So you read Junot Díaz’s essay MFA vs. POC, but did you know that it was originally published in a special anthology of work by writers of color? Join us as we celebrate the legacy of Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA), a vital nonprofit for writers of color cofounded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz and Diem Jones in 1999. We’ll celebrate VONA cofounder and PEN/Josephine Miles Award winner Elmaz Abinader. Her new poetry collection This House, My Bones is a searing inquiry into war, injustice, and history that Patricia Smith calls “a gorgeously scripted chronicle that probes the collective heart and the countries we inhabit when we dare to speak out loud.” Join us also for the New York launch of Dismantle, the new anthology of writing from VONA alums like Chris Abani, Minal Hajratwala, and Justin Torres. Come hear VONA alums Mai Perkins (read her on Hong Kong and Ferguson here), poet Cynthia Dewi Oka (Nomad of Salt and Hard Water), and poet Seve Torres.
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Philadelphia area based strategist Diem Jones is a poet/musician, multi-disciplinary producer, and program designer who has achieved critical acclaim for his professional work in the fields of photography, filmmaking, creative writing, philanthropy and music for over 30 years. Diem is the Executive Director and co-founder of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and has served as Director of Grants for the Houston Arts Alliance, Deputy Director at Arts Council Silicon Valley, and the National Administrator of WritersCorps. Along with his most recent musical spoken-word CD, A Spirit of Oui, his previously Grammy nominated CD Equanimity, and Black Fish Jazz have been performed with theEquanimity Band at venues throughout the US, including the San Jose Jazz Festival. In addition, Jones, aka Dr. Fladimir MS Woo/Dr. H.M. Joy, was Creative Director and Photographer for George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic during the 70’s & 80’s.
Elmaz Abinader’s new poetry collection, “This House My Bones,” asks us how many times our hearts can break. Elmaz is also author of the Willow Books Editors’ Selection for 2015; a memoir, The Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey from Lebanon, and a poetry collection, In the Country of My Dreams. Additionally, Elmaz has written and performed several one-women plays: Country of Origin, Ramadan Moon, 32 Mohammeds, Voices from the Siege and The Torture Quartet. Winner of a Goldies in Literature, a PEN/Josephine Miles Award, Elmaz has been a Fulbright Scholar and the winner of the Oregon Drammies for Country of Origin. She teaches at Mills College in Oakland, and is co-founder of VONA/Voices.
As a freelance writer, Mai Perkins has nurtured her intellectual and artistic craft at both Howard University and Sarah Lawrence College. Currently, she is completing an MA with a media and culture focus in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at Milano, a division of The New School. There, she is entrenched in theoretical discourse surrounding media, culture, social activism and human rights. Currently living in Brooklyn, her roots are in sunny California, though she’s spent time in Dubai and Hong Kong. When not traveling, teaching, taking classes or documenting her life experiences, Mighty Mai spends many joyful moments singing and dancing among friends, reveling in the unforgettable good times—whether on stage, in someone’s living room, in a park or a Brooklyn backyard!
Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet and author of the poetry collection Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Dinah Press, 2012). A Voices of Our Nations (VONA) alumnus, her poetry has appeared in in various print and online publications. Recently, she was awarded the Fifth Wednesday 2014 Editor’s Prize in Poetry and an artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center. Born and raised Bali, Indonesia, she now lives in New Jersey. For more info, visit www.cynthiadewioka.com.
Sevé Torres is a poet, writer, and adjunct professor at Rutgers-Camden and Camden County College. His work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Duende, Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations and the following anthologies Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth, and Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. He is currently finishing his first full-length poetry collection: Here, We Become Islands.
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