Scholars and Projects
Project: Harlem Queen: an audio drama based on the life of Madame Stephanie St. Clair, "Numbers Queen" and patron of the Harlem Renaissance. I will continue my research on the Harlem Renaissance and the history of Harlem during the 1920s and 30s in order to write and produce more episodes of the audio drama, which will culminate in a live radio show performance of the series.
Yhane Smith is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, producer, folklorist, film festival founder, Bundles Community Scholar at Columbia University and nine time Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant recipient.
For nine years, Smith amplified the work of women filmmakers through her non-profit Chicks with Flicks Film Fest. She curated the film festival, garnered the local film and art community’s support and partnered with corporations such as Kodak, as well as LMCC to showcase the work of independent women filmmakers.
In 2019, Yhane independently produced and launched Harlem Queen, an audio drama based on Madame Stephanie St. Clair, “Numbers Queen” and patron of the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Queen is listed as a Top Podcast on Apple Podcasts Fiction and on Discover Pods’ 14 Audio Drama Podcasts to Get You Hooked on Fiction. Harlem Queen recently made an appearance on the ABC primetime documentary, The Story of Soaps.
Yhane’s interest and research in folklore, music and culture throughout the African Diaspora has led her to travel to Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, and the Lesser Antilles as well as England, Portugal, Italy and France.
Yhane was born in Hammonton, New Jersey, the “Blueberry Capital of the World”, and now lives in Harlem.
Project: To work towards growth and sustainability for the Harlem Wellness Center, a nonprofit that promotes preventative strategies for combating health disparities.
Vivian Williams-Kurutz is the founder and Executive Director of the Harlem Wellness Center, where she focuses on educating those most vulnerable to adult onset diseases that can be managed or prevented through positive health choices. She is certified as a personal trainer, meditation teacher, yoga instructor and Thai massage practitioner. In addition, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Ms. Williams-Kurutz is currently pursuing a Masters degree in mental health counseling.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Dialogue on Wellness (November 7, 2018).
Project: Improve writing and communications skills with a view to placing compelling issue-based articles in popular publications, and engaging a general readership in discussions of public policy.
Vivian Nixon is the executive director of College and Community Fellowship (CCF), an organization committed to removing individual and structural barriers to higher education for women with criminal record histories, and for their families. Nixon joined CCF in 2001 after working as a peer educator during her own incarceration at Albion State Correctional Facility. As a College and Community Fellow, Nixon earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Services Management from the State University of New York. Nixon has also held fellowships at the Aspen Institute, the Open Society Foundation and the Petra Foundation. She has received several awards from institutions such as John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Hudson Link for Higher Education, Citizens Against Recidivism and others. She is also an ordained local deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and currently serves as an associate minister at Mt. Zion AMEC in Harlem.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Voices From Inside America's Mass System of Punishment (March 7, 2017).
Project: Engaging in archival research on choreographer and dancer Jean Leon Destine in order to catalog her collection of his work and finish writing his biography.
Valerie Rochon is a dancer and award-winning dance educator with more than 35 years of work experience in the dance field from around the country. After achieving the honor of being the first African American to graduate from the dance department at Arizona State University, she continued to be a trailblazer by establishing the dance program at South Mountain High School, prominent in South Phoenix. The impetus to form the dance program was to honor the residents, predominantly people of color, with an “equal“ opportunity to engage in dance as an expressive art.
She went on to a national and international performance career, including traveling to Africa and the Caribbean with the Wajumbe Cultural Ensemble, Izulu Dance Theater, Sarafina!, Shelia’s Day and others. She studied and performed works by the pioneering Haitian choreographer Jean Léon Destiné and other notable dancers of the 20th Century. In addition, she does independent research on African dance companies in the diaspora. In 1984, Valerie conducted a research project on African American dance companies in the United States and its Territorial Trust States. She compiled the results and published the first African American Dance Directory, TAADD (copy written, 1984). A large body of TAADD’s research is housed at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Valerie earned a Master of Arts and Dance Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has had a lengthy career teaching dance and facilitating city-wide professional development for the New York City Department of Education. After retiring in 2013, she has gone on to consult with the NYCDOE teaching mini-courses on dance legends, and she is currently a mentor for the Arnhold New Dance Teachers Support Program in New York City.
Project: Cross-sectional curriculum study and analysis leading to a report for smarter private and public energy management and sustainable environmental practices in Harlem.
Steven Watkins is the founder of KUURVE (Kinetic Urban User Renewable Visionary Environment), a sustainability development and technology firm providing a platform for eco-friendly urban development building resources, renewable energy solutions, job-training and education. Watkins is a certified LEED professional and has worked with organizations in Harlem in New Jersey around sustainability efforts. Previously, he has worked as a community organizer in Harlem, a professional arts teacher in low-income communities and as a professional actor. He is the writer, director and producer of the Broadway production, “A Broadway Tribute to Katherine Dunham & 200 Years of Haitian Independence.” Watkins has held positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce and National Public Radio. In addition to other community volunteerism, Watkins currently serves on Manhattan’s Community Board 10. Watkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political-Economy from Princeton University and a Master in Fine Arts from The New School University.
