Critical Studies and Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her research revolves primarily around formations of racial and gendered identity and the relation to American film, visual arts, and popular culture. She was previously the Curator and Director of Education and Public Programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem and founder of the Crawford and Sloan Gallery (NYC, 1994-1998).


Ahlaam Delange exists between her family’s home in Durban, South Africa and the open plains of Texas. She’s a Junior at Northwestern University, studying journalism in Medill. Aside from curating artists events, she is a visual artist, using acrylic, markers, watercolor, and whatever else she can get her hands into. You can figure out more about her and her shenanigans @toolutalks on all social media platforms, including her weekly podcast show on Bumpers!


Brent Edwards is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has published essays and articles on topics including African American literature, Francophone literature, theories of the African diaspora, black radical intellectuals, cultural politics in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, surrealism, 20th-century poetics, and jazz.


Haile Gerima is an independent filmmaker and Professor of Film at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gerima emigrated to the United States in 1967. Gerima filmed his epic, Sankofa (1993). This formally ambitious tale of a plantation slave revolt was ignored by U.S. distributors, but Gerima tapped into African American communities and booked sold-out screenings in independent theaters around the country. Gerima continues to distribute and promote his own films, including his most recent festival success, Teza (2008), which won the Jury and Best Screenplay awards at the Venice Film Festival.


Michael Boyce Gillespie is Associate Professor of Film in the Department of Media and Communication Arts and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York, City University of New York.


Michael Hanchard is Professor of Africana and Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching interests combine a specialization in comparative politics with an interest in contemporary political theory, encompassing themes of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and citizenship.


Meta Jones is an Associate Professor of African American literature in the Department of English at Howard University. She is the author of The Muse is Music: Jazz Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to the Spoken Word (2011), a finalist for the Modern Languages Association William Sanders Scarborough Book Prize.


Omi Osun Joni Jones is an artist/scholar whose work focuses on performance ethnography, theatrical jazz, Yoruba-based aesthetics, Black Feminisms, and activist theatre.  Her performances include sista docta—a critique of the academy, and Searching for Osun—a performance ethnography around Yoruba-based spirituality and identity. She is Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.


Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin is Assistant Professor Department of Theatre and Film Studies and the University of Georgia. Dr. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin is a scholar-artist of African Diaspora performance who practices and studies history on the stage, in film, and on television. She creates artistic works based on archival research and writes about late 19th-century black performance.


Tarell McCraney was born and raised in Liberty City, the inner-city area of Miami, Florida. He graduated from the Theater School at DePaul University with the Sarah Siddons Award and a BFA in Acting 2003. He received an MFA in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama in 2007 and received the Cole Porter Award. In 2013, he was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. He is the Eugene O’Neill Professor in the Practice of Playwriting Department and Chair of Playwriting at the School of Drama at Yale University.


Fumi Okiji is the Black Arts Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. Her research looks to black expression in its exploration of ways to understand the inadequacies of modern and contemporary life. She has a forthcoming book entitled Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited (Stanford University Press) which shows how the music, as expression of life that incessantly calls into question the world’s integrity, provides social critique and models an alternative mode of sociality. Her current research is focused on divinatory practices and chance events of Yoruba theology and aesthetics, and jazz practice in response to the narrowing and appropriation of the notion of divination by neoliberalist ideology, and towards an appreciation and harnessing of the uncertainty inherent in artistic/expressive record and archive. Okiji’s work brings into conversation Ifá (Yoruba oral text and music) and jazz, and in so doing, wrestles with, and attempts to hold open the contradictions of Middle Passage rupture and Old World residue.

Okiji is also music practitioner. She is currently engaged in practice-enabled research projects that theorizes and experiments with vandalism and breakage of record(s) as ways to alternative epistemological frameworks.


Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts and came to Britain at the age of four months. He grew up in Leeds, and studied English Literature at Oxford University. He began writing for the theatre and his plays include Strange Fruit (1980), Where There is Darkness (1982) and The Shelter (1983). He was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 1992 and was on the 1993 Granta list of Best of Young British Writers. Formerly Henry R. Luce Professor of Migration and Social Order at Columbia University, he is presently Professor of English at Yale University.


Kalonji Nzinga is a scholar and researcher in the field of Cultural Psychology, a field that seeks to teach culturally diverse humans how to pursue mental wellness, historical reconciliation, community interdependence, and mutual respect of the self and other.  He is also a writer of thinkpieces and poetry, crafting verses and vocabulary to describe our transcultural predicament and forging new collective myths to inspire our future together.


Gina Athena Ulysse is a feminist artist-anthropologist-activist and self-described Post-Zora Interventionist. She was born in Pétion-Ville, Haïti. Her various creative projects include spoken word, performance art, and installation pieces. Her poetry has appeared in several journals and collections. She is currently Professor of Anthropology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.


LaCharles Ward is a Ph.D. candidate in the Rhetoric and Public Culture program in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. His dissertation, “They Left Us Dead,” attends to questions around the precariousness of Black life, anti-black state violence, and the political, social, and visual role of contemporary Black protest culture.


Reggie Wilson is a dancer and choreographer. He founded his company, Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group, in 1989. Wilson draws from the movement languages of the blues, slave and spiritual cultures of Africans in the Americas and combines them with post-modern elements and his own personal movement style to create what he calls “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances.”


Nelisiwe Xaba is a dancer and a choreographer born in Soweto, South Africa. She studied at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation and went on to further study dance at Ballet Rambert in London. Before starting to create her own performances, she had danced in South Africa for Pact Dance Company and had also worked with a choreographer Robyn Orlyn.


Hershini Young is an Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her academic specialties include Gender and Sexuality in the African Diaspora and Black Performance Studies. Her current book project “Coercive Performances: Spectacular Blackness and the Politics of Will” deals with the illegibility of Southern African women’s will in imperial archives and performances.


Mlondi Zondi is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. His research interests include contemporary African dance, black queer studies, performance activism, critical race and postcolonial theory, and Afro-pessimism.


Tukufu Zuberi is an American Sociologist, filmmaker, social critic, educator, and writer. He is one of the hosts of the long-running PBS program History Detectives. As founder of his own production company, he produced the film African Independence, which premiered at the San Diego Black Film Festival in January 2013. He is the Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations, Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department, and professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.