Lu Highsmith

Rochester, NY native Lu Highsmith has published essays, news articles, and poems over the past twenty-five years. Highsmith is a writer, publisher, promoter, and spoken artist. No matter which forms she has chosen to exhibit her talents, each has been reflective of her passion for spirituality, sensuality, and social consciousness.

She has performed at festivals, coffee houses, nursing homes, schools, churches, art galleries, clubs, and community events throughout Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany, Atlanta, and Toronto.

Highsmith’s poems have been published in

–  2003 “Colors of Life” anthology published by the International Library of Poetry;
–  2010  “Simpatico on the Road”, by Simpatico Press, Daniel Kerwick
–  2010  “Win-Win” novel by author Marsha Jones, Xlibris
– 2012 Baptist Peacekeepers quarterly
– 2015, Rev., Dr. Rachel McGuire’s doctoral thesis, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

MoodMakers Bookstore honored her as one of their featured poets in their 2006 “Poetry On The Wall”. Her poem, “From Whence We Came”, received the Poem of Distinction honor.

Lu has published two books of poetry, “Vicissitudes: The Ups and Downs of Life”, in 2008 and “Ascension into Love” in 2010.

Highsmith has been featured in the Rochester-based newspaper, Minority Reporter; the Buffalo-based newspaper, Challenger and as a “Woman to Watch” in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Lu was also co-founder of CSWA (Culture Starts With Art) Poets who produced the “Erotic Nights” series at Equal Grounds and ” Womonstock” at Ellison Park in 2010.

In October 2012, she joined forces with her Grammy-nominated musician/composer husband, Jimmie Highsmith Jr. on her first spoken word CD entitled “Ascension”, produced by Variance Records

She co-hosted the successful “Flowetic Rhythms” Open Mic @ Gallery One for 10 years, which has featured both local and national poets.

Lu became the designated Slam Master in Rochester, NY by forming Rochester’s first Adult Slam Team called Roc Bottom Slam Poets, traveling throughout NY state, Connecticut, Washington, DC, and Canada; as well as hosting monthly Poetry Slams in Rochester.

Most recently, Highsmith became a member of the Black Women’s Writing collective, “We All Write”;  performing in the 2018 Rochester Fringe Festival and at the 2019 Women’s Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.

Highsmith was awarded the “Big Pencil” award from Writers & Books in 2018 for inspiring the creation and appreciation of literature among young people in the Rochester community.

For further information, please visit

Contact Info:
Lu Highsmith
110 Richland St, Rochester, NY 14609

Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz is an award-winning Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on racial literacy in teacher education, Black girl literacies, and Black and Latinx male high school students. A sought-after speaker on issues of race, culturally responsive pedagogy, and diversity, Sealey-Ruiz works with K-12 and higher education school communities to increase their racial literacy knowledge and move toward more equitable school experiences for their Black and Latinx students. Sealey-Ruiz appeared in Spike Lee’s “2 Fists Up: We Gon’ Be Alright”, a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement and the campus protests at Mizzou. Her co-authored book [with Dr. Detra Price-Dennis] Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education: Toward Activism for Equity in Digital Spaces will be published in April 2021.

Her first full-length collection of poetry Love from the Vortex & Other Poems (Kalediscope Vibrations LLC) was published in March, 2020, and her sophomore book of poetry, The Peace Chronicles was released in July 2021.

Please visit her website at and directly contact her at

Photo credit: Vincent Jones, II


  • Racial Literacy Development
  • Culturally Responsive Education
  • Black Girl Literacies
  • Black & Latinx Males


Doctor of Philosophy

Postdoctoral Fellowship

Master of Arts

Bachelor of Arts

New York University / New York City

English Education, Curriculum & Technology

New York University / New York University

Teachers College, Columbia University / New York City

English Education

New York University / New York City

American Literature / African American Literature

Kathy Apollon

Biography: Katchouscia was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  During her birth, the doctor accidentally damaged the nerves on the side of her face resulting in Katchouscia having a speech impediment.  Katchouscia moved permanently to the United States, Brooklyn, NY, to be exact, at the age of 3 yrs old.  She spent years feeling different and unable to express herself.  During her pre-teen years, her family relocated to N.J.  It was there that she met her classmate Gloria who introduced her to poetry. Katchouscia fell in love with poetry in junior high school.  She marveled at how she could string words together to express her emotions, words that she was too shy to say aloud. Suddenly, a world that once seemed out of her reach was now at her fingertips in the form of a pen.  It wasn’t until Katchouscia moved to Boston for college and saw Love Jones that she realized poetry could be an art form shared not only on paper but in front of an audience.  Katchouscia, who would describe herself as a hopeless romantic and a retired freedom fighter, uses her poems to speak about love, injustice, and her faith in Jesus. Katchouscia has dreamt of sharing her poems with the world.  Her deepest desire is that the reader will have an open mind and receive it with the passion that inspired her to write them. Thank you so much for purchasing my first book of poetry, it means the world to me.  Please feel free to email me with any questions or if you would like to share your thoughts about the book. I can be reached at

Frantz Derenoncourt Jr.

Biography: Frantz Derenoncourt, Jr. is a first-generation Haitian-American born September 13, 1976, in Brooklyn, NY to Marie Alice Woolley and Frantz Derenoncourt. He attended Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA where he majored in Business Management and soon after moved to the nations’ capital, Washington, DC. After working many 9 to 5 jobs around town, Frantz fell in love with the real estate industry and found success as a real estate sales associate and real estate investor. As a child growing up in Brooklyn in the early 80s, Frantz was often picked on for being Haitian. Teachers could never pronounce his name correctly and the students would always have a cruel Haitian joke on hand. At times, he felt ashamed to be Haitian until he started reading about Haitian history. The fact that Haiti was the first country to have a successful slave revolt and win its own independence gave him a tremendous sense of pride. He started reading everything he could get his hands on in regards to the Haitian Revolution and relaying the stories to his own children. When he saw that his kids were just as excited as he was in learning this information, Frantz then realized that these fascinating stories needed to be told in a way that even elementary-age children could appreciate the accomplishment of their ancestors. Thus, Thorobred Books was born.

Leslie C. YoungBlood

Leslie C. Youngblood received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A former assistant professor of creative writing at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, she has lectured at Mississippi State University, UNC-Greensboro, and the University of Ghana at Legon. She began her undergraduate degree at Morris Brown College and completed her bachelor’s at Georgia State University. After graduation, she served as a columnist and assistant editor for Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine. She’s been awarded a host of writing honors including a 2014 Yaddo’s Elizabeth Ames Residency, the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize, a Hurston Wright Fellowship, and the Room of Her Own Foundation’s 2009 Orlando Short Story Prize. She received funding to attend the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony in 2011. Her short story, “Poor Girls’ Palace,” was published in the winter 2009 edition of the Indiana Review, as well as Kwelijournal, 2014. In 2010 she won the Go On Girl! Book Club Aspiring Writer Award. In 2016 she landed a two-book publishing deal with Disney-Hyperion for her Middle-Grade novel, Love Like Sky. She works as a writing consultant for various businesses seeking assistance and Individuals looking to hone their skills. In 2019, Little, Brown for Young Readers acquired Love Like Sky and her forthcoming title, Forever This Summer, from Disney Books. Forever This Summer Publishes July 6, 2021. Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in Rochester, New York, she’s fortunate to have a family of natural storytellers and a circle of supportive family and friends.

Bayyinah Bello

Biography: Born on Thursday, March 25th, 1948, Bayyinah is the eldest of seven sisters, the mother of three sons: Hashim-Thawab, Siddiq Theo-dile, Yahya Akil, and a daughter: Ameerah Anakaona. She is a grandmother of nine: five girls and four boys and a great-grandma of four. Bayyinah Bello’s professional career began in 1969, in the United States of America. She discovered the joys of writing in 1970, with the birth of her firstborn for whom she wrote her first children’s stories. In Nigeria, she uncovered her passion for history and the Arabic language, which allowed her to explore other literary and historical perceptions. Back in the USA, she worked as a publicist at the Museum of Natural History. In Ayiti, taught at the State University and founded a primary and secondary bilingual school, Citadelle International School. In Togo, she taught English and Arabic in different financial institutions. Today, her energies are concentrated in building the “Marie Claire Heureuse Félicité Bonheur Dessalines Foundation also called FONDASYON FELICITEE (FF) for historical research and identity, whose ultimate goal is to establish an “Ayitian” educational system aiming to build a conscientious Ayitian, aware of her/his strength, because they know their cultural vision, work with tools of their own, confident in their abilities to bring about better conditions of living for all.

Mimerose Beaubrun

Biography: Born Mimerose Pierre in Ouanaminthe, she received a diploma in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the Université d’État d’Haiti. Beaubrun is one of the lead singers and a founding member of the Rasin band Boukman Eksperyans. She is married to another founding member, Theodore Beaubrun, a member of a notable family of Haitian entertainers. The couple has two children: Laura and Paul Beaubrun. She promotes Haitian culture, including Haitian Vodou, and has extensively researched the system of communal living known as lakou. Beaubrun is a mambo, or Vodou priestess.

Latasha Pride

Meet Latasha and Jamal Pride. We are a black family who wanted to start a legacy for the family we have created. Latasha is the Vice President and creative genius behind Pride Family Publishing, the author of, “Why We Protest,” and the Matriarch of the Pride family. Jamal is the President and the executor of the behind-the-scenes demands of Pride Family Publishing, logistics operator, and the Patriarch of the Pride family.

Where we are today

My husband and I have pushed through the process of cultivating my thoughts of this potential conversation with our children, to the final stages of seeing it finally coming to fruition in the form of a fully realized book. We were meticulous in selecting our illustrator to portray the exact vision and art style we wanted. We were also able to have our designer format the book in its entirety for print and E-book availability.

Dr. Kiah E. Nyame

Dr. Kiah E. Nyame serves as Founding Executive Director of Ujima Rochester/Ujima Atlanta, Inc. from January 2002- present. Ujima is a pro-social development agency serving severely at-risk youth and their families. Dr. Nyame created 2011 the African World History Classes in Rochester and Atlanta to support lay-persons, youth, human service, and education professionals to increase knowledge of the historical contributions of the African Diaspora. Dr. Nyame serves as a Social-Justice and Program Evaluation Consultant, as well as a Cultural & Social Trauma Educator. He co-founded in 1997, Umoja n Recovery a chemical dependency recovery group dealing with issues that are specific to African Americans. He has served as a founding member of the Rochester Fatherhood Resource Initiative Inc. He has served as an Effective Black Parenting and Family Consultant and Young Men’s and Young Women’s Rites of Passage curriculum developer and trainer. Dr. Kiah E. Nyame has over twenty years of experience in the education, juvenile justice, and youth behavioral fields. His expertise is in family, youth, and generational cultural trauma and youth intervention/prevention. Dr. Nyame is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Executive Leadership Coach, Certified Program Evaluator, and an Organizational Equity Transformation Consultant.


Dr. Nyame has researched and presented workshops/training on cultural trauma, youth social development, family, community and school collaborations, social justice & equity, and gangs and violence as a result of social trauma. Dr. Kiah Nyame is the creator of “A Time for Healing, Educating & Rebuilding; Exploring the socio-cultural trauma and stigma of the urban community”, training conferences since 2009. His current research focus is on How Parents Impacted by Socio-Cultural Trauma, Socialize Their Children and the Generational Influence.

Dr. Nyame completed his Doctoral Degree in Counseling & Human Development at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. He completed his Master’s Degree in Human Service Administration at St. John Fisher College.

Arel Moodie

Arel Moodie is a best-selling author, has been a featured speaker at the White House, and has been personally acknowledged by President Obama.

Inc. Magazine called him a “High-Energy, Motivator” and named him to their “30 Under 30 list” of top entrepreneurs joining people like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.

Essence Magazine said, “He should be the poster boy for rags-to-riches stories… he is America’s Top Young Speaker.” He has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Yahoo! PBS, BusinessWeek, Black Enterprise, the Chicago Tribune, HuffingtonPost, and many other national media outlets.

After growing up in the projects of Brooklyn, NY on welfare, he attended Binghamton University as an EOP student. In college, he was encouraged to take advantage of all of the opportunities present at his college. He became the president of four student organizations and was named one of the top five exemplary students while at college. In college, he started his first business and went on to build a million-dollar event production and entrepreneurship education company.

His company the College Success Program has helped hundreds of thousands of students succeed in school and life through his speaking engagements, curriculums, best-selling books, and training. As a professional speaker, he has spoken to over 650,000 people in 48 states and 5 countries.

His podcast The Art of Likability was rated the number one career podcast in iTunes and is listened to in 178 countries worldwide helping people build better relationships with people. He has been a TEDx speaker three times, a TV contributor on shows like The Doctors, and a contributor to national magazines such as Forbes on the subject of likability.

As the founder of “True Speaking Success,“ he teaches people how to become professional speakers about their subject matter expertise. Arel created two viral videos that have millions of views, and one of them was even featured on The Ellen Show!

Bakari Kitwana

An internationally known cultural critic, journalist, activist, and thought leader in the area of hip-hop, youth culture, and Black political engagement, Bakari Kitwana is the Executive Director of Rap Sessions, which for the last fourteen years has conducted over 150 townhall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing the hip-hop and millennial generations.

He is the collaborating writer for pioneering hip-hop artist Rakim%u2019s new book Sweat The Technique: Revelations on Creativity From The Lyrical Genius (Amistad, 2019) and the 2019-2020 Nasir Jones HipHop Fellow at the W.E.B. Dubois Research Institute / Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. The former Editor-in-Chief of The Source magazine, where he wrote and edited hundreds of articles on hip-hop, youth culture, politics, and national affairs, Kitwana co-founded the first-ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention. The gathering brought over 4000 18-29 year-olds to Newark, NJ in 2004 to create and endorse a political agenda for the hip-hop generation.

Kitwana is the author of Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop and co-editor (with David Orr, Andrew Gumbel, and William Becker) of the forthcoming Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government For the People (The New Press, 2020). His groundbreaking 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation popularized the expression %u201Cthe hip-hop generation%u201D and has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at over 100 colleges and universities.

Kitwana has been Editorial Director of Third World Press, a senior media fellow at The Jamestown Project, Artist-in-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, and has served on the organizing committee for the 2013 Black Youth Project convening that launched the millennial Black activist group BYP100.

Zangba Thomson

Zangba Thomson is an award-winning Liberian-American author, journalist, screenwriter, recording artist, and founder/Editor-in-Chief of Bong Mines Entertainment. His creative works have been featured on NBC’s Today, Kathy Lee & Hoda, ABC, Fox & Friends, Centric TV, HOT 97, and Essence Magazine. Not too long ago, at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, New York—Thomson received the Bai T. Moore Literary Award and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition (from Charles B. Rangel) for his literary achievements, commitment to strengthening our Nation, and making a difference through volunteering service in urban communities.

Jordin QVEEN Paige

Biography: Jordin QVEEN Paige is a 25-year-old Rochester, NY native. She received her Bachelors of Science in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Her passion for activism and art has been the driving force for her poetry. She was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of 12 and hopes to be an advocate for disability, racial and queer inclusivity.

Book Info: As Jordin’s Debut Poetry Collection, “Arise, Black Buddafly!” will leave you speechless! The collection was created to promote transparency between oneself and their pain, culture, and relationships. She gets real with herself and others with hopes to help everyone on their lifelong journey to growth and contentment