Project: Advance work and research on a book about the 1970s, produce an oral history of that period with trailblazers of the Civil Rights Movement and seek to present more jazz in Harlem.
Sheila Anderson is the Public Programs Manager at the Newark Museum, host of WBGO’s "Weekend Jazz After Hours," creator of "The Art of Jazz," a weekly 30-minute TV program for Time Warner Cable in NYC, and published author of “The Quotable Musician: From Bach to Tupac” and “How to Grow as a Musician: What All Musicians Must Know to Succeed.” Additionally, Anderson is a freelance writer and producer whose producing credits include the "Somerville Jazz Festival" (now the "Central Jersey Jazz Festival") and the Newark Museum’s "Jazz in the Garden Series". Anderson also works with Jazzmobile, Inc. as a programing consultant for its “Saturday Jazz Workshop” and as a co-producer of "Harlem Jazz Shrines" and "Jazzmobile's Sumerfest", 2013. Anderson has both teaching and lecture experience and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bernard M. Baruch College.udies in American History.
Project: Creative Impact Ventures (CIV) is a social enterprise accelerator that aims to connect entrepreneurs in the creative industries in Northern Manhattan with impact investing. Trapp plans to use his time at Columbia to access the University's entrepreneurship-focused centers to help launch CIV.
Rodney Trapp is an entrepreneur with a background in social impact investing. He has served as the director of institutional giving at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and is the founder of Trapp Consulting. In addtion to his 26 years as a nonprofit executive and fundraising professional, Trapp is also an adjunct instructor at New York University. Most recently, he has conducted research that explores the intersection between impact investing and the creative industries. Trapp holds degrees from Wake Forest and American University as well as Spain's University of Valencia and France's Novancia Business School.
Project: Themed and inspired by the 1982 "Indeep" underground Classic song "Last Night A Dj Saved My Life". This behavioural study of attitude, disposition and actions during the quarantine and global pandemic, is checking the temperature of moods, mental state, emotions, mood swings, social interactions and music listening patterns. Exploring what audio made people happy or depressed, and what frequencies attracted them. Engaging these thoughts through oral communications, via phone, zoom, and in person to take a deeper look into what people listened to in order to survive seclusion from the outside world, family and friends. Then comparing and contrasting the results to tragedies of the past to see if there are any patterns of similarity.
Rich Nice goes down in music history as the first rapper signed to Motown. He then toured for a few years before helping to create Track Masters Entertainment where he wore multiple hats as Marketing Director/A&R.
As A&R Executive, Columbia Records: Responsible for a huge artist roster, worked closely with the Presidents of Black Music and Tommy Mottola. During his tenure at Columbia notable projects: Maxwell, Fugees, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Jermaine Dupri, Mary Mary, Best Man soundtrack, Nas, Destiny's Child, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Will Smith, and Michael Jackson.
He then expanded his reach to Theatre and supervised music for "Def Poetry" on Broadway working closely with Director Stan Lathan and the entire original cast, the show won a Tony Award.
As a Consultant/ Producer he's worked with Multi Platinum artist/actor Ludacris and his Disturbing Tha Peace label DTP/Capitol, & DTP/DEF JAM. The Fast & Furious Soundtrack, Pitbull, 2Chainz, Chingy, Snoop, Too Short, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Deborah Cox, Just Blaze, Marsha Ambrosius, Bilal, Rene Neufville, The Marleys, Krs One, Rakim, Kool Herc the Father of Hip Hop, Kanye West, Dj Premier, Rick Rubin, Dj A-Track, Ford Motors, Mountain Dew, McDonalds, Microsoft Xbox, NIKE, MTV, VH-1, BET, WE, TEMPO Networks.
As an independent, Rich has worked at high levels within entertainment. Creating a platform called The A&R Room to discover new talent, which can be heard on Sway in the morning, Shade 45 Channel on Sirius/Xm. Currently a consultant, Hip Hop musicologist, the Associate Director of the Hip Hop Education Center, creating curriculum for the Universal Hip Hop Museum, and an Adjunct Professor teaching Music Entrepreneurship and Broadcast Theory.
Project: A study of religious communities of West Harlem, culminating in public forums and an online interactive platform designed to educate and foster multi-faith community networks.
Renee L. Hill is an independent scholar of religion and social change. Her interests include religious pluralism, liberation theologies, feminist studies, history and movements for political and social justice. In addition, she is an experienced community organizer who has worked with faith based groups and has served as the organizer for marriage equality for Lambda Legal focusing on religious and African American communities in New Jersey. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Bryn Mawr and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.
Project: Examining the impact of artificial intelligence on criminal justice and the social impact of artificial intelligence on communities of color and incarcerated populations, including the creation of a book and a documentary on the subject.
Renée Cummings is a criminologist and international criminal justice consultant who specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI); ethical AI, bias in AI, diversity and inclusion in AI, algorithmic authenticity and accountability, data integrity and equity, AI for social good and social justice in AI policy and governance.
