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Casey Kayser

teacher, poet, playwright, and artistic director of a theater company, was born Nora Brooks Blakely in Chicago, one of two children of poet Gwendolyn Brooks and Henry Blakely, a poet, auto mechanic, and insurance adjuster. Blakely's mother was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, the poet laureate of Illinois, and the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, which she did in 1950, just a year before Nora's birth. Nora's father was the author of A Windy Place, a 1974 collection of poetry, and he later founded the Perspectivists, a group of black Chicago writers. As a child, Nora displayed a natural ability and love for reading and writing, no doubt cultivated by her parents' passion for the same.

A propensity for teaching emerged early as well at the age of three Blakely rounded up the children of her South Side Chicago neighborhood and ...


Laura Madeline Wiseman

writer, teacher, musician, and performer, was born Consuela Marie Moore in Luling, Louisiana, to Frank P. Moore, a bricklayer, and Augustine Boudreaux Moore, a homemaker and musician. Kein and her six sisters and seven brothers were raised in New Orleans's Seventh Ward. She, like her family, spoke Creole until she started school. She was then required to speak bon français, or good French, which resulted in her losing the ability to speak Creole. Kein's ethnic background was an amalgamation of African American, Spanish, Irish, Native American, French, Jewish, German, and Polish, but Kein identified herself as Creole. She explained, “I like to think of [Creole culture] as epitomizing American culture because we are a mosaic of different cultures” (Flint [Michigan] Journal, 7 Nov. 1996).

Kein auditioned for the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra in 1958 as a violist but the ...


Siphokazi Koyana

South African novelist, poet, playwright, storyteller, actor, and motivational speaker, was born on 27 August 1943 in Gungululu, a village in Tsolo, in the former Transkei, which is now part of the Eastern Cape province. Her father, like many others, was a migrant laborer who worked in Cape Town, about 621 miles (1,000 km) away from his family. When she was 5, she and her immediate family moved to the black locations outside Cape Town to better attend to her mother’s ailing health.

In 1959 Magona completed the junior certificate at Lourdes Secondary School in Mzimkhulu in the former Transkei. In 1961 she graduated from St. Matthews Teacher Training College in Keiskamahoek in the former Ciskei. In 1962 she taught at Hlengisa Primary School, Nyanga Township, Cape Town, before the birth of her first child in 1963 and her marriage in 1964. From 1963 to 1967 she worked ...


Nancy Kang

poet, playwright, essayist, and activist, was born Marvin Ellis Jackmon in Fowler, California, near the city of Fresno. He has also used such Arabic names as El Muhajir, Nazzam al Fitnah, Nazzam al Sudan, and Imam Maalik El Muhajir. He was born to Marian Murrill Jackmon, a real estate broker, and Owendell Jackmon, a real estate agent turned florist and also publisher of the Fresno Voice, the first black newspaper of California's Central Valley. Marvin Jackmon attended a series of elementary schools in West Fresno and Oakland. After graduating from Edison High School he enrolled at Oakland City College (now Merritt College), where he met Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founders of the revolutionary Black Panther Party Having earned an associate s degree he then attended San Francisco State College now San Francisco State University where he ...


Michael E. Greene

Marvin Ellis Jackmon was born on 29 May 1944 in Fowler, California. He attended high school in Fresno and received a BA and MA in English from San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University). The mid-1960s were formative years for Jackmon. He became involved in theater, founded his own press, published several plays and volumes of poetry, and became increasingly alienated because of racism and the Vietnam War. Under the influence of Elijah Muhammad, he became a Black Muslim and has published since then under the names El Muhajir and Marvin X. He has also used the name Nazzam al Fitnah Muhajir.

Marvin X and Ed Bullins founded the Black Arts/West Theatre in San Francisco in 1966, and several of his plays were staged during that period in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, and by local companies across the United States. His one-act play Flowers ...


Kahiudi C. Mabana

Congolese (Brazzaville) novelist, playwright, and poet, was born Marcel Sony on 4 June 1947 in Kimwanza in the Lower Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo), the eldest of seven children. Sony’s parents originated from opposite banks of the Congo River. At a young age, he went to Congo-Brazzaville to pursue his primary studies. He admits to having had much trouble adapting to scholastic life, which was completely different than that of his native land. All his classmates already spoke French fluently while his linguistic level was still very weak: “I began my studies in the former Belgian Congo (Zaire) and there teaching had been in the native African language. When I left Kinshasa for Brazzaville, I suffered a shock” (Herzberger-Fofana, 1999). Few remarks are made on his secondary studies. Since 1971, Marcel Sony has taught French and English in Kindamba and Pointe-Noire.

La vie et demie Seuil 1979 ...


Kate Tuttle

Born Marcel Sony, Tansi moved from his home in what was then the Belgian Congo to independent Congo (now Congo-Brazzaville) in 1959 to attend French schools. Starting in 1971 he worked as a schoolteacher in Brazzaville, and in 1979 he was appointed both to a position with the ministry of culture and to the directorship of the Rocado Zulu Theatre. That same year, Tansi published his first novel, La Vie et Demie (Life and a Half), as well as his first play, Conscience de Tracteur (Tractor Awareness). In the latter, Tansi used some of the conventions of science fiction to tell a political parable; the play won second place in a theatre competition sponsored by Radio France.

Tansi wrote three more novels in the 1980s—L’Etat Honteux (1981), L’Anté-Peuple (1983), and Les Yeux du Volcan (1988 and four plays becoming well known not only ...


Vera M. Kutzinski

and MacArthur Fellow. Jay Wright's biography is a composite of uncertain and contradictory stories. He was born in either 1934 or 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Leona Dailey, a Virginian of African and Native American descent, and George Murphy (also known as Mercer Murphy Wright), a construction worker, jitney driver, and handy man who claimed to be of African American, Cherokee, and Irish ancestry. Wright spent most of his childhood in the care of foster parents in Albuquerque. In his teens, he lived with his father in San Pedro, California. While in high school, Wright began to play minor league baseball and developed what would become a lifelong passion for the bass. From 1954 to 1957 he served in the U S Army medical corps During most of his service he was stationed in Germany which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe ...