Keynotes

Tera W. Hunter

Is a professor in the History Department and the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University who specializes in African-American history and gender in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her research has focused on African American women and labor in the South during that period. Her first book, To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War, focuses on the experiences of working-class women, especially domestic workers, in Atlanta and other southern cities from Reconstruction through the 1920s. Michael Honey in his review in the American Historical Review called it a “triumph of research, astute analysis, and engaging imagination that deserves to be widely read by students of African-American, labor, and women’s studies and of American history.”

The book won several awards including the H. L. Mitchell Award in 1998 from the Southern Historical Association, the Letitia Brown Memorial Book Prize in 1997 from the Association of Black Women’s Historians and the Book of the Year Award in 1997 from the International Labor History Association. The book was also named an Exceptional Book of 1997 by Library Booknotes, Bookman Book Review Syndicate.

A native of Miami, Professor Hunter attended Duke University where she graduated with Distinction in History. She received a M.Phil. in history from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Yale. Professor Hunter was an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She joined the Princeton faculty in the fall 2007. She has received numerous fellowships and grants including a Mary I. Bunting Institute fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University from 2005 to 2006 and a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship from the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis from 2001 to 2002 and a Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Museum of American History from 1993 to 1994. Her most recent book is Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century. ​

N.Y. Nathiri

Is Executive Director of the Association for the Preservation of the Eatonville Community (P.E.C.), a 501 (c)(3) founded in 1987 and based in the Florida hometown of Zora Neale Hurston. P.E.C. hosts The Zora Neale Hurston Festival of Arts and Humanities, held annually since 1990; The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (also known as The Hurston); and a series of year-round programs for children and youth from pre-K through the 12th grade. Educated at Ithaca College and Syracuse University, with an honorary doctorate from Rollins College, Nathiri is a professionally trained librarian and an award-winning preservationist. In 1991, she published Zora! Zora Neale Hurston: A Woman and Her Community.

Mark Anthony Neal

Is Professor of African & African American Studies and English and the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship (CADCE) at Duke University where he offers courses on Black Masculinity, Popular Culture, and Digital Humanities, including signature courses on Michael Jackson & the Black Performance Tradition, and The History of Hip-Hop, which he co-teaches with Grammy Award Winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit).

He is the author of several books including What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1999), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002) and Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (2013).  The 10th Anniversary edition of Neal’s New Black Man was published in February of 2015 by Routledge. Neal is co-editor of That's the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (Routledge), now in its second edition. Additionally Neal host of the video webcast Left of Black, which is produced in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke. You can follow him on Twitter at @NewBlackMan.

Pamela Newkirk

Is an award-winning journalist and multifaceted PhD scholar whose work addresses the historical exclusion of multidimensional portraits of African descendants in scholarship and popular culture. Her latest book Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (HarperCollins) examines how prevalent and pernicious racial attitudes contributed to the 1906 exhibition of a young Congolese man in the Bronx Zoo monkey house. Spectacle was listed among the Best Books of 2015 by NPR, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post Black Voices and The Root, and won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Literature and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Legacy Award. Newkirk is the editor of Letters from Black America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2009) and A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters (Doubleday 2004), and is the author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (NYU Press 2000). The latter, which examines how race overtly and covertly influences news coverage, won the National Press Club Award for Media Criticism.  Dr. Newkirk holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from New York University and Columbia University, respectively, and is professor of journalism and director of undergraduate studies in New York University's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute. She previously worked at four successive news organizations, including New York Newsday where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team.  Her articles on media, race and African American art and culture have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation and Artnews.

Anthony Sparks

Is an artist-scholar, an award winning television drama writer-producer, playwright, and essayist. As a cutting edge scholar he focuses on the role of media and performance in African American culture and politics.

Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, Anthony has written and produced for fifteen years on the staffs of several television drama series. His credits as a writer and/or producer include: NBC's hit drama series, "The Blacklist”, starring James Spader, the groundbreaking "Lincoln Heights" (ABC Family), "The District" (CBS), and the J.J. Abrams series “Undercovers” (NBC).

Currently, Anthony is a writer and the Supervising Producer for one of television’s most critically acclaimed new dramas, Queen Sugar. Queen Sugar is created by the groundbreaking filmmaker Ava DuVernay and executive produced by DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey for the OWN network.

In addition to Queen Sugar, Anthony is also developing series for several networks and studios -- and recently sold his first drama, The Deep Clean, in which he will serve as the series’ creator, executive producer, and showrunner. Dr. Sparks was also recently tapped as a rising creative leader in television when he was selected for the prestigious 2017 WGA Showrunner Training Program. He was also recently invited to the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Program as a Creative Advisor and Mentor.  

Anthony has received and been nominated for several awards for his work, including three 2017 NAACP Image Awards in both creative and academic categories. He received two prior NAACP Image Awards nominations for his television work in previous years. He was also nominated for two Sentinel Awards from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the USC Norman Lear Center for writing and producing television episodes that break new ground in fusing storytelling with educational initiatives.

As a playwright Anthony’s satiric play, Ghetto Punch, has been presented off- Broadway and at several national venues. Ghetto Punch was optioned by NBC and HBO and is what first brought Sparks’ writing to the attention of the television industry. He is also a recipient and alum of several of the entertainment industry’s competitive writing fellowships, including the ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship and the Warner Bros. Television Writing Workshop.

Prior to writing, Anthony began his career in the arts as a classically trained actor and professional performer for over ten years, where his credits included: a lead role for several years in the hit international show, STOMP, in New York and on its Broadway tour. Other credits include roles in classic and contemporary plays at Tony Award winning theatres such as: The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival, Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Old Globe Theatre, George Street Playhouse, and Crossroads Theater.

He also consults for Walt Disney Imagineering, working most prominently as the creative writer and academic consultant for EPCOT’S "Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection". This is Disney World’s first African American art and history exhibit. The exhibit opened in 2013 and is currently on display at Disney World until 2018.

Anthony holds a B.F.A. in Theatre and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American Studies & Ethnicity, all from USC, the University of Southern California. Anthony is also published in academic journals about Black politics and performance and was a Fellow at the USC Center for American Studies for numerous years.

Dr. Sparks believes fervently in giving back through teaching, mentoring, and lecturing in academic, artistic, and community spaces whenever possible. He is an assistant professor at California State University, Fullerton Department of Cinema and Television Arts. He has also taught cultural and ethnic studies at USC and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Occidental College.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Broadway actor vet, theatre director, and USC theatre professor and associate dean Anita Dashiell-Sparks. Together they are thriving and surviving being parents to their daughter and young twin boys. 

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