Our Zoom Readings will be recorded and shown on our website
James Banks - With well over 30 years of teaching and over 30 years in private practice, as a Counselor, Psychotherapist and Hypnotist, he has both served the communities and people of Suffolk County and has positively represented Suffolk County Community College. As Associate Professor of Health Careers, “Dr. Love,” has taught such classes as, Principles of Interviewing, Introduction to Psychology, Group Dynamics, Sociology, and College Seminar. As an Adjunct Professor at Dowling College he’s taught Social Work, Introduction to Social Welfare, Social Work Colloquium, and Social Welfare Policy. Professor Banks is a major asset to Suffolk County Community College because of his expansive community involvement in presentations, workshops and community organizations focused on Social Justice, Social Action and Diversity. Former Pres. Of the South Country Central Schools’ Board of Education.
Professor Banks, attended Fordham University, State University of New York Stony Brook, and the City University of Seattle, Washington., NY Institute for Hypnotherapy, the National Multicultural Institute, Caron Foundation for Alcoholism Trainers, Active Parenting Facilitator/Trainer. He began writing songs as a teen which transitioned into poetry. He coached the SCCC Poetry Slam Team in several national competitions.
Professor Banks, is the Chair of Southampton Anti-bias Task Force, the Chair of the Suffolk County African American Advisory Board, Co-Chair & Co Pres. of Multicultural Solidarity, Co-Chair & Vice Pres. of AAECF, Inc., member of 3 branches of the NAACP, member of Board Southampton African American Museum, Consultant to the Center for Social Justice and Human Understanding, Inc., Member Stand up 2 Poverty Inc., Member of the Leadership Team of The Breathing Project
Peggy Dobreer is a three-time, Pushcart nominated poet who was awarded the 2017 Downey Symphony Orchestra, Poetry Matters Prize, in association with NASA. She has two published collections with Moon Tide Press, Drop & Dazzle, 2018 and In the Lake of Your Bones, 2012. Her chapbook, Forbidden Plums, was assembled at the beginning of the Pandemic, won publication with Glass Lyre Press for its March 2021 release. Dobreer is a longtime educator and former dancer, who offers E=Mc2Bodied Poetry Workshops and Slow Lightning Somatic Meditation/Writing Practice online and in retreat settings.
Peggy is one of ten featured poets in the premiere Aeolian Harp Folio Series by Glass Lyre Press and again in Volume V. Her poetry appears in The Rise Up Review, Voices From Leimert Park Redux Anthology, What Rough Beast, Cultural Weekly, Pirene’s Fountain, Ekphrastia Gone Wild, and LA Yoga Magazine among others. See Janet Fitch interview Peggy at Birch Bark Editing: In Conversation.
For information and link, please visit her at www.peggydobreer.com.
Cliff Bleidner, 2021 WWBA LI Poet of the Year; Haiku poet, formalist poet, PPA (Performance Poets Association) co-founder and coordinator. Retired pharmaceutical chemist and long-distance runner. Studied at the New School. Publications include PPA Literary Reviews (all 25), Haiku Calendar (Mankh, Walter E. Harris III), Long Island Sounds, Paumanok I: Poems and Picture of Long Island, Paumanok II: Interwoven, and Writing Outside The Lines.
Vivett Dukes (nèe Hemans), a New Yorker through and through, was born in Queens, NY, and raised in Elmont, Long Island. She began her teaching career in 2002 as a K-12 substitute teacher in the very districts where she was taught and from which she ultimately matriculated. She earned her B.S. in English and Secondary Education from Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus and her Master of Arts in the Teaching of Writing/Literacy from Hofstra University. She is the proud wife of Mr. John Dukes and mom to Alexis, 26, Christian, 23, and Cereta, 21 — and a proud doggy mom to an Italian Greyhound named Diggi! She currently resides in Suffolk County, Long Island.
