Poet Laureate and Scholar
Dr. Jonathan Smith
Dr. Michael Simanga
Dr. Michael Simanga
Michael Simanga is an activist writer, multi-discipline artist, scholar and educator. He came of age during the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement in his hometown Detroit. He began his life as an activist in high school where he helped lead the first high school student takeover for justice at Mumford High School. He was an organizer in the UAW, a leading member of the Congress of African People, the African Liberation Support Committee, the National Black Assembly, the National Black United Front, the anti-apartheid movement, and the labor movement. His work has taken him to Black communities across the US and in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.
Dr. Simanga is a dynamic speaker who has lectured in schools, universities, churches, rural and urban communities and in 10 countries in the world community and at the United Nations. He has also read his poetry on hundreds of stages.
He currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Morehouse College
where he is also the Academic Program Director of Africana Studies and History. He is on the doctoral faculty of the Union Institute and University where he also is director of the Martin Luther King Studies Specialization. His research interests include 20th century Black radical movements, Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan-Africanism, art and culture as expressions of identity, resistance and transformation. He writes and lectures on Civil Rights/Black Power and Politics, African American and African Diaspora art, culture, politics and history, human rights and justice. As an artist and cultural worker, he has produced more than 200 artistic projects and is the former Executive Director of the National Black Arts Festival.
His books include No One Can be at Peace without Freedom; Amiri Baraka and the Congress
of African People and In the Shadow of the Son. He is also editor or co-editor of 44 on 44: forty-four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama; and Brilliant Fire! Amiri Baraka, Poetry, Plays and Politics for the People. Forthcoming books 2019-20 include: 400yrs the story of Black people in poems written from love; David Franklin: Black Power Entrepreneur; We Walk the Way of the New World: Essays on the Life and work of Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee).
Michael Simanga is married to the poet Lita Hooper. They live in Atlanta with their four children and four grandchildren.
Dr. Jonathan Smith
Dr. Jonathan C. Smith serves as the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at Saint Louis University, where he is also an Assistant Professor in the African American Studies Program. His teaching and research focus on the history and ideology of race in American culture. He has particular interests in how ideologies of race shape and are shaped by African American literature and culture. He is also a widely published poet. Dr. Smith's work has appeared in Callaloo, Quarterly West, Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review, Crab Orchard Review, Minnesota Review and the Riverfront Times. He holds both a Ph.D. in English & American Literature and a M.F.A. in Writing from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he was the recipient of the prestigious Chancellor's Fellowship for African American students.
Jonathan is also an award winning teacher and an alumnus of Cave Canem.
Kristian Blackmon is a native of St. Louis, MO. Her passion lies in the fight for black
liberation, injustice and oppression that negatively impacts ALL people.
She is a community organizer, art curator, activist, facilitator, trainer, and has done work
in both radio & event hosting.
She has done teaching artist work through the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Cherokee
Street Development Group.
She has curated work with at least 30 established and emerging artists and has trained
up to 300 participants both locally and nationally.
Kristian was a recipient of the 2016 Unsung Human Rights Shero award from the St.
Louis Coalition of Human Rights, was named We Raise 2016 Emerging Leader, a
recipient of the Professional Growth award from St. Louis Black Pride and was a 2019
Delux Magazine Power 100 awardee.