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Ella LJ Edmonson Bell, Ph.D. is founder and president of ASCENT-Leading Multicultural Women to the Top, as well as the Associate Professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Dr. Bell is also the co-author of the ground-breaking and critically-acclaimed book Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity (Harvard Business School Press). She has written several articles for Essence Magazine, and wrote the monthly “Working Smart” column. Frequently quoted by journalists, Dr. Bell has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Newsweek, Working Mother, and Fast Company, among many other business and general audience publications. She lives in Hanover, New Hampshire and Charlotte, NC.

James Blake has been a professional tennis player since 1999, when he left Harvard to join the professional tennis circuit. He grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. 

Herb Boyd is a journalist, activist, teacher, and author or editor of 23 books, including his latest, The Diary of Malcolm X written with Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, Malcom X's daughter. His articles can be found in such publications as The Black Scholar, The Final Call, the Amsterdam News, Cineaste, Downbeat, The Network Journal, and The Daily Beast. A teacher for more than forty years, he teaches African American History and Culture at the City College of New York in Harlem where he lives.

Rus Bradburd is an assistant professor at New Mexico State University. His fiction has appeared in the Southern Review, Colorado Review, and Aethlon. His essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Houston Chronicle. His first book, PADDY ON THE HARDWOOD details his departure from the glamorous world of coaching Division I college basketball to get an MFA and coach basketball in Ireland. He is currently at work on a novel. He lives in Las Cruces, NM.

Miko Branch is the co-founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s LLC. She is celebrated for transforming the hair care industry by establishing an entirely new category of products specifically for natural and curly hair. She was featured on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily, Beauty Inc., as a trailblazer and Ebony listed her as its Power 100 Innovators and Influencers. She has also been honored by New York University and Delta Sigma Theta. Miss Jessie’s has been featured in O, Oprah’s Magazine, Teen Vogue, Redbook, Essence, Cosmo Latina, and other magazines. She lives in New York.

Luther Campbell, 53, is a record label owner and rap artist. He was the leader of 2 Live Crew, whose music was at the center of landmark Supreme Court decisions. Campbell still lives in Liberty City, Miami, mentoring city teens and coaching football at Miami’s Northwestern High School, one of the top football schools in the country.

Ernessa T. Carter, 32, has worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, a music journalist in Pittsburgh, a payroll administrator in Burbank, and a radio writer for “American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest” in Hollywood. She’s also a retired L.A. Derby Doll (roller-derby), and now lives, blogs, and writes in Los Angeles. A graduate of Smith College and Carnegie Mellon University’s MFA program, 32 Candles is her first novel.

Austin Clarke is a professor of literature and has taught at Yale, Brandeis, Williams, Duke, and the Universities of Texas and Indiana. He assisted in setting up a Black Studies program at Yale in 1968, after which he became the cultural attache of the Embassy of Barbados in Washington, D.C. Culminating with the international success of The Polished Hoe, which won the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and the Trillium Prize, Austin Clarke’s work since 1964 includes eleven novels, six short story collections, and four memoirs. He lives in Toronto.

A native of Philadelphia, Jean Love Cush worked for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office directly out of law school before spending three years as a family law attorney, helping low-income women escape domestic abuse situations. After moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, she hosted a one-woman weekly radio show called “A View From Summit,” on which she covered such topics as public safety, urban violence, and inner-city education. Jean now lives in Illinois with her husband and two daughters.

Taffi Dollar is a wold-renowned author, teacher and conference speaker. Together with her husband, Creflo Dollar, she pastors World Changers Church International (WCCI) and World Changers Church - New York. She founded both the WCCI Women’s Ministry as well as Prestige Ministry, both geared towards assisting and empowering women. She serves as the CEO of Arrow Records, a Christian recording company, and as a guest panelist for numerous music festivals and workshops. Taffi holds a bachelor’s degree in Mental Health and Human Services. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and five children.

Director, producer, and writer Bill Duke is the godfather of African-American cinema. He was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute from the Directors Guild of America, placing him in the company of Stephen Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. Duke’s productions include “Maimi Vice,” “Cagney & Lacey,” Sister Act 2American GigoloGet Rich or Die Tryin’A Rage in HarlemPredator and many more. He has degrees from Boston University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the American Film Institute. 

Yvvette Edwards, acclaimed author of A Cupboard Full of Coats, has lived in London all her life. She currently resides in the East End and is married with three daughters and a stepson. The Mother is her second novel.