Vivett is a classroom teacher, writer, a humanitarian, and social activist who cares deeply about those who are systematically disenfranchised. She is particularly dedicated to eradicating mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately plagues the Black community, as she is directly impacted by the devastation and decimation that incarceration inflicts on familial and community bonds. She petitions lawmakers to introduce and pass bills that respect and protect the human needs of those incarcerated and their loved ones as a member of the Osborne Association’s National Speaker’s Bureau.
In January of 2020, Vivett joined forces with the National Parents Union at their founding meeting in New Orleans and became a delegate and council member representing the Northeast region of the Country. This work speaks directly to the intersection of Vivett’s life, both personally and professionally. Of particular importance is the National Parents Union’s commitment to bringing to the forefront the voices of marginalized parents -- especially formerly incarcerated parents - in national educational spaces. This resonates deeply with not only who but why Vivett is who she is.
To Vivett, education is and will always be the key to improvement in all areas of life for members of the African diaspora and equity in education coupled with mass incarceration are two of the biggest civil rights assaults facing our society currently. Parents must be in the lead to decide what schools and educational spaces best serve their child’s needs. She has been an English Language Arts teacher, literacy specialist, and teacher of English to speakers of other languages in her own classroom for twelve years and currently teaches in a middle and high school in Manhattan, New York where she teaches ninth-grade English. She also serves as an adjunct instructor in the Education and Literacy Acquisition Department at the City University of New York - LaGuardia Community College (CUNY).
As a writer and advocate, Vivett is an advisor for the New York Times’ Upfront and Scholastic Action and Scope magazines., blogger for New York School Talk, Co-CEO/Co-Founder of SpeakYaTruth.org and One Voice Blog Magazine, and host of the bi-weekly #SafeSpaceConvos Twitter chat in partnership with the non-profit educational organization, Sevenzo.
As a teacher leader, she has served as a member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Teacher Advisory Council, a classroom lab facilitator with former NYC Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s Learning Partners Program, and a Bethune Teaching Fellow for the New York Urban League, among other roles. Mrs. Dukes is on the board of her county’s New York Civil Liberties Union chapter as well as a member of the board of the New York State English Council (NYSEC), and is a proud member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and is a Delegate for the Northeast Region on the Council of the National Parents Union, among being a member of several other professional organizations.
In November of 2019, she and her husband, John Dukes, received acknowledgments of appreciation from New York Sena, Senator Brian A. Benjamin, tor Brian, A. Benjamin for their dedicated service through their grassroots organization Speak Ya Truth to the Harlem community where mass incarceration and the school-to-prison-pipeline are concerned.
In addition, Vivett was awarded the Community Service Award of the Year from Black Educators Rock - New York. She has been the keynote speaker at national and local venues, including professional conferences hosted by the National Civil Liberties Union - Suffolk County Chapter (NYCLU), New York State English Council (NYSEC), NAACP’s Annual Gala at St. John’s University, Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2), South by Southwest Education (SXSWEDU), and the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), She and her husband John were honored for their commitment to love in the face of incarceration in 2018 by the Long Island-based non-profit organization Excellence in Success. Vivett and John were also heralded by Silent Cry, Inc in 2018 and 2019 for their astute advocacy for families enduring the incarceration of a loved one.
Vivett knows that representation matters. At her core, she is a passionate woman of God, wife, mom, teacher-leader, and social activist who is dedicated to taking her voice outside of the classroom and into the public arena in an effort to elevate authentic conversations and grassroots changes in educational equity and human rights.
Richard Bronson was born in New York City. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University School of Medicine. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital, he was a resident in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and a fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Bronson currently works at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, where he is faculty in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care & Bioethics. He is on the editorial board of The Pharos (poetry) and is a Section Editor for Reproductive Biomedicine Online. Dr. Bronson has won the Poem of the Year Award of the American College of Physicians and was the recipient of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 2015. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, is on the Board of the Long Island Poetry Collective, and is the Poet Laureate of Suffolk County for 2021-2023. “Imperfect Knowledge” is his fifth published collection of poetry.
Carmen Bugan (Ph.D., Oxford University), will talk about writing herself free from the oppressive language of Cold War Eastern Europe. Under the Romanian dictator Ceausescu, Carmen and her family experienced surveillance and worse, which eventually led to their immigration to the U.S.
Carmen, who had written from a young age, soon found herself writing in English, and recording her family’s experiences.
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During 30 years of writing as a poet, critic, and memoirist, she has learned how words can hold the power not only to hurt people but also to bring about a sense of liberation and fulfillment. Carmen Bugan’sbook, Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021
Jill Wolcott is a psychotherapist living in Charlotte, Vermont. She grew up in Connecticut with four sisters and studied at Antioch College (BA) and Antioch University (MA). She spent 1l years at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland where she worked in film and publishing and led a workshop called The Game of Transformation; and where she gave birth to her daughter, Jemma. She returned to the US in 1991, settling in Vermont whose landscape carries echoes of the Scottish isles. She spent a decade working at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School before returning to graduate school. She now has a private practice, working with children, couples, and adults, in Burlington, VT, and Santa Barbara, CA.
Jill has written all her life, both creatively and professionally, and, in the last several years, has studied with poet Major Jackson at both the University of Vermont and at the Southampton Writers' Conference.
Zilka Joseph was born in Mumbai and lived in KolkatAwarda. Her work is influenced by Indian/Eastern and Western cultures and her Bene Israel roots. She has been nominated several times for a Pushcart, and for a Best of the Net, has won many honors, participated in literary festivals and readings, and has been featured on NPR/Michigan Radio, and several online interviews and journals. Her work has appeared in journals such as Poetry, Poetry Daily, Frontier Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, Rattle, Asia Literary Review, The Punch Magazine, Review Americana, and in anthologies such as 101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium, The Kali Project, RESPECT: An Anthology of Detroit Music Poetry. She was awarded a Zell Fellowship, the Michael R. Gutterman award for poetry, and the Elsie Choy Lee Scholarship (Center for the Education of Women) from the University of Michigan. She teaches creative writing workshops in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is an editor, a manuscript coach, and a mentor to her students. www.zilkajoseph.com
Gwenn Nusbaum Gwenn Nusbaum is a widely published poet and has won both a Pushcart and Gradiva Nomination for her work. Gwenn also published a poetry chapbook entitled, “Normal War,” and is working on a full-length collection of poems. A licensed clinical social worker and psychoanalyst, Gwenn has been privileged with helping others for 40 years in her psychotherapy practice specializing in working with women and sexual abuse survivors and those suffering from trauma-related issues. www.gwennnusbaum.com
Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, Ambassador of Goodwill to Africa at the United Nations; Community Mayor of Harlem. Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely champions the aspirations of women, youth, education, economic-social development, and community relations.
She graduated from the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary College in1965 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Religious Studies. She received numerous honors as a Community Fellow (1981-82) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology an Education Policy Fellow (1982-83) of the International Education Leadership, a Fulbright Scholar in Tanzania and Nigeria (1984-85) Master of Education Degrees from Harvard University(1982) Teachers College and Columbia University (19830 and a Doctorate of Education Degree from Teahcers College (1990).
Queen Mother Dr. Blakely is an American former nun and current religious leader, pan-Africanist, writer, activist, and humanitarian. She has published books and articles on self-reliance, education, recreation, and culture, criticizing economic injustice and campaigning for sustainable economic and social development. Two Books: ” The Harlem Street Nun” and “Pilgrimage to Goree Island,” both autobiographical, among her many publications. Co-Founder of New Future Foundation with Shirley Chisholm in 1969.
In 1995, Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely was appointed "The Community Mayor of Harlem and sworn in by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In 2009, Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely was appointed Goodwill Ambassador to Africa to the United Nations. She has been given the task to deal with women, children, and human rights issues of the African Diaspora and serves to share these findings with the United Nations.
Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely was mentored by notables, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, and Dr. Anie Elizabeth Brooks, First Woman President of the General Assembly at e United Nations. She is a life-long student and practitioner of the arts, music, dance, modeling, business, and social work. Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely serves the World as a Humanitarian Trailblazer for Human Rights, Women, Children, and Eliminating Poverty worldwide.
Briel Felton was born and raised in Virginia along the coast of the Chesapeake Bay, in the cultural hub of the 757. She graduated from Old Dominion University in 2019 with a Bachelor's in English. She has her BA in English, concentrating in Creative Writing. She graduated from Cornell University with an MFA in Creative Writing in May of 2021.
She is the 2019 Academy of American Poet's University & College Poetry Prize First Place Winner. Her poems have appeared in various publications including Laurel Moon magazine, Firewords magazine, Rigorous magazine, and Barely South Review.
She writes poems about the little things in hopes of connecting with others over these small human experiences. Why are there only two lines in Walmart open? Why is it so hard to correct the employee fixing your bowl at Chipotle when they put corn in it and you didn't ask for it? Why does the body feel numb when you yawn and stretch at the same time? That sort of thing. Nothing is off-limits. No feeling. No smell. No idea. No experience. No kiss. No broken heart. Anything and everything can, and most likely will, find itself on the page.
Kelly J. Powell is a poet, native to Long Island. She is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton and has been published and performed widely on Long Island and NYC. She has worked as a bookkeeper and nanny in a number of industries to support her poetry and will continue to do so. Her collected works "Posthumously Yours" has recently been published by Local Gems Press and is available on amazon.com.
Barbara Ann Branca is a writer and performer who straddles the arts and sciences, creating musical and poetic works based on her lifelong passions for the environment, music, and family history—and who is happiest when those themes intersect.
Branca was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island walking distance to Walt Whitman’s Birthplace. Formally educated in the sciences, she has been a classroom teacher, college adjunct, textbook author, and science editor at prominent New York publishing houses. Most recently, she retired as Communications Manager of New York Sea Grant, where she promoted vital research along our coasts, writing articles and even songs to bring the message home.
Music was always a parallel passion. Throughout her career she has composed original music, as well as performed jazz and blues in a variety of venues: the USO on an army base, an international orchestra in Greece, a university jazz band, New York night clubs, honky-tonks from Alaska to Maine and most recently at The Jazz Loft and for fund-raisers at the Tesla Science Center.
Over the last decade, her love of writing expanded to include poetry, often focusing on environmental themes, her immigrant family heritage, and romantic relationships. Her performances intersperse spoken poetry with sung jazz standards bringing a unique style of reading to the New York and Long Island poetry scene.
In pre-pandemic days, Branca has read on National Public Radio, at Cornelia Street Café, Bowery Poetry Club, Parkside Lounge, Greenwich Village Bistro, the Huntington Poetry Barn, and Walt Whitman Birthplace where she won first place at “Super Poem Sunday” 2010 with her poem Flash Flood, the title poem of her chapbook published by Nino’s Wine Press.
George Wallace, writer in residence at Walt Whitman Birthplace, notes of Flash Flood, “Branca’s poems are instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever heard her in performance—indelible moments retold in a signature musical style and punctuated by gourd-rattle and a smile... These are iconic remembrances, playfully retold, unforgettable once heard.”
Her original poetry has been published in several anthologies including Polarity eMagazine, Paumanok (II and III), Grabbing the Apple, Long Island Quarterly, Silver-Tongued Devils Anthology, and No Distance Between Us—The Next Collection. Branca is currently working on a collection of short stories.Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.
