speakers draft

Leah C.K. Lewis

Founder and Executive Producer of GLAAWC

The Reverend Dr. Leah C.K. Lewis, J.D., is the head of Three Butterflies Entertainment & Press LLC. Leah is a writer, documentary filmmaker, social entrepreneur, and event producer. She is the author of Little Lumpy’s Book of Blessings, which serves as the subject of a project in development for animated children’s TV. Currently, Leah is directing and producing two documentaries, Black Buckeyes: A Tale of Two Cities, an independent production examining the lived and historical realities of African Americans in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and Leo’s Legacy for MidTown Cleveland Inc, which highlights Cleveland’s famed Leo’s Casino nightclub of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She also serves as co-producer of “Black Mary ” a co-production of POST Theatrical and DEMASKUS Theater Collective highlighting the life of Mary Fields, the first African American Star Route Mail Carrier in the United States, which will be streamed during Juneteenth 2021. Rev. Dr. Lewis serves as the spiritual consultant on the project as well. 

Leah is also the Founder and Executive Director of Little Lumpy’s Center for Educational Initiatives, whose signature event is the Great Lakes African American Writers Conference (GLAAWC pronounced “glossy”) of which Leah is the Executive Producer. In 2020, GLAAWC’s virtual conference reached over 5600 people in twenty states and four international countries. Her articles and commentary have appeared in The Christian Century, Cleveland Scene, Blavity.com, ForHarriet.com, and a host of other outlets. 

A former community organizer, minister of community engagement at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, elected official, and adjunct faculty at Tri-C and Georgia State University, Dr. Lewis now fully focuses on projects that promote equity and justice for African American people. With degrees from Ashland Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Howard University School of Law, and Bowling Green State University, Leah brings her whole being to every task she undertakes. Justice, equity, and eliminating knowledge deficits are always her focus even in her art. 

Felton Thomas

Executive Director of Cleveland Public Library

Felton Thomas, Jr. was appointed Director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) in January 2009.  Since then, he has positioned CPL as a community deficit fighter and launched initiatives aimed at addressing community needs in the areas of technology, education, and economic development.

During Felton’s tenure, CPL has maintained its “Five Star” status and been named a “Top Innovator” by the Urban Libraries Council for its use of technology and data to inform decision making.  Felton also has guided CPL through the worst recession in decades by actively seeking input from the community, and then reducing CPL’s budget by millions while still providing superior service and keeping all neighborhood branches open.

Felton’s vision for the Library is that of a strong leader in defining a more prosperous future for Cleveland by battling the digital divide, illiteracy, unemployment, and other community deficits with innovative programming and action at all branches. He has also launched a “Downtown Destination” campaign to reposition the Main Library for the 21st century and market its status as a major downtown attraction.

Felton is a native of Las Vegas, where, as a youth, he first developed his passion for libraries.  At age 13, he became the youngest employee in Las Vegas-Clark County Library District history when a librarian noticed his enthusiasm and encouraged him to become a page.  Thirty years later, the young page has move up the library ranks to become Director of one of the best libraries in the country.

Felton earned his undergraduate degree in psychology from The University of Nevada-Las Vegas and his Masters in Library Science from The University of Hawaii, and is currently pursuing his PhD in Managerial Leadership Management at Simmons College.

Felton lives in Shaker Heights with his wife and two daughters, is an accomplished musician, and has become a devoted Cleveland sports fan since his arrival on the shores of Lake Erie.

Shaunda Miles McDill

Chairman, Little Lumpy's Center for Educational Initiatives, the Home of GLAAWC

Shaunda Miles McDill joined The Heinz Endowments in October 2017, following more than a decade of nonprofit executive and arts management experience. As program officer for arts and culture, she works to promote the strength and vitality of a suite of Pittsburgh-based artists and arts organizations through general operating support and a programming portfolio comprised of the Small Arts Initiative, the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh initiative and the foundation’s first cross-programmatic social justice initiative, Just Arts, which she helped to found. Alongside her colleagues, she has also been instrumental in fortifying the role of the Endowments’ Creativity Strategic Area in utilizing art to combat stereotypes and improve outcomes for veterans as part of the foundation’s “Rethink Vets” campaign. She is currently leading the $10 million-dollar Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures initiative, which is part of the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures regional challenge program.

Shaunda has worked for theater companies across the country, including The Goodman Theatre of Chicago, Second Stage Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and Cornerstone Theater Company. With experience spanning dramaturgy, directing, producing, and playwriting, Shaunda has also worked as a publicist for the Blake Zidell and Associates, a Brooklyn-based public relations firm representing artists, arts institutions and festivals. In 2006, she founded DEMASKUS (www.demaskus.com), a national theatre collective currently participating in the inaugural B.U.I.L.D. residency at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center sponsored by R.K. Mellon.  As an individual artist, Shaunda in residence with Quantum Theatre as part of the company’s inaugural InQubator class.

