Saturday, May 23 • 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. • Grand Hyatt Washington, Independence Level, Lafayette/Farragut Square
Moderator: Tim'm T. West
West is a poet, scholar, rapper, and youth activist who was born in Cincinnati and raised primarily in rural Arkansas. A contemporary Renaissance man, he is a featured voice in many documentaries about hip hop and masculinity because of his groundbreaking work as a gay-identified hip hop artist, AIDS activist, and youth advocate, among other affiliations. A teacher and cultural producer at a number of secondary and post-secondary institutions, as well as a former varsity basketball coach, West has a B.A. from Duke University and graduate degrees from The New School for Social Research and Stanford University. He is author of several books (Red Dirt Revival: a poetic memoir in 6 Breaths, BARE: notes from a porchdweler, Flirting, and pre|dispositions). West is widely anthologized, and also has produced and released nine hip hop albums, the first several with iconic queer rap group D/DC. In 2013 he released his fifth solo project, snapshots. West travels and lectures widely, professionally serving as Managing Director for Teach For America's LGBTQ Initiative, which advances educational equity for LGBTQ kids and youth K-12 as well as their educators.
John Edmonds boasts a musical career that spans five decades, hundreds of cities, forty states, fifteen countries, and six continents. With fourteen recorded albums to his credit, he has taken his traditionally black gospel sounds to such diverse venues as West Hollywood’s Studio One Back Lot, the Smithsonian Institute Festival of Folklore in Washington, D.C., and Long Beach, California’s Gay Pride Festival. His audiences have included Presidents Reagon and Clinton and Denmark’s Princess Elisabeth.
Edmonds studied journalism and creative writing at Western Kentucky University. He has written freelance for newspapers and magazines across the nation as well as for the popular online news source gbmnews.com.
His first novel is Called, Justified, Glorified, and Gay. CJGG details the life of same gender loving fictitious gospel sing Josephus Carson. Carson travels the gospel highway rubbing shoulders with James Cleveland, Clara Ward, and Mahalia Jackson exploring the wild world of Sex, Alcohol, and Gospel Music. Carson does find love and success in a world filled with hate and disappointment.
Edmonds is currently working on a sequel to CJGG. It’s tentatively called Promises and Prophesies Unfulfilled.
La Toya Hankins
Hankins is the author of the novels K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood and SBF Seeking...and the short story Three Is the Magic Number.La Toya serves as co-chair of Shades of Pride—organizer of the annual Triangle Black Pride. She’s an active supporter of LGBT issues and health disparities that affect her community. Her literary influences include Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Pearl Cleage. Her motto, borrowed from Hurston, is “I do not weep at the world, I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” La Toya is a North Carolina native currently residing in Raleigh. A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. In college, she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and later served as second vice president for one of the largest graduate chapters in the state.She divides her free time between being a proud pet parent of a terrier named Neo and volunteering in her community.
Alexander Hardy is a writer, educator, dancer, mental health advocate, and lupus survivor who informs and entertains through his colorful commentary on race, sex and sexuality, food, society and pop culture. He runs The Colored Boy, a blog showcasing his written work and documenting his travels, tragedies, and triumphs. In 2013, he penned the viral essay, "Eat The Cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé)," which has been cited by Salon, The New Yorker, and NPR. Among other outlets, Alexander has written for EBONY.com, CNN.com, Gawker, Saint Heron, Huffington Post, and Very Smart Brothas, where he serves as Senior Writer. He is currently working on an essay compilation. Alexander does not believe in snow.
Mantle's novel BATTY BWOY taps Jamaica's homophobia and the life of a gay, black immigrant in America. In Jamaica, being gay is a death sentence. “Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head” has replaced the country’s motto “Out of many, one people.” Time magazine noted Jamaica the worst place in the Americas for LGBT people and one of the most homophobic places in the world. BATTY BWOY is a bildungsroman set in Jamaica and America. The title is a reappropriation of the derogatory Jamaican epithet used to describe gay, bisexual and effeminate men or those presumed to be gay or bisexual.
BATTY BWOY is the coming of age story of Mark Palmer, a black, gay, Jamaican. The son of an overbearing, absentee mother, he is thrust into an environment that requires a thick skin from torments and socio-economic disparities. Suppressing his “gay tendencies” to detract being bashed, he migrates to America and breaks free from the closet to a world where he feels disenfranchised and arrested. As his life spirals from bad choices, he clings to desperate measures and finds hope.
Jamaican-born Mantle studied Journalism and Photography at Howard University and served in the US Navy. An internationally published fashion photographer, who have garnered magazine covers, editorials and a photo book (Beach Boys published by Bruno Gmunder in 2012), he is an avid abstract painter and self- preserving enthusiast residing in Miami. This is his first novel.
BATTY BWOY will be published in April 2015. The hardcover first edition will be signed and available exclusive at maxarthurmantle.net.
The book tour will kick off during Washington, DC Black Gay Pride events, with scheduled signings in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston and Miami.