Robert L. Dean, Jr. is the author of The Aerialist Will not be Performing: ekphrastic poems and short fictions to the art of Steven Schroeder (Turning Plow Press, 2020), and At the Lake with Heisenberg (Spartan Press, 2018). A multiple Best of the Net nominee and a Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in October Hill Magazine; Flint Hills Review; I-70 Review; Chiron Review; The Ekphrastic Review; Sheila-Na-Gig online; Shot Glass; Illya’s Honey; Red River Review; KYSO Flash; MacQueen’s Quinterly; River City Poetry; Heartland! and the Wichita Broadside Project. Dean is event coordinator for Epistrophy: An Afternoon of Poetry and Improvised Music, held annually in Wichita, Kansas. A native Kansan, Dean has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in a one-hundred-year-old stone building in Augusta, Kansas, along with a universe of books, CDs, LPs, an electric bass, and a couple dozen hats. In his spare time, he practices the time-honored art of hermitry.
Ariana McLean is native of the DMV (the DC, Maryland and Virginia area) but can probably call herself a New Yorker now, having lived in Brooklyn for ten years. She is a freelancer in TV, film and live events production, and teaches creative writing to undergraduates. She is currently working toward an MFA degree at Stony Brook University, where she’s relishing in writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Ariana lives in Bushwick with her husband and pet rabbit.
The space from which I work—and often inhabit—I call “the periphery.” I find myself dancing around and between different groups of people and thought. I do not limit myself to a particular genre in my graduate studies. As an undergraduate, my courses ranged from immigration policy to suspense in horror films. My career has included working in non-profits, stage managing a circus, and boom operating on a film in Vietnam. Gratefully, my interests and experiences have taken me all over the world, giving me opportunities to interact with many different groups and individuals. I love my interdisciplinary nature, and I revel in the dance on the periphery that forces me to learn new things, challenge old beliefs, and redefine how I see myself and the world.
My identity itself is an intersection of many things: I’m Black, Jewish and American. I come from immigrants and enslaved peoples. I love the country I live in, while I am constantly disgusted by its history and systems of injustice. I believe in education. I believe in stories. I believe in goodness.
Bernard Hicks is a Bronx born citizen and proudly Harlem reared from the age of two.
He is a child of the 1960’s, a teen of the 1980’s and a learning adult of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Like everyone raised in unique urban neighborhoods, Harlem of the 1980’s and 1990’s was a combination of black renaissance culture, black business ownership and a fast life reminiscent of the Bunny Hop in the Cotton Club in the 1950’s.
From that life spurned a daily melodic melody of sirens from police car and fire trucks, and the twenty-four-hour continuous eerie sounds of siren screams from racing ambulances alerted from frantic residents.
Bernard would like to say his upbringing steered his thinking but would also like to think his thinking steered his upbringing.
“I am going to say my poetic nature comes from a form of nurture as I was an avid reader of books from my household shelves, a church gospel song singer and a rap afficionado. Art from me in my household was appreciated and encouraged and I looked for ways to be creative. For that I thank my parents for allowing me to think and write in tune with the colors of a fluorescent rainbow.”
“I like to think of poetry as a gift of humanity. The soul of our nature. And the language of the arts.”
“As you listen to my writings, also digest them, and let the words nourish your thoughts.”
Dd. Spungin, author of the collection, Tomorrow Smells Invisible (Words With Wings Press, 2020) taught special needs children in the New York City school system.
Writing was her quiet place. Once retired, that quiet place expanded into the poetry world, especially on Long Island where she hosts poetry events for Poets In Nassau
and Performance Poets Association.
An award-winning poet, her work has appeared in many anthologies, and in journals, both online and print, most recently: First Literary Review East, L I Quarterly, The Avocet,
PA Literary Review, Corona, An Anthology of Poems, and Maintenant 15. Several of her poems have been set to music by NY composer, Julie Mandel.
She lives on Long Island with her very supportive husband, Neil.
Spungin lives for love, prays for peace and writes for her sanity.