In Pittsburgh, Shaunda previously served as vice president of programming and cultivation at the then August Wilson Center for African American Culture, where she managed all artistic and educational programs, and oversaw a $1 million programming budget. As the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s director of public relations, she headed both national and local public relations campaigns, including the North American premiere of Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck Project, which generated more than $10 million in direct spending in the city. She has directed operations at her home church of Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh in the Hill District and served as a consultant to Community Empowerment Association in Homewood.

Shaunda has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, where she studied under Pulitzer winner August Wilson, was directed by Ntozake Shange, and instructed by Augusto Boal. She also holds an MFA in theater management from Yale University’s School of Drama. She is a member of the Alpha Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and is in service to several local and national organizations and boards. Shaunda is married to Homewood native, Sager McDill and is the proud bonus Mom to four children, Matthew Levi Murray McDill (10), Maria & Melanie McDill (15), and Sager McDill, Jr. (18).

 

Grief & Writing as a Healing Modality

Meet The Panelists

Shauna Hibbitts

Shauna Hibbitts is a bilingual (Spanish) author, motivational speaker, podcast host, facilitator, early childhood specialist of over 30 plus years and a native of Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of the children’s book, “My Mismatched Socks”. “My Mismatched Socks” is an encouraging story that includes true accounts of Shauna and her sister’s upbringing in hopes of empowering children to embrace their unique selves. A proud moment indeed since Shauna promised her sister, Sabrina that she would write a children’s book one day about their lives. The next book in her children’s book series, “Rice and Beans Meets Collard Greens”,will come out in the Fall of 2023. Shauna’s most recent and first chapter book is catching the attention of many readers from all walks of life.

“The Power of Love Energy”, is a true story about her soulmate love with her late husband that passed unexpectedly. She writes about their love story in a particular way that helps readers to:

  • Believe and stay connected to real love
  • Identify how the importance of building resilience through inner work
  • Understand how bereavement therapy and grief-work saved her life

Her writing is extremely candid and brings the reader into what it’s like to become a young grieving widow for her true love. Available September 2022.

SHAVONNE J. MOORE - LOBBAN, PHD, ABPP.

Shavonne J. Moore-Lobban, PhD,ABPP,(she/her/hers) is a board-certified, licensed psychologist, and proud Cleveland native. She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Purdue University, her internship at Boston University School of Medicine’s Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology, and her fellowship at the Boston Veteran Affairs (VA)Healthcare System with Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry. She has  authored multiple publications and is a frequently sought out speaker on mental health and wellness, trauma recovery and healing, and culture and diversity. Dr. Shavonneis theco-author of the newly released book The Black Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Domestic Violence: Tools to Move Beyond Trauma, Reclaim Freedom, and Create the Life You Deserve. Her next co-authored book, Preventing Child Maltreatment in the U.S.: The Black Community Perspective, will be released September 2022

Joy A. Reid

Joy Reid is the owner of Life Enrichment: Individual, Family and Business Solutions LLC which provides Counseling services, Grief Recovery, Reiki, Customer Care Training, and  Professional Workshop Development.  She currently holds a license as a Ohio  Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and  Licensed Property & Casual Insurance Agent.  Ms. Reid is a certified  Grief Recovery Specialist and  Reiki Master. She  has  been a dedicated public servant for over 33yrs working in the field of Law Enforcement / Corrections.  Outside of her professional employment she has volunteered as a mentor for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s True 2 You Mentorship program and as a Hands On Care Volunteer with Hospice of the Western Reserve.  She is passionate about “living your life to the fullest and tapping into all the gifts and talents you possess”. She is driven by her faith  and her  passion for people.

Teresa Winston

Teresa Winston is CEO and owner of Winston Behavioral Healthcare, PSC (WBH) in Woodbury Minnesota. She is a licensed and seasoned Behavioral Health Clinical Psychotherapist who holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. Her clinical work focuses on depression, anxiety, and life transitions/issues that are connected. Teresa also holds a degree in Early Child Development and has worked in education for 15 plus years.  She currently is also an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota teaching in the department of Psychology.  