Norman is a native of Bowman, S.C. who grew up in Teaneck, NJ. He resides in Washington, DC. He has a B.S. Degree in Civil Engineering from Tuskegee University. After numerous years of working as an engineer he had a sudden career change and became a writer. His first book titled "Honey Let Me Tell You; The Miss Adventures of being Miss Understood" is the first installment of his "Honey Let Me Tell You" book series. It's the story of Norman who is trying to find his perfect stranger; his perfect man; the love of his life. Norman meets and greets numerous men to find his man. RL has written four books and is working on the fifth.
Along with that RL doesn't do regular book readings. He performs a one man show titled "Norman's One Night Stand." The show is the character Norman telling his story about life, love and relationships with music, singing, and laughter. He has performed this show in DC, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Part of the proceeds for all his shows go toward the National Kidney Foundation and the American Cancer Institute.
He is also in the process of writing a play titled "Honey Let Me Tell You." The books, stand up show and play will all be part of his "Honey Let Me Tell You" production company that he is forming.
Otis Randolf began writing in middle school - scribbling poems and song lyrics for his own personal entertainment. Though Randolf had a mild appreciation for writing, his passion was in music, which spawned a 15-year career in various aspects of the entertainment industry. He started out as a music marketing intern; planning artist meet-and-greets for retail accounts and in-store autograph signing events for consumers. He continued in the industry as the Executive Assistant for the popular children’s gospel choir, the Soul Children of Chicago. In that role, he planned and executed the logistics of their musical appearances that included the Democratic National Convention, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities, and the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Chicago House of Blues.
Randolf then migrated through the comedy arena, securing interviews and producing shows on college and university campuses nationwide for mid-level to up-and-coming comedians. Working with various students in this capacity sparked his creativity to resume writing, but he ignored it. Instead, he became a Sports Marketing and Promotions Manager, executing a nationwide bar and club promotion for Sports Marketing Enterprise’s (a division of R.J. Reynolds) Camel Amateur Pool League and Pro-Billiards series. Eventually, the company down-sized its operations and Randolf found relief in poetry. He finally acknowledged his writing as more than just a hobby and began performing during open mic poetry/jazz sets, reading material from his personal collection.
After courageously reciting lines from his journal, Randolf’s confidence soared and he continued participating at poetry/jazz sets in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and Washington, D.C. With his wide range of experience in the entertainment field, Randolf resigned from his position as Media Coordinator from BET Networks to focus on completing his first novel. Upon the release of his first novel, Shadows Behind the Rainbow, Randolf made several guest appearances on “The Robert Wesley Branch Show” with host Robert Wesley Branch, consulting producer for the 2-time NAACP Award winning show “Iyanla, Fix My Life.”
He currently resides in Washington, D.C. where he is completing the sequel to Shadows Behind The Rainbow (target date: early spring 2016).
Benjamin Robinson III
Benjamin Robinson III is a writer, poet and blogger from Philadelphia, Pa. A graduate of Temple University's Broadcast, Telecommunications and Mass Media curriculum, Benjamin has spent time traveling as an online content producer, served as host and co-host of two internet radio programs and written for websites such as Au'loni Magazine, Shot97 and Philadelphia Gay Calendar.
A native of Seattle, he grew up in Houston, Texas from the age of six. He is a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he was active in theatre and the lead male dancer of its modern/jazz dance ensemble. After Lincoln he studied briefly with the Philadelphia Dance Company and began his performing career in earnest.
His credits include: “Prison Poetry” with The Studio Theatre; “Much Ado About Nothing” with the Folger Shakespeare Theatre; “Deep Belly Beautiful” with the Hegira Theatre Company; “The City of Lost Dreams” with the Drama Department Theatre Company,; “The Lesbian and the Flying Pig” with Century Theatre 21 Theatre Commpany; 2004 DC Source Theatre Festival; “The Curious Savage” with the Serenity Players; “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” with American Century Theatre; “Cut/Uncut” and “Heartbeats” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; August Wilson’s, “Jitney” at the Studio Theatre; the acclaimed one-character play, “Conversation With a Diva” with the Actors Theatre of Washington; as a writer and actor with Emerald City Productions for, “Speak Out!” and “Love in Flight” and starring in the play, “The Group” at the Shakespeare Theatre. Other productions include: “Out of the Whirlwind”; “Calvin’s Dilemma”; “The Golden Journey”; “Pardon Me If I Cry”; “Spoon River Anthology”; “The Alternative”; “Make New Banners”; “A Raisin in the Sun”; “As You Like It”; “West Side Story”; “Blues for Mr. Charlie”; “In White America”; “Medea” and “Antigone.” He appeared in the films, “The Gentleman” and “Stop On a Dime” as well as various video productions and commercial promotions.
Michael has appeared as a featured or solo performer in theatrical productions, revues and benefits throughout the country. He is also an award-winning writer, cultural diversity workshop facilitator and fervent HIVAIDS and human rights activist.