Foreseeing trends and anticipating disruptions, she’s committed to diverse and inclusive AI strategy development; using AI to empower and transform communities and cultures; securing diverse and inclusive participation in the 4IR, helping companies navigate the AI landscape and developing future AI leaders.
A multicultural cross-connector of multiple fields and an innovative collaborator, her passion is forming connections and unifying people and technologies; enhancing quality of life and economic prosperity. She’s also a criminal psychologist, therapeutic jurisprudence and rehabilitation specialist, substance abuse therapist, crisis intelligence, crisis communication and media specialist, creative science communicator and journalist.
She has a solid background in government relations, public affairs, reputation management and litigation PR. A sought after thought-leader, inspirational motivational speaker and mentor, Ms. Cummings is also a Columbia University community scholar.
Bundles Community Scholars Lecture: A Double Pandemic: Risking Your Life for Justice, Protesting Police Brutality during COVID-19 (June 18, 2020)
Project: The expansion of the Mixtape Museum through developing practical research skills in oral history, digital archiving, and cataloging
Regan Sommer McCoy has over 15 years of experience in the music industry, most notably as a liaison to Virginia hip-hop duo Clipse. As a community organizer, Sommer is dedicated to gathering music artists, DJs, techies, and scholars to explore the intersections of hip-hop and tech; celebrate and preserve hip-hop history; and promote hip-hop education. As an advocate, she encourages protection of DJ-produced mixtapes in danger of deterioration, and seeks to achieve systematic preservation in the DJ community. She is founder of The Mixtape Museum, an archive project dedicated to advancing public understanding and appreciation of the art, history, and technique of the mixtape. In 2016, she launched Hip-Hop Hacks, an initiative for students to explore how hip-hop interacts with and inspires technological innovation. She is Associate Director of The Hip-Hop Education Center and a 2018 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Travel Grantee recipient.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Hip-Hop Education: Propelling and Preserving the Movement (April 11, 2018).
Project: A book-length compilation of Mr. Noel’s investigative reporting on police brutality in 1980’s and 1990’s New York City.
Peter Noel is a journalist with 30 years experience in investigative reporting for The Village Voice, The Amsterdam News and others. Born in Trinidad, Mr. Noel immigrated to New York City in 1978 where he began reporting on instances of police violence against unarmed African American men in Harlem as well the rise of controversial figures like Al Sharpton. In the 1990’s, he also covered the Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King verdict and post-apartheid election violence in South Africa. He is the author of one previous book, "Why Blacks Fear America’s Mayor: Reporting Police Brutality and Black Activist Politics Under Rudy Giuliani" and was the co-host of The Week in Review on WRKS-FM radio.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Hip-Hop Education: Propelling and Preserving the Movement (April 11, 2018).
Project: Research in women’s studies, Africana studies, music and history toward development of new opera.
Paula Kimper is a composer of opera, music for theater, television, dance, film, and song. Her first opera Patience & Sarah premiered in the Lincoln Center Festival ’98. Kimper’s most recent opera TRUTH, An American opera about Sojourner Truth, premiered in February 2012 at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA, and is now touring in a chamber version. Kimper’s complete catalog of scores was recently acquired by the Loeb Music Library of Harvard University. She is a professional member of BMI and Opera America, and serves on the board of Old Deerfield Productions and The Phoenix Concerts. Kimper is Artistic Director of Salon Harlem, which presents concerts in the West Harlem home of Helen Rodgers to celebrate and showcase neighborhood artists in a salon setting to nourish, challenge, entertain, and build a diverse neighborhood audience. Kimper received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.
Project: Contributing to a “new narrative” amplifying the voices of Hatian-Americans, including highlighting enduring contributions from Haitian culture to the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black Identity.
Nancy Dorsinville, currently Senior Policy Advisor to the United Nations Office of the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Community-Based Medicine & Lessons from Haiti, worked in and with Haiti with the UN Office of the Special Envoy at the time of the devastating earthquake in 2010. In those roles, she has represented the government of Haiti to the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Clinton Foundation, among others. Prior to her work at the UN, Ms. Dorsinville worked as the Director of Academic Advisement in Global Health at the Harvard Initiative for Global Health and as the Director of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Alliance for Positive Change (formerly AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan, Inc). She has been a Revson Fellow at Columbia and a MacArthur Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Project: Bringing awareness to mental health, particularly the late-diagnosis of Autistic femmes, through narrative media projects.
Moet Fontanez is a Puerto Rican, Plus Size, and Autistic woman, who is inspired to use her adversity for good through multimedia content creation. Having been impacted by domestic violence growing up, art became a way to cope. She is a self-taught nail artist, paints body positive artwork, and crafts flower paper bouquets by hand with her emerging brand MoetCristalStudios. She is driven to represent plus size women through modeling; being published in Ryan McGinley’s book: Mirror Mirror in 2018, participating in TheRealCatwalk campaign twice, and walking in NYFW runway shows for SmartGlamour, a truly inclusive fashion brand, of which she is a proud ambassador. Moet is determined to give voice to the collected wisdom within herself, as well as the insights of those around her.
Project: Curation and production of the Curious Stories podcast series featuring a cross selection of interviews with architects, urban designers, product designers, designers, interaction designers, experience designers, plus designers in areas such as computation design, and makers of color that are designing products.
Michele Y. Washington is a design research + service experience design consultant who has worked on a wide variety of community-oriented projects. Those include Food Wealth, an app to educate residents of Central and West Harlem about healthy food solutions; Empowered to Run, a nonprofit start-up platform to educate people interested in running for office; and Sprout by Design, which teaches urban farming to teenagers in juvenile detention. Ms. Washington is on the faculty at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and often speaks about 20th century African American designers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism from the School of Visual Arts and a Master of Science in Visual Communications from the Pratt Institute.
Project: Writing a biography of her grandfather J. Rosamond Johnson, who was an actor, composer, musicologist, and author.
Melanie Edwards worked in education for forty years, primarily at The Modern School, where she was a teacher as well as the Director of Curriculum Development, among other roles. Following the closing of The Modern School, she has worked at Fordham University, the Schomburg Library, and the East Harlem Council for Community Improvement. Throughout her career in education, she has maintained an interest in photography. Ms. Edwards has a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Emerson College.
Project: Development of a hip-hop education teaching/subject certificate program to support teaching artists, activists and cultural workers working, both formally and informally, in education settings.
Martha Diaz (MD) is a community organizer, media producer, archivist, curator, and educator. MD is one of Women’s eNews distinguished 21 Leaders for the 21st Century whose work has traversed the hip-hop entertainment industry, the public arts and education sector, and the academy over the last 25 years. Her passion is advancing human rights and transforming communities through media, technology, and social entrepreneurship, while also lecturing internationally and facilitating workshops on hip-hop as a medium for education, cultural exchange, and building social capital. She began her career as an undergraduate student at Fairleigh Dickinson University studying Communications and Television and Film Production. She has associate produced and consulted on several hip-hop documentaries including, Where My Ladies At? by Leba Haber Rubinoff (2007), Black August: A Hip-Hop Concert by Dream Hampton (2010), and Nas: Time Is Illmatic by One9 (2014). As an educator, she has taught middle and high school students in Harlem and the Bronx and was an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School. MD has produced several community-based initiatives and solution-driven platforms that address social inequities, transform public spaces and challenge gender norms and epistemologies around the production of hip-hop. In 2002, MD founded the highly acclaimed Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) International Film Festival, the first and largest festival of its kind. She was invited to curate the first Hip-Hop movie series presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and served as a guest curator at the Museum of the Moving Image. In 2010, as a Graduate student at the Gallatin School, MD formed the Hip-Hop Education Center to research, cultivate and formalize the field of hip-hop-based education. Through her publications of research reports, books, and curricula, she has chronicled hip-hop history to preserve its cultural value and memory. She is co-editor of the Hip-Hop Education Guidebook, Vol. I ( 2007) and Rebel Music: Resistance Through Hip Hop and Punk (2015). A graduate of New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, MD has worked on archival projects with Parkwood Entertainment (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter), Tupac Shakur Estate, The Paley Center for Media, Kaos Network, and National Jazz Museum in Harlem. She was a Senior Fellow – Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Curator – Alternate Routes Festival, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Fellow – Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Program in Social Entrepreneurship, Curator/Scholar – The Schomburg Center, Community Scholar – Columbia University, and The Nasir Jones Fellow – The Hiphop Archive and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University. MD is currently completing the New School Creation Fellowship at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education where she is designing the first online hip-hop high school. Most recently, she was invited to be a 2020 MacArthur Civic Media Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Hip-Hop Education: Propelling and Preserving the Movement (April 11, 2018).
Project: To document the history and community activism related to the land use of two East and West Harlem sites, a sanitation garage and a correctional facility, and to investigate solutions for community planning for future use, restorative and/or adaptive reuse, and environmental justice.
Marie Winfield is an attorney and freelance consultant on land use, zoning and community planning issues, with a focus on environmental review. As an advocate in the East Harlem community, Marie has spearheaded local initiatives for parks and housing, previously serving as the President of the East Harlem/El Barrio Community Land Trust nonprofit. She has also been a member of Community Board 11 in Manhattan, numerous East Harlem Neighborhood Plan committees, the Department of Sanitation Community Advisory Group for the M11 Sanitation Garage, and Metropolitan Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital and Icahn School of Medicine Community Advisory Boards. She currently works as the Deputy Director of a fair housing nonprofit that serves New York City and its surrounding counties, with the goal of eliminating housing discrimination, fostering open, inclusive and accessible communities, as well as strengthening and enforcing fair housing laws. Marie received a B.A. and B.S. from Washington University in St. Louis in Environmental Engineering and Public Policy, a M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Romance Languages and a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Project: Analysis of Republic of Guinea’s historical women’s movements.