Black Booksellers Panel

Mordecai Cargill

Mordecai Cargill is a co-founder and Creative Director of ThirdSpace Action Lab and ThirdSpace Reading Room. Prior to starting this exciting venture, Mordecai served as the Director of Strategy, Research & Impact at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP), a community development intermediary whose mission is to foster communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland. There he provided oversight and analysis for the implementation of the CNP 2017–2021 Strategic Plan, focused primarily on three key areas of activity: Program Design and Evaluation; Research and Thought Leadership; and Partnership and Resource Development. After joining the CNP team in 2014 as Manager of Fund Development, Mordecai’s responsibilities included project management for strategic initiatives including as an Organizational Assessment (2014), and the strategic planning process (2016). He also contributed to CNP’s emerging policy and advocacy work, and co-led the organization’s efforts to elevate racial equity and inclusion as a citywide community development priority.

Mordecai earned his B.A. in African American Studies from Yale University, with a concentration on Black Culture in the 20th Century. He was awarded the William Pickens Prize for his senior thesis entitled, “The Black Arts Iconography of John Coltrane.”

Carlos Franklin

Carlos Franklin a Ypsilanti native co-founded Black Stone & Cultural Center in 2013. The Ann Arbor News reported it was the only bookstore in the area devoted to African American books and culture. “We want to create a community,” Carlos told the News. “You can go in there and meet people with powerful minds.” Carlos had been selling books in barber shops and beauty salons and gas stations around Ypsilanti. He came from a humble background; he was raised by his great-grandmother, who “loved books, loved knowledge.” Then a third-grade teacher began giving him books, and he found reading them “like no other feeling in the world. I wanted to share that feeling.” 

Virginia Mixon

Virginia Mixon has been the manager of the Schomburg Shop since the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture reopened following the brief closure due to the pandemic. Previously, she was the Shop associate since 2014. She is responsible for curating the selection of books, branded merchandise, and gifts, developing collaborations with vendors, artists, and authors of color, the weekly New York Times booksellers’ report, and coordinating with Schomburg Center public programs and special events. 

“Working at the Schomburg Center is a joyful immersion in history and culture. It is encouraging to see the impact the Center has on students and visitors from the neighborhood and global community. It is a privilege to walk through the Center’s doors daily. Thank you, Mr. Schomburg, for your commitment to our history. Your inspiration is needed as much now as before.”

Film Screening

James Hemings: The Ghost in America's Kitchen

Chef Ashbell Mcelveen

Ashbell’s story is pure Americana: from humble beginnings as the great grandson of a sharecropper in rural South Carolina, he discovered his gift of spinning down home food and flavors into heavenly ambrosia from his trio of family ‘cooking saints’: Mother Retha Ludd, Great Aunt Laura and Papa Ashbell.

Educated at the Sorbonne, he travelled the world soaking up the ethnic tapestry of culture, tradition and cuisine that binds us all. Returning to the US, he successfully branded and nationally distributed his own food products, while doing stints as executive chef for high profile restaurants and private corporate dining rooms. His talents soon caught the attention of the likes of Robert De Niro, President Bill Clinton, Patti La Belle and other celebrities, who engaged his services. Soon NBC television took notice and Chef Ashbell became on-camera presenter for the WNBC Weekend Today Show. There he cooked with Donald Trump, Matt Lauer, Al Roker and a host of other celebrities, raising ratings and wowing New York’s ethnically diverse community with his larger-than-life personality and impressive knowledge of everything from potato latkes to Cuban pernil.

In 2001, Ashbell took his talents ‘across the pond’ to London, helming Harlem@Saint, a supper club in busy Covent Garden. Ashbell was invited to join the BBC television show Good Food Live as a result of Harlem@Saint.

Also 2002, Ashbell received a commission from the Royal Parks to run an exclusive café for the famed Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion designed by architect Toyo Ito.

In 2003 Ashbell opened his eponymous restaurant in trendy Notting Hill, dazzling AA Gill, the acknowledged ‘toughest restaurant critic in the world’ who bestowed a 4-star rating on Ashbells.

Chef Ashbell is a regular on BBC Cable Food TV’s most popular show, Good Food Live, and appears on BBC Broadcast TV across the UK on Good Food Bites. He is currently launching a new line of handcrafted limited-edition specialty foods, ‘Bespoke Cuisine’, a new beverage product, and is in pre-production for the filming of his show on US Public Television, Chef Ashbell’s Food in America.

Filmmaker Anthony Werhun

Anthony Werhun is a television, film and commercial producer & director who is known for his direction of the award-winning Comcast series, “Voices of The Civil Rights Movement.” 

Anthony directed two award-winning documentaries in 2004 and 2006 before taking a position with NFL Films in 2009.  In 2010 Anthony joined Cornerstone Pictures, where he has produced and/or directed projects for commercial clients such as Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Starkist, Chesapeake Energy, Hersheypark, Turkey Hill, and Conair, while collaborating with Comcast for nine years on the expansive civil rights multi-platform docuseries, “Voices of The Civil Rights Movement,” which is the most watched Comcast original programming to-date. 

In 2017 Anthony partnered with Chef Ashbell McElveen to create a documentary about the life, legacy, and erasure of America’s unknown culinary founding father, James Hemings.  “Ghost in America’s Kitchen” debuted at The Roxbury International Film Festival in 2021, winning Best Feature Documentary.  Anthony is currently in production for two new documentary projects while looking forward to the general release of the James Hemings documentary on November 4, 2022. 

Meet The Hosts

Dawn Arrington

Dawn Arrington is a writer, community activist and literacy advocate. In 2018, after witnessing adult illiteracy first hand, she decided to take action and created Comics at the Corner. Comics at the Corner seeks to put literacy in the form of comic books with African American main characters in the hands of residents of the Buckeye-Shaker, Woodland Hills, and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods. 

Dawn’s passion for the written word is a life long love affair that has spanned projects such as self-publishing a romance novel in 2006 and returning to school for a Masters in English and Creative Writing.  Dawn has been a guest blogger for the innovative Sidewalks of Buckeye project and wrote the forward for the Inner City Hues art installation “Marigolds of Buckeye” by photographer and Shooting w/o Bullets founder Amanda King. Her latest project, The Buckeye Green Infrastructure Project, marries her love for poetry and her community in a series of one stanza poem along Buckeye Road celebrating and explaining the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s rain garden and underground storm water detention system along Buckeye road on Cleveland’s east side. 

Dawn is a wife and the mother of two spirited children. With whatever spare time she has she tries to make the most of it with family, friends, and whenever possible a really good book. 

Karla C. Payne

Karla C. Payne is an accomplished writer/actor/poet/voice-over talent. She wrote and produced her first production in 2014, entitled Poetic Rehab, a collage of performance poets set in a theatrical format. Karla has appeared in countless productions for companies such as Barnstormers Theatre, New Horizon Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company and Shona Sharif Drum and Dance Ensemble. Under the penname “Spirit-Lead (lehd)”, Karla released two spoken word CDs, Words Unspoken and Relatively Speaking, and a poetry chapbook entitled From My Indigo Pen. She is currently working on multiple theatrical projects.

Vince Robinson

Vince Robinson is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Cleveland, Ohio.  His career path took him through stints as a radio news reporter, television and radio producer/host, voiceover artist, entertainment journalist and photographer.  He currently hosts Open Door (a television show) and a radio version of Open Door on 95.9 FM WOVU – Cleveland, in addition to co-hosting and co-producing 360 Info Network, an African-centered radio talk show on AM1490 WERE – Cleveland. Robinson is the owner of Larchmere Arts, an art gallery, photography studio and performance venue in Cleveland.  He’s a pianist and the leader of Vince Robinson & The Jazz Poets since 1997. His book “Got Words?,” was published in 2015.

Talent

Simmie Davis

I am a vocalist, songwriter, and musician who has been performing professionally in Northeast Ohio since the eighties. Performances in theatre, jazz venues, gospel productions, classical, and special events have been the highlights of this career. 

Currently, I am writing music, creating, and performing with and booking bands.   I am the co-founder and lead vocalist of Timbara, a Latin/ Jazz Fusion band, as well as My Favorite Things, a straight-ahead jazz Trio. I serve as a lead soprano for the Community Gospel Creative Ensemble (musical director R. Smith). These labors of love have kept me in the Cleveland music scene, lending my voice to jingles, Public Service Announcements, and virtual performances on the Zoom platform, and other social media during the Pandemic. 

Baba Jubal Harris, B.S.E.d.

Baba Jubal Harris, B.S.E.d. is the founder of the Ohio Heart Beat Drum Circle. He is a master teaching artist with the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning program. Harris is a member of OAAE’s Artists in Schools roster. He has served on the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) Collaborative for Arts Education, Ohio State Wide Plan For Arts Education 2018, Ohio Arts Council (OAC) review panelist and speaker at Ohio Arts Council, ”Arts Impact” state conference 2018. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Cincinnati Warner Amex Community Access Cable first place producer award for his TV program “The Living Artist” featuring Benin wood sculptor Felix Eboghe,  2006 nomination for an Ohio Governor’s Award for Arts Education receiving personal recognition from Arts Education Award recipient Dr. Jacquelyn Quay. 2009 Creative Workforce Fellowship from Community Partnership for the Arts and Culture, Cleveland Ohio. Ohio Arts Council, 2012, 2013,2019, Traditional Artist Apprentice Fellowship, Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Heritage Award 2015. On January 8, 2020 at Ouidah Benin West Africa, Baba Jubal Harris received the Chieftaincy title Saranon Aