Conference Steering Committee

Evan Starling Davis

New York-based Afro-futurist Evan Starling-Davis is a playwright and narrative designer. In 2019 he  was among the inaugural cohort of the Maison Baldwin writer-in-residence program. Notable projects include his cinematic short, BLISS, which toured nationally with visual arts curation Black Radical Imagination, the Syracuse Stage commissioned play Airborn, and festival favorite co-created web series, Monogamish. Evan was the inaugural WOLLAF Fellow at Syracuse University, a Van Lier New Voices finalist via The Lark Theater, a 2018 recipient of the CNYArts artist commission, and selected 2018 INKtank awardee via The Rising Theater Collective. Currently he is a PhD candidate in museum studies at Syracuse University.

Keisha Kogan

Rev. Keisha Kogan is an interfaith minister who works for the eradication of gender-based violence in faith communities. Rev. Kogan has worked as the lead chaplain at the Manhattan Family Justice Center, which is part of the NYC Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. She develops policies and programs, provides training and prevention education, conducts research and evaluations and performs community outreach. Rev. Kogan has a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre: Directing from the University of Iowa. Rev. Kogan loves to be able to bring these two aspects of her training together as she recently did for a commissioned theatre piece about Tamar, the daughter of King David from the Hebrew Bible. She lives in Harlem, New York.

Ed Pavlic

Author of eleven books, including Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners (Fordham University Press, 2017) and pieces in over sixty magazines, Ed Pavlić is an American writer whose work travels across—often blurring—genres: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and scholarship. Centered in African American and diasporic life and culture, most of his work explores racial dynamics in the experiences of persons—fictive, actual, historical and contemporary—whose placement and perspectives aren’t neatly classifiable in contemporary vocabularies, theirs or ours. He is Distinguished Research Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Georgia and lives in Athens, GA with his family.

Angela Muvumba Sellström

Dr. Angela Muvumba Sellström is an academic at the University of Uppsala’s Department of Peace and Conflict Research. She has contributed to a wide array of news and scholarly outlets in Africa, Europe and the North America on the causes and consequences of armed violence and wartime sexual violence, and has particular country expertise on Burundi and South Africa. She is a co-editor of two volumes: The African Union and Its Institutions (Jacana Media, 2008) and HIV/AIDS and Society in South Africa (University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2008). She is a trained social scientist but began her early academic life studying outsider fiction and art, and crafting written and performance work exploring her own identity(ies), power and storytelling.

Tor Sellström

Tor Sellström has been a development practitioner at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) holding various positions in Southern Africa and Sweden.  As a researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala, he led a project culminating in a study on African island states in the Indian Ocean. He coordinated the multi-year, multi-country research program 'National Liberation in Southern Africa: The Role of the Nordic Countries' and is the author of the Sweden and national liberation in Southern Africa, a three-volume study. He has served as Senior Advisor for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), Deputy Director of the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (NEPRU) and began his international humanitarian work as an employee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Angola. In 2011, he was awarded Doctor honoris causa (D.h.c.), Uppsala University, Peace and Conflict Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, for his research on the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, and for successfully bridging the fields of academia, policy and practice.

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Conference Organizing Team

Adrienne Dawes

Adrienne Dawes is an Afro-Latina playwright and producer originally from Austin, TX. She has been an Alice Judson Hayes Fellow (Ragdale Foundation), a Literary Fellow at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship (George Kaiser Family Foundation), an artist-in-residence with Crosstown Arts and PlySpace, a NALAC Fund for the Arts grantee, a selected playwright in the 2018 Fornés Playwriting Workshop (University of Notre Dame) and in the 2018 Kenyon Playwrights Conference (directed by Wendy MacLeod). Adrienne is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Latinx Theatre Commons, ScriptWorks, and a company member of Salvage Vanguard Theater. 

Jada Elder-Wilkerson

Jada Elder-Wilkerson is  a first generation American, bookworm, and an accelerated dual degree English student at Temple University. She is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School For Girls International Baccalaureate Program. Her work mainly centers around her experiences with race and identity, and has appeared in the On Sisterhood Anthology, the Young Adult Review Network, and the Ropes Literary Journal. She frequently volunteers as a writing instructor with Mighty Writers, as a Program Facilitator with the Inspiring Leaders Program, and as a Youth Action Council member with the American Friends Service Committee. She is currently an Archive Intern at the notable Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. 

Morgan Overton

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Morgan Overton will be receiving a Master of Social Work with a focus in Community Organization and Social Action from the University of Pittsburgh in Spring 2020. In addition to her investment in advancing social justice, Morgan is also a visual artist who aims to utilize art as a platform to speak on social issues, and uplift her culture that has been historically silenced. Her work honors the legacies of freedom fighters, and unsung community members today. Morgan's work is currently featured in the Women on Baldwin exhibit in St. Paul de Vence, France.

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Conference Director

Shannon Cain

Shannon Cain is an award-winning fiction writer with a background in fundraising and nonprofit executive administration. She was the executive director of Kore Press, an independent publisher of writing by women; the executive director of the Amazon Foundation, a private philanthropy for women and girls; and the executive director of the Women’s Health Education Project, a Harlem-based nonprofit for homeless women. Her writing has been awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, the O. Henry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and a fellowship from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in France on a “skills and talents” visa in the arts. Her graduate study in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers focused on James Baldwin’s short story masterpiece, “Sonny’s Blues.” Contact her at

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