Arts@NWSA 2018

Arts@NWSA 2018


The 2018 NWSA National Conference hosted the first Arts@NWSA program. Curated by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, the program included a Music and Poetry Night (with musician and songwriter Tasha, poet Kamilah Aisha Moon, poet Javon Johnson, playwright Kristiana Rae Colón, and musician and poet Jamila Woods), a reading of Lisa B. Thompson's "The Mamalogues," a performance by violinist Dr. Melanie R. Hill, and the Literary and Visual Arts Installation and Digital Exhibition with more than forty contributing artists.


“Just Imagine: Imagining Justice”
NWSA 2018 Literary and Visual Arts Installation and Digital Exhibition

Curatorial Statement


Any attentive observer of the past or the present knows that change requires vision. For feminist, anti-racist, queer, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist thinkers and doers in 2018, justice is as much a site of imagination as it is a political goal. As part of this year’s gathering of the National Women’s Studies Association, we look to artists—their voices and their vision—in our conversations toward social and political change.

Our “Just Imagine: Imagining Justice” Literary and Visual Arts Installation emphasizes how art can expand the parameters of our thinking and remake the grounds on which our theoretical vision quite literally takes shape. Our aim with the exhibit is to infuse the conference space with the words and works of artists whose creative engagements with justice can enliven, enrich, and offer crucial context for our own. We bring together poets, playwrights, memoirists, novelists, and visual artists from a range of countries, genders, perspectives and backgrounds. The artists gathered here span ages, generations and intellectual worlds, from unpublished emerging writers, to active artist/scholars bridging false institutional divides, to foundational feminist playwrights and poets and more. What joins these figures is their transporting talent and their commitment to the serious intellectual and political work of imagining change.

As you engage these artists’ works in the conference space, we hope that you will take the time to read and re-read their words, to sit with the colors and shapes of their images, and push yourself toward their vision, joining in the work that art, alone, can do: conversing across time and distance, sometimes without a single sound, to co-create new and better worlds.

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan


Musical Introduction to Saturday's Keynote by Violinist Dr. Melanie R. Hill
Keynote Conversation: Alice Walker & Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Saturday, Nov 10 2018


From the early years of learning the craft of the violin to 28 years of musical experience, Dr. Melanie R. Hill is a classically-trained Gospel violinist who has performed at the White House on two occasions, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the NAACP’s Annual Convention, the Apollo Theater in New York, the Staples Center in LA, and other venues. She has been featured as a guest on Showtime at the Apollo, The Quincy Harris Show, Good Day Philadelphia, NBC 10, Philadelphia Style magazine, BET, TV One, and opened for John Legend. Melanie has also performed for Ms. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and for Pope Francis at the Papal Mass during his historic visit to Philadelphia. Having received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from the University of Virginia, a Master’s degree in Literature from George Mason University, and a second Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Melanie received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in English Literature. Dr. Hill’s book-in-progress entitled, “Personified Preaching: Black Feminist Sermonic Practice in Literature and Music” focuses on the ways in which black women preachers in literature, music, and in the space of the pulpit counter social injustices by bringing modes of physical, mental, and spiritual healing through both sermon and song. Currently, Dr. Hill is a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Department of English at Rutgers University—New Brunswick, working on her upcoming book project.


"The Mamalogues": A Reading of Lisa B. Thompson's "The Mamalogues"
Friday, Nov 9 2018


The Mamalogues portrays the experience of parenting while black, unmarried, and middle class in the age of anxiety. During a single mother’s retreat women share their angst about racial profiling on the playground, their child being the “only one” at their school, and the politics of soccer in the hood. The satirical comedy follows the agonies and joys of motherhood as these moms lean in, stress out and guide precious black children from diapers to college in a dangerous world.


Lisa B. Thompson is an award winning artist, scholar and teacher whose plays have been produced and developed by Brava for Women in the Arts!, New Professional Theatre, The Vortex Repertory, Theatre Rhinoceros, Crossroads Theatre, National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, Company of Angels Theater, New African Grove Theatre Company, Black Spectrum Theatre, FronteraFest, Monreal Fringe Festival, and the National Black Theatre Festival. Her plays include the off-Broadway show Single Black Female (LA Weekly Theatre Award best comedy nominee), and Underground (Austin Critics Table David Mark Cohen New Play Award), Monroe (Austin Playhouse Festival of New Texas Plays winner), The Mamalogues, I Don’t Want to Be (Mamie Till), as well as the afro-futuristic trilogy of short plays: Watch, Mother Nature, and Mother’s Day. Thompson’s creative work has been anthologized in Contemporary Plays by African American Women: Ten Complete Works and Catch the Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She is also Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of numerous articles and the book, Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class.


Diana R. Paulin [Discussant] is Associate Professor of American Studies and English at Trinity College. Her first book, Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in US Drama and Fiction, won the Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship in African American Theatre Studies. She has continued to examine how race intersects with other aspects of identity by addressing topics, such as racial performance, critical autism studies and race, and race and sexuality, in her research, publications, teaching, and presentations. More recently, she presented work on race and disability at the MLA, the ASA, and at the SDS (Society for Disability Studies); Paulin also published a commentary on the intersections of Disability Studies and Critical Race Studies in Disability Studies Quarterly. She is currently working on a book project entitled: Black Autism.





NWSA 2018 Literary and Visual Arts Contributors List

  1. Mildred K Barya From “How to live in a desert: a manual”
  2. Ivelisse Rodriguez From “The Belindas” in Love War Stories
  3. R.O. Kwon “Maker”
  4. Kai M. Green From A Body Made Home
  5. Jenna Wortham From “Black Health Matters”
  6. Julie R. Enszer From "Handmade Love"
  7. Janet Mock From Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught
  8. Bushra Rehman “Rapunzel’s Mother or a Pakistani Woman Newly Arrived in America”
  9. Kamilah Aisha Moon From “Fannie Lou Hamer”
  10. Tsitsi Jaji From Daughtering
  11. TC Tolbert Excerpt from “Dear A”
  12. Dolen Perkins-Valdez From BALM (a novel)
  13. Shelly Oria From “The Closer the End” (a short story)
  14. M./Megan Milks From "Storm Room"
  15. Annie Liontas From "At the Market"
  16. Anya M. Wallace From “Defining Spacetime”
  17. Nina Sharma From “The Bride’s Goodbye”
  18. Chinelo Okparanta From Under the Udala Trees (a novel)
  19. Shailja Patel (Untitled)
  20. Cheryl Clarke “History”
  21. Natalie Diaz From "Manhattan Is a Lenape Word"
  22. Nicole Shawan Junior From Cracked Concrete (A Memoir)
  23. Diana Ferrus “I’ve come to take you home: A tribute to Sarah Baartman” (written in Holland, June 1998)
  24. Melissa Febos (Untitled)
  25. Jewelle Gomez From Bones & Ash: A Gilda Story (A Two-Act Play)
  26. Evie Shockley "philosophically immune"
  27. Jeanne Thornton (Untitled)
  28. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley From “The Creation”
  29. Aminatta Forna From Happiness (A Novel)
  30. Christie van Zyl “For When”
  31. JP Howard “Ghazal for Our Sons”
  32. Angelique V. Nixon “Occupying Dissent Long Time”
  33. LeConté Dill From “Breaking Curses”
  34. Jennifer Baker “A (Sort of) Love Story”
  35. Cheryl Boyce-Taylor “A Cento for How I Love Her”
  36. Alexis De Veaux From “Erotica”
  37. Bettina Judd “Ghosting”
  38. Alexis Pauline Gumbs (Visual Art): From “How She Survived Until Then,” “Audre Lorde Collage,” “June Jordan Collage”
  39. Lerato Dumse “2013 July 4: Statistically speaking”
  40. Tiphanie Yanique “Look out music”
  41. Ana-Maurine Lara From “Call and Response”
  42. Darnell L. Moore From No Ashes in the Fire
  43. Staceyann Chin From "CrossFIRE"
  44. Zanele Muholi (Visual Art): From “Faces and Phases” and "Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness”
  45. Mirlande Jean-Gilles (Visual Art): “Toes Touching Sky,” “Free Are Those,” “Woman as her own home,” “Dancin’ in the living room,” “Mountain Women,” “Pounding the Universe into Shape,” “Tent City,” “How Some Folks Get To Space Without A Rocket,” “On Our Way to Ballet Class”