J R (Judy) Turek, Walt Whitman Birthplace 2019 Long Island Poet of the Year, Superintendent of Poetry for the LI Fair, 2020 Hometown Hero by the East Meadow Herald, Bards Laureate 2013-2015, is an internationally published poet translated into Korean, Romanian, French, and Italian; editor, workshop leader, and 24 years as Moderator of the Farmingdale Creative Writing Group; she has 2 Pushcart Prize nominations and recipient of the Conklin Prize For Poetry. She was named a 2017 NYS Woman of Distinction. She is the author of Midnight on the Eve of Never, B is for Betwixt and Between, A is for Almost Anything, Imagistics, They Come And They Go, and most recent 24 in 24. J R, The Purple Poet, lives on Long Island with her soul-mate husband, Paul, her dogs, and her extraordinarily extensive shoe collection. firstname.lastname@example.org
Luis Valdes believes that he was born with a purpose, that purpose being light out of the dark tunnel that many people cannot find their own way out of. At 29 years old, he has overcome a lifetime’s worth of obstacles. He hosts a creative writing workshop and works with drug addicts in recovery and convicts to express themselves in the arts of storytelling and performing spoken word. He won an award for it in the Summer of 2018. In 2019 he was appointed Councilmember by Valerie Cartwright to be a Committee Member for the Town of Brookhaven Youth Board. In 2020 he was also appointed to be on the advisory board for Suffolk County Sheriff Department
He was born in Harlem, New York. His mother was originally from the Dominican Republic. He was the fourth of her five children. She was murdered at the age of 33 by her boyfriend and it was Luis and his older brother who found her in the back of her car. His father was an illegal immigrant who came to this country after being released from prison in Cuba during the Mariel Boatlift of 1980. He worked in New Jersey as a welder, but later became a wealthy drug dealer in New York City. By the time Luis was , his father, who he considered very wise and his best friend, died of Lung Cancer. Luis says that his father was his first teacher who taught him many life lessons. Still, Luis managed to graduate from High School and begin college while working and taking care of himself.
However, an injury to his feet that resulted from jumping out of a three story window while being chased by police when he was 15, finally slowed him down to the point where he couldn’t work and it was more and more difficult to walk. He was introduced to a Priest who helped him get the surgery that he desperately needed and gave him a place to live and thus get his life back on track.
Luis is enrolled as a full-time student at St Joesph College where he is graduating 2020 Spring majoring in Political Science. He works full-time for Independent Support Service as a Direct Care Support Staff and Aim assisting adults with Autism. He was recently given a handsome raise as a result of his performance as a top staff member.
His passion is poetry and he says that he expresses himself by performing spoken words at Open Mics and poetry readings. He has also performed and competed at Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. This is especially significant because Luis is a stutterer, another of the obstacles which he has not allowed to hold him back.
Jessica DePue rediscovered her passion for poetry during 2020 quarantine. She has tapped into her passion, crafting and honing her skills through seasonal workshops mentored and hosted by Peggy Dobreer. She currently participates weekly with poets Lucien Zell (host/mentor) and David Bubna of Prague.
In 2015 Jessica made a resolution to commit to attending the Los Angeles local poetry scene. Her resolution paid off in several ways: she met many local poets, discovered a thriving and supportive poetic atmosphere, and completed a UCLA Writer’s Extension Course Poetry 101 with the iconic Suzanne Lummis. She has since enrolles in Lummis’s Poetry Noir class, also through UCLA Writer’s Extension.
From this foundation, Jessica has workshopped personally with Suzanne, creating her first official poetry manuscript Followed By A Haunting, featured at the 2015 Brentwood Poetry Festival.
Presently, Jessica is making the most of her time participating in local workshops and the aforementioned Prague Poetry Workshop. She works closely under the mentorship of Peggy Dobreer. Jessica is inspired by her fellow poets from L.A. to New York, to Prague. She is organizing her body of work to submit for initial/first time publication and intends to enroll at SMC to begin her education towards an English Degree with a focus on Creative Writing.