Kiese Laymon is a Black southern writer from Jackson, Mississippi. He’s the author of the essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, novel Long Division, and most recently, Heavy: An American Memoir, which won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. A contributing editor for Vanity Fair, he teaches at the University of Mississippi.
MJ Franklin is an editor at the New York Times Book Review. Previously he worked at Mashable as an assistant editor and host of the MashReads podcast. Find him on Twitter and Instagram and talk to him about what books you’re loving at @heyitsfranklin2.
Naomi Murakawa is an associate professor of African American Studies at Princeton, author of The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, and editor of The Abolitionist Papers book series at Haymarket Books.
Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club, Artistic Director of Urban Word NYC, and Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, AIR Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She is the author of Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice, Woke Baby, Black Girl Magic, Kissing Caskets, and #Dear Twitter. She is also the founder of the Woke Baby Book Fair—a nationwide diversity literature campaign—and, as an Arts for Justice grantee, is excited to release her first young adult novel, Chlorine Sky, in January 2021. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Cristina Rodriguez is the general manager and head buyer at Deep Vellum Books, a bookstore in Dallas, TX that specializes in international literature, independent presses, and marginalized writers. She is a Publishers Weekly 2020 Star Watch Honoree, a Bookselling Without Borders fellow, and a 2020 CLMP Firecracker Award judge.
Franklin Leonard is a film and television producer, cultural commentator, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of the Black List, the company that celebrates and supports great screenwriting and the writers who do it via production; an annual survey of best unproduced screenplays; an online marketplace; and writer labs. More than 400 scripts from the annual Black List survey have been produced as feature films—earning more than 250 Academy Award nominations and 50 wins, including four of the last thirteen Best Pictures and eleven of the last twenty-four screenwriting Oscars. Franklin has been one of Black Enterprise’s “40 Emerging Leaders for Our Future,” Fast Company‘s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” and was the recipient of the 2019 Writers Guild of America, East Evelyn F. Burkey Award. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
William Johnson is a Brooklyn based essayist, cultural critic, and arts administrator. His writing has appeared in numerous art catalogs and periodicals, including CrushFanazine, LitHub, and Spunk. He is currently the Deputy Director of Lambda Literary, an organization dedicated to promoting LGBTQ literature.
Lovia Gyarkye is the associate editor at The New York Times Magazine Labs. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Believer, and The New Republic.
Sheri Parks, Ph.D. is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Previously, she was Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming and Director of the Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has been Principal Investigator (PI), Co-PI or Community Liaison on a number of sponsored projects, including those funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Commerce. She led Baltimore Stories: Narrative and the Life of an American City, which was named a national model of deep community conversations by NEH. Sheri is also a public intellectual, quoted in a variety of media, and a national award-winning National Public Radio affiliate host and commentator. She is the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Strong Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman, selected as an editor’s pick by Essence Magazine and the lead editor of Baltimore Stories, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press. Her academic field is Public Aesthetics, or how ordinary people weave aesthetic forms and meanings throughout their everyday lives. She currently serves as the President of the board of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.