Mariama Ciré Keïta is the founder of HOIMA (HowIMakeADifference), a career development and learning initiative that specializes in leading workforce development workshops and outreach programs that prepare millennial women of African descent for competitive young professional recruitment initiatives for multinational organizations. As a communication strategist with a decade of experience, Mariama also serves as a consultant for leading US government and United Nations agencies that include UNICEF and USAID. Most recently, she managed high-level emergency portfolios for UNICEF where she also advised and provided external relations support to the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Sports for Development programs. From 2010-2013, Mariama led high-level initiatives with a sub-Saharan Africa regional focus for the World Bank, UNAIDS and the White House. Her portfolios included the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and President Obama’s signature White House Young African Leadership program. Prior to her transition to international development and intergovernmental affairs, Mariama worked extensively in the fashion and entertainment industries.
Mariama holds a Master of Science degree in Global Affairs from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Maryland at College Park.
Project: Researching how Japanese music has been used and performed outside of Japan, with a focus on shinobue and taiko. The research will be compiled in a book that will also include his own story of living, studying, and performing Japanese music professionally.
Marco Lienhard was the lead performer of the legendary Ondekoza in Japan (1981-1998) performing on Taiko, Nohkan, Shinobue and Shakuhachi (with Master Katsuya Yokoyama). Lienhard moved to NYC in 1995, where he founded East Winds Ensemble and Taikoza. He has recorded many CDs including his critically acclaimed debut solo CD Shakuhachi and the JPF-award nominated CDs, Beginnings and Tree Spirit. He performs internationally and was the featured Shakuhachi player in the Temple of the Golden Pavilion with the NYC Opera. He premiered a “Voyage X" with the Juilliard New Music Ensemble in 2015.
Project: This project will focus on preserving and promoting the work of Black documentary filmmakers from 1965 to the present. It consists of two components: the preservation of a cadre of films selected by a committee of experts, and an accompanying essay collection that will offer close readings of each. Haddock plans to take classes at Columbia to develop new research skills in support of her project.
Mable Haddock is an entrepreneur with a long and successful career in media. She has served as the urban arts director for the Canton Cultural Arts Center and is the founder of the National Black Programming Consortium, an organization which sponsors and supports independent filmmakers through advocacy, outreach, funding and distribution. She holds a certificate in public television administration from the Wharton School of Business and is a former Columbia University Revson Scholar.
Project: An collection of essays focused on parenthood and the evolving social and racial climate in Morningside Heights.
Lisa Jones is a journalist, actress and screenwriter whose body of work examines multiculturalism, black identity, and feminist consciousness. Jones graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and afterwards moved to London to work as a freelance writer. As a writer for the Village Voice in the 1990s, Jones gained an international following for her work on race and feminism. She has collaborated with Spike Lee and has written for children's television shows such as Little Bill and Gullah Gullah Island. Jones holds an MFA from New York University's School of Film and Television and is the author of a collection of essays, "Bulletproof Diva."
Project: Healthy Living for People of Color is a multi-faceted approach to promoting healthy eating habits for residents of Upper Manhattan; it includes an online newsletter, pop-up shops, and cooking classes.
Lil Nickelson’s love of home cooking dates back to her childhood spent preparing meals from scratch at her mother’s side. As an adult with diabetes, she began relying on her cooking skills to take charge of her health and encourage others to do that same. In “Dining with Miss Lil,” her monthly column for Harlem World Magazine, she has documented her quest to establish a healthier relationship to food. Ms. Nickelson holds a Master of Business Administration from New York University and has taken courses at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Dialogue on Wellness (November 7, 2018).
Project: Identifying, documenting and communicating strategies to guide and support first-time authors through the publication process in kids’ books, young adult novels and adult nonfiction.
Kevin O'Connor has experience in every aspect of kids’ media. He started his career at Sesame Workshop: first in television and then in the toy group working on Sing & Snore Ernie, Rock & Roll Elmo and more award-winning toys. Later, he led business development and brands at Kidz Bop earning 5 gold records. He cut his teeth in publishing while overseeing publisher relations for Nook Kids – Barnes & Noble’s foray into digital picture books. As Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Vice President of Consumer Brands & Products, he managed product development and marketing for Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail. Now a literary agent, he focuses on picture books, middle grade novels and adult nonfiction in science, technology, history, and art and design. He is a graduate of Columbia College.
Project: Developing a community based culturally responsive think tank around population health, civic engagement, education and ethical tech.
Ken Miles is a strategic impact, culture, and partnerships consultant, and a founder at Intent Partners. He serves on Community Board 9, and is a former Vassar College Trustee. He was born in Harlem.
Project: Developing a biography and documentary of Harlem legend Percy Ellis Sutton based on oral history resources (project includes interviewing at least forty individuals) and available archives
Keisha Sutton-James is Corporate Vice President at Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, with a professional background in banking and a family background in activism. Throughout her childhood, she worked at the Apollo Theatre and heard stories from her grandfather, Percy Sutton, of his civil rights work. Ms. Sutton-James pursued a career with Inner City Broadcasting, as well as helping build “Circle of Sisters” and starting her own business to create content about women and African Americans. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Tufts University and a Master of Business Administration from Wharton School of Business.
Project: Developing a “Harlem Maker Expo,” consisting of an annual exhibition of creative coding and physical computing projects from after school and weekend workshops.
Karioki Crosby is an educator with a STEAM focus who works in New York City museums and public schools, as well as being a practicing artist, a robotics coach, and a coding mentor. He currently works at Figure Skating in Harlem creating the STEAM curriculum and instructing young girls in that area. Mr. Crosby also volunteers at Citizen Schools and holds semi-monthly hackathon workshops at Spotify, HIP HOP HACKS, and the NYU Creative Code Festival. Last year, he partnered with the Department of Education to create a robotics curriculum that he teaches in NYC public schools.
Project: The PromiseLand Project is an initiative that will harness personal experiences, expert collaborations, and joint activities to lead five to ten black men from Harlem in cultivating lasting and meaningful bonds with their children.
Kanene Holder is an actress, activist, poet and educator. She has served as the associate director of NYU's Hip-Hop Education Center and is the creator of various theatre projects designed to enact social change and encourage conversation about sociopolitical topics. For her work she has been recognized as a CORO Educational Leadership Collaborative Fellow, a Bard Artistic Research Fellow, and a New York Life Fellow for Educational Reform. Holder is a graduate of Howard University and holds a Master of Science in Differentiated Instruction from CUNY.
Project: Harlem’s Black and Jewish Music Culture 1890-1930 (walking tour map, sheet music exhibition, book).
John Reddick currently serves as a curator and discussion leader for the Harlem Focus series at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Center. Reddick has applied his knowledge of Harlem’s culture and architecture towards work he has done with the Heritage Health & Housing: Heritage Heights Village Business Improvement, the Apollo Theater and the Harlem One Stop. He has worked on public art & space projects at a number of Harlem-based organizations including Abyssinian Development Corporation, the Ralph Ellison Memorial Committee, Harriet Tubman Square and Frederick Douglass Circle, among others. Reddick also served as President of Cityscape Institute and held leadership positions at the Central Park Conservancy. Reddick received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Ohio State University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Ragtime to Jazz Time: Harlem's Black and Jewish Music 1890-1930 (November 4, 2016).
Project: Developing an organization to provide peer counseling, mediation, healing and social events for domestic care workers in Harlem.
Janessa Waiters is a former nanny with more than 15 years of experience in the domestic care work industry. She will share that care work journey in the forthcoming zine Fussifier (2022). Janessa remains in the care sector, engaging in energy healing work and workshop facilitation. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts from The City College of New York, having majored in Sociology and Psychology while a Beyond Identity fellow, researching Black women survivalists. Janessa is currently the Fellowship Director at Beyond Identity a program to train queer and women identified students from marginalized and or immigrant communities in identity-driven research, allowing them to draw on lived experiences of discrimination and violence to inform the research agendas and political writing that will be the foundation of distinctive political projects. Working toward liberation with organizations such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Audre Lorde Project, and Civil Liberties Public Policy, Janessa agrees with Toni Morrison that motherhood was “the most liberating thing that ever happened to [her].
Project: Advance work and research on book, tour and talk projects aiming to reclaim forgotten history and heritage from many of upper Manhattan’s languishing neighborhood sites.
Eric K. Washington is an independent historian and author, and the owner of Tagging-the-Past, which endeavors to reconnect forgotten history to present landscapes through articles, talks and tours. His book, "Manhattville: Old Heart of West Harlem," prompted a notable 2004 exhibition at The City College of New York. His research on Harlem, Trinity Church Cemetery and Upper Manhattan is reflected in numerous publications and presentations including the "New-York Journal of American History," the "Encyclopedia of New York State" and the Historic House Trust lecture series. Recently, Washington coordinated Harlem “Y” Talks, two pilot speaker programs in the Harlem YMCA Little Theatre. His honors include the Municipal Art Society’s 2010 MASterworks Award for his interpretive signage in West Harlem Piers Park, a Civic Engagement and Social Justice Faculty Mini-Grant from Eugene Lang College of the New School for Liberal Arts, and a Preservation League of New York Award. A licensed New York City tour guide, Washington is featured prominently in Phillip Lopate’s "Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan," and Jonathan R. Wynn’s "The Tour Guide: Walking and Talking New York." He is also the regular host of the Harlem Chamber Players.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: Book Launch for Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal (November 19, 2019).
Project: Harlem CoLab is focused on bringing real-world digital design experiences and training to underserved communities. In addition, Harlem CoLab will create partnerships with high-tech companies and individuals that make it possible for students and adults to truly be competitive in the future. Harlem CoLab will build Digital Fluency and technological capacity by exposing members of the underserved community to STEM activities and career readiness while providing parents and educators with an understanding of the future from a “tech as a career” perspective.
Dennis Morgan is deeply engaged in the integration of technology, education, and equity. As the world embraces a "new normal", he has used this opportunity to listen to and speak with school communities and their leadership, collaboratively building a thoughtful technology practice in education. He has been working with corporations that are going through digital-transformation discussing their pain points and struggles, and challenging the biased constructs that prohibit employing technology experts from underserved communities. These conversations across disciplines and industries have established a baseline for future work that Dennis will engage with. Work that focuses on inclusivity, opportunity, access, and creating a rich tradition and culture in innovative technologies for underserved communities -- especially as it relates to Harlem, which drives his ambitions and focus.
From October 2019, Dennis has served as the Manhattan Borough President Appointee for Community School District 3 in Manhattan. He has worked to chart a path toward academic and racial equity in education with District 3 school leadership on the Community Education Council for District 3 where he serves as Second Vice President. He also co-chairs the council’s Equity & Excellence Committee.
Dennis is currently leading two initiatives at the intersection of education and technology. Through one, he is working with the DOE, Harlem school leadership, students, and families on an Imagine NYC project that seeks to innovate and redefine what public schools can provide to their students and community. The other is a program called Successful STEPS in the South Bronx where, through a partnership with Abraham House and Lincoln Hall Boys Haven, he is directing the technology component of the program to deliver software management training and digital fluency.
Dennis has resided in Harlem since 1999. He accomplishes all of this work with the tremendous support of his wife and two children, to which he owes his successes.
Project: Dr. Flowers is conducting research and gathering oral histories for a book on Mildred Louise Johnson and the private school she founded in 1934. The Modern School served families and students in the Harlem community for sixty-five years and is one example of a northern private school that produced high achieving African American students, using progressive education methods, during the twentieth century.
Dr. Deidre B. Flowers is an Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the African Studies program at Queens College. Her work centers on African American women in education, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, women’s higher education, student engagement in protest and activism during the Civil Rights Movement, and higher education leadership. Her dissertation, “Education in Action: The Work of Bennett College for Women 1930 – 1960,” argues that Bennett College intentionally sought to educate socially conscious and civically engaged citizens during the twentieth century who worked to improve African Americans’ quality of life domestically and abroad.
A lifelong resident of Harlem, Dr. Flowers recently contributed to the Association of Black Women Historians’ Black Women and the Archive essay project. “Searching for Mildred Louise Johnson: Harlem’s First Private School Proprietor and Advocate for Progressive Education,” discusses the challenges she faced researching and recovering the contributions of Mildred Johnson and her private school, founded in 1934, that served students and families in the Harlem community for sixty-five years. An article on Johnson and her work at The Modern School, “A School for Modern Times: Mildred Louise Johnson and the Modern School of Harlem,” is scheduled for publication in the Fall 2020 issue of the Journal of African American History. Dr. Flowers is a member of Columbia University’s eighth cohort of A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars, and is using her appointment, to conduct research and gather oral histories for a book on Mildred Johnson and The Modern School.
Dr. Flowers has taught in the in the History and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University; the History Department at Manhattan College; and the higher education administration program at William Paterson University. In addition to Columbia, Dr. Flowers is also an alumna of Hampton University and Syracuse University.
Project: Developing and producing “Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey,” a exploration of her journey while taking on the role of Othello, which will include a memoir, a published script, and a one-woman touring show.
Debra Ann Byrd is a fifth generation Harlem resident with a background in the performing arts as an actor, producer, arts manager, and business leader. Since beginning her career in the arts in 1990, she has appeared in productions across the county and founded Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc., and the Harlem Shakespeare Festival. She has also received many awards, including the NAACP Shirley Farmer Woman of Excellence Award and the 2013 Take Wing And Soar Founder’s Award. Ms. Byrd has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College, as well as further training at Shakespeare & Company, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, and the Arts Leadership Institute at Columbia University and Teachers College.
Project: Creating an organization to address the systemic issues and the policies that allow dyslexic students and struggling readers to fail, including pressuring universities to address these issues in their teaching programs.
Debbie Meyer is a non-profit fundraising and strategic planning professional and an active volunteer. Ms. Meyer served on the Women's City Club Physical Education Task Force (2011 to 2014) and is currently a member of the Board of Directors, and the Education Policy Committee. She also serves on the Citizens’ Committee for Children’s Advocacy Council, and on the Advocates for Children Arise Coalition. In spring 2013, she led the advocacy efforts of the public, progressive, and small Central Park East schools to expand with a combined middle school. Previously, she served on the boards of directors of College and Community Fellowship and Phys Ed Plus.
Bundles Community Scholars Lecture: A Systemic Solution to Low Literacy Rates, Poor Instruction, Dyslexia and Social Ills (July 30, 2020)
Project: Completing a book on the architectural history of institutions in West Harlem, and virtual model of the area into a time-traveling experience where viewers can begin to understand change through space and time.
Dalton Whiteside is originally from Tennessee. He moved to New York City in 2012 to pursue a Bachelors in Architecture at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York (CCNY), from which he graduated in June 2018. While working for his College Archives, he developed a fascination with the architectural history of CCNY. He has been giving architectural tours of institutions in West Harlem for about five years and has been mapping and modeling the buildings and grounds in the area from 1625 to the present.
Project: Developing skills and knowledge in support of his nonprofit Pellettieri Stone Carvers’ Academy, with the goal of being able to expand the training offerings.
Chris Pellettieri, professional stone carver and native of Morningside Heights, is the founder and executive director of Pellettieri Stone Carvers’ Academy, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting stone carving and which offers training in the traditional methods. After attending the Cathedral School and Stuyvesant High School, Mr. Pellettieri found his way to the Cathedral stoneyard where he trained in stone carving. In addition to his training in stonework at Cathedral Stoneworks and Artida Atelier, he has a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from New York University.
Project: Development and production of a substantial group photography exhibition which will provide a close-up look at the daily lives of America’s aging populations, most especially those of Harlem, USA. Beyond the public presentation of this comprehensive visual essay, the intent of this project is to also include an exhibition photobook as well as a series of community-based and online discussion programs on the rewards and challenges of America’s aging populations in an increasingly youth-oriented society.
Celeste Lacy Davis is a resident of Harlem, a female griot with a camera, and a proud senior citizen on a mission to give voice to the voiceless and visibility to those who are invisible in contemporary American society. In fact, she’s been on that mission since her teen years as a freedom protester in the Civil Rights Movement, to her post-college years as a full time community organizer (Congress of African People) and then onto her professional careers as people’s lawyer and public policy advocate (Legal Aid Society, NYC Commission on Human Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She has also served in academic administration as an Assistant Dean for Diversity (The New School); Director of External Relations and Alumni Affairs (CUNY Law School) and as Executive Director in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors (The Fannie Lou Hamer Project, The Funding Exchange). As a former owner and director of a community art gallery specializing in the art of the African diaspora (Imarisha Art House), and now armed with the resources of Columbia University, she is excited to revive an activist role in a familiar fight for justice, equality and respect, this time as a creative. She is a graduate of Syracuse University, with a Bachelor of Science in Television Production and is a member of the inaugural class of the City University School of Law.
Project: Conducting a comprehensive survey of shareholders in the nearly 200 Housing Development Fund Corporations (HDFCs) in Community Board 9. The project will include the development of a database of buildings, developing a means to share best practices of strongly running HDFCs, and creating recommendations for struggling HDFCs.
April Tyler, Co-Chair of the Housing, Land Use and Zoning Committee of Community Board 9, has a background in tenant and community organizing, and worked in real estate brokerage in Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan. Ms. Tyler’s experience in nonprofit housing comes from working with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, Housing Develop Fund Corporation cooperatives, and conducting graduate research at CUNY. She also studied to be a Foreclosure Prevention Counselor, and served as a volunteer district Leader for West Harlem for 18 years. Ms. Tyler attended City College and Syracuse University.
Project: The Well Educator nonprofit organization will elevate a focus on educator wellness- i.e. habits that lead to improved spiritual, intellectual and physical health- alongside a focus on the implementation of culturally responsive and sustaining education practices- as key leverage points in developing long lasting, meaningful and joyful careers for educators of color.
With over 15 years as a New York City educator Dr. Andolyn Brown has had the privilege of serving teachers, students and families in a variety of settings - including one of the richest and one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States. A guiding principle to her work has always been incorporating culturally responsive and sustaining education (CRS-E) practices into the communities she serves through developing equitable educational opportunities that elevate voice, access and influence for students and families. Andolyn’s boundless dedication to the education field is firmly rooted not only in her passion for CRS-E, but also in the cultivation of her own wellness- which she defines as-developing healthy and supportive personal and professional relationships, maintaining spiritual practices and making conscious choices to contribute to her own health and happiness. Her next steps in continuing to serve New York City public schools include developing a network of brilliant educators of color who are passionate about building healthy and fulfilling long term careers dedicated to elevating the voices and improving the educational outcomes of disempowered groups.
Project: Apply University resources towards the growth of ProjectArt, a nonprofit arts education organization that serves the West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood communities.
Adarsh Alphons is the Founder and Executive Director of ProjectArt, an organization which provides free after-school art classes in public libraries in West Harlem to youth ages 4-17 years old, allowing opportunity for program participants to express their artistic visions, set goals and display their art in galleries. Alphons was named one of NYC’s 25 Rising Stars by Pave (March 2014), awarded the citation of “Hero of Education” by NYC Councilman Robert Jackson (June 2012), and was selected as the New Yorker of the Week by NY1 News (July 2011) for his work with ProjectArt. Prior to his work with ProjectArt, Alphons was General Manager at STREB Lab for Action Mechanics, Director of Visual Arts at the Harlem School of the Arts and General Manager of chashama, the largest studio-residency program in NYC. Alphons received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master of Science in Art Administration from Boston University.
Columbia Community Scholars Lecture: ProjectArt: How We Built the Largest Art School in America, Without Owning a Single Building (October 10, 2017).