Adonal Foyle played a total of 13 seasons with the NBA, the first ten with the Golden State Warriors and the last three with the Orlando Magic. Upon his retirement from professional basketball, he served two seasons as the Orlando Magic’s Director of Player Development. He is the owner of Foyle Consulting and Foyle Sports Performance, and is the Founder and President of Kerosene Lamp Foundation and Democracy Matters. Adonal has a Masters in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Chris Gardner is the author of the autobiography The Pursuit of Happyness, a number one New York Times bestseller. He is also the inspiration for the acclaimed movie The Pursuit of Happyness, which starred Will Smith as Chris. Gardner is the owner and CEO of Gardner Rich LLC, with offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. An avid motivational and inspirational speaker, he addresses audiences year-round on the keys to overcoming obstacles and breaking cycles.

Jan Gaye is the second wife of late legendary recording artist Marvin Gaye (1939 — 1984) and the mother of his children, Nona and Frank Gaye. Born in Los Angeles, she currently resides in Rhode Island. After the Dance is her first book.

Celebrated poet Lorna Goodison is the author of the highly acclaimed memoir From Harvey River, which was named a Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year. She is the recipient of the Musgrave Gold Medal and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, among other accolades. Born in Jamaica, she now teaches at the University of Michigan.

Brandon Harris, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, has worked in the world of American independent film as a critic and programmer, producer and director, screenwriter and educator. His writings about cinema, politics, culture, and the intersections between them have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Guardian, VICE, The Daily Beast, Variety, N+1, The New Inquiry, Brooklyn Rail, In These Times, Hammer to Nail, and Filmmaker Magazine, where he is a contributing editor. 

The author of Act Like a Success, Think Like a SuccessAct Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and Straight Talk, No Chaser, Steve Harvey began doing stand-up comedy in the mid-1980s. His success as a stand-up comedian led to the WB’s The Steve Harvey Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002 and was a huge hit and won multiple NAACP Image Awards. In 1997, Harvey continued his work in stand-up comedy, touring as one of the Kings of Comedy, along with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Bernie Mac. The comedy act would later be put together into a film by Spike Lee called The Original Kings of Comedy. Steve Harvey is now host of his daily talk show on NBC in addition to his nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Morning Show. A philanthropist, he is the founder of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation.

Dimitry Leger was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and raised between there and Brooklyn. Educated in journalism at St. John’s University and public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, he has worked as a consultant to UN agencies. His previous positions include staff writer and editor at Fortune Magazine, the Miami Herald and The Source Magazine, with his work appearing in the New York TimesGQRolling Stone, and Newsweek, among others. Although Dimitry currently lives in France, he already has plans to move back to Brooklyn for the book’s publication.

Michael G. Long is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Peace and Conflict studies at Elizabethtown College and is the author or editor of several books on civil rights, religion, and politics in midcentury America, including First Class Citizenship: The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson and Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America’s Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. He holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta and resides in Highland Park, Pennsylvania.

Paula Williams Madison is Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management, LLC, a division of Williams Group Holdings LLC, a Chicago-based investment company wholly owned by her family. They manage such significant companies as The Africa Channel and the LA Sparks, of which Madison is the Chairman and a member of the WNBA Board of Governors. She spent 22 years with NBC, and was most recently their Executive Vice President of Diversity as well as the Vice President of the General Electric Company. Honored for corporate leadership and community outreach, Madison was named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise Magazine in 2005, and included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.” A native of Harlem, Paula and her husband reside in Los Angeles. This is her first book.

Darryl McDaniels (age 51) or “DMC” first made his start in the music business as one third of the groundbreaking rap group Run-DMC and quickly became the most popular in terms of fans and influence. He has been in the public eye for the past 20 years, since forming the now legendary, defunct group, RUN-D.M.C with Joseph (Rev. Run) Simmons and the late, great Jason (Jam Master Jay) Mizell. Also one of the founding members of this multi-platinum music group, selling over 30 million singles and albums worldwide, it would be hard to overstate his influence on popular culture. He helped transform Rap and Hip Hop into the most popular music in the world, while building a fan base that rivals the biggest acts in Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Miss Robbie Montgomery is the owner of Sweetie Pie’s, the nationally acclaimed soul food restaurants she founded in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to running her own restaurants, Miss Robbie toured singing back up for several musical artists including Ike and Tina Turner, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Pattie LaBelle, and others.Miss Robbie started cooking while she was traveling with these groups on the road, as finding welcoming restaurants could be challenging for African-Americans in the segregated 1960’s. After a collapsed lung prematurely ended Miss Robbie’s singing career, she returned to St. Louis, using her formidable cooking talent. In 2011, she opened her third restaurant location, Sweetie Pie’s Upper crust. Her restaurant reality show has been featured for four seasons on the OWN Network.

James McGrath Morris is an author, columnist, and radio show host. His books include Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power—which the Wall Street Journal deemed was one of the five best books on American moguls and Booklist placed on its 2010 list of the ten best biographies—and The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is one of the founders and past president of Biographers International Organization (BIO) and makes his home in Santa Fe, NM.

Jill Nelson’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Essence, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Chicago Tribune and The Village Voice. Her books include Volunteer Slavery, which won an American Book Award; Straight, No Chaser; Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island; and the prequel to Let’s Get It On, Sexual Healing. An avid swimmer, gardener, and explorer, she lives in Harlem with her husband.

Pamela Newkirk is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism at New York University. She is author of Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media which won the National Press Club Award for media criticism.and editor of Letters from Black America. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Jeff Atkins, more popularly known by his stage name Ja Rule, is a rapper, singer, songwriter and actor from Queens. He has released seven studio albums since 1999 and has sold over 30 million records world-wide. In addition to having Grammy and American Music Award nomination, he has won several MTV Music Awards, World Music Awards, Teen Choice Awards, NAACP Image Awards & GQ’s Man of The Year Award.

Ron Stodghill is an award-winning journalist whose career spans nearly two decades and includes roles as a staff writer for the New York Times, Midwest bureau chief for Time, Washington correspondent for Business Week, and editor-in-chief of Savoy magazine. Educated at the University of Missouri, Queens University of Charlotte, and Harvard University, where he studied as a Nieman Fellow, Stodghill is the author of Redbone: Money, Malice and Murder in Atlanta (Amistad/HarperCollins), a critically-praised work of literary non-fiction published in 2007. He is also co-author of No Free Ride: From the Mean Streets to the Mainstream, former U.S. Congressman and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume’s best-selling memoir (Ballantine Books, 1996). Stodghill’s work has also appeared in the anthology, Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (Ballantine Books, 1995) as well asReaders Digest, Slate, Essence, Black Enterprise, and Ebony. Stodghill resides with his wife and three sons in Charlotte, N.C.

Rachel L. Swarns has been a reporter for the New York Times since 1995. She has written about domestic policy and national politics, reporting on immigration, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, and First Lady Michelle Obama. She has also worked overseas for the Times, reporting from Russia, Cuba and southern Africa, where she served as the Johannesburg bureau chief. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children.

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of A Slave in the White House, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She received her Ph. D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In her 22 years of historical education and research, she was Director of Interpretation at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and Director of Education at James Madison's Montpelier. She is now an independent scholar and lecturer, and a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in Charlottesville, VA.

Jervey Tervalon is the author of five books, including the bestselling Dead Above Ground, and Understanding This, for which he won the New Voice’s Award from Quality Paper Books. His most recent book was an anthology, The Cocaine Chronicles. He was the Remsen Bird Writer in Residence at Occidental College and a Disney Screen Writing Fellow. He is the director of the Literature for Life Project, a literary/salon magazine, and the literary director of LitFest Pasadena. Born in New Orleans, he now lives in California and teaches at the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara.

Born Timothy Z. Mosley in Norfolk, Virginia on March 10, 1972, Timbaland, has had many reincarnations--from disc jockey DJ Tiny Tim to half of the hip hop group Timbaland & Magoo; from membership in Devante Swing’s Swing Mob crew known as Da Bassment, to S.B.I. (Surrounded By Idiots), a production ensemble including Pharrell Williams, to being CEO of his own label, Mosley Music Group. His production has helped create career-defining hits for artists such as Jodeci, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Missy Elliott, Destiny’s Child, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z, among many others. Respected beyond the genres of urban and hip hop music, Timbaland has also been sought by diverse superstars from pop star Justin Timberlake to avant-singer Bjork.

Nikki Walton, a licensed psychotherapist with a masters degree in Psychology from the University of North Carolina, is the founder of CurlyNikki.com. Born in St. Louis, Walton now resides in Pennsylvania.

James Melvin Washington, Ph.D., was Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Columbia University. He is the editor of A Testament of Hope: The Esential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, and author of Frustrated Fellowship: The Black Baptist Quest for Social Power

Maurice White (1941 - 2016) worked in the music industry for over forty years, as a bandleader, songwriter producer and musician. He was the founder of the legendary group Earth, Wind & Fire, and served as the group’s main songwriter and record producer, as well as co-lead singer. White won six Grammys, three NAACP Image Awards, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Twenty-seven year old Venus Williams became a professional tennis player at age fourteen, going on to beat #50 player in the world in her first match. The first African-American to reach the number one ranking in either the men’s or women’s game, Williams is currently ranked #8 in the world. In addition, Venus graduated with cum laude with a degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Ft Lauderdale in December, 2007. Upon graduation, she partnered with national retail chain Steve and Barry’s to launch her athletic and casual clothing line EleVen by Venus Williams. A two-time Olympic Gold medalist, Williams resides in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Jacqueline Woodson is the bestselling author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children, including the New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the 2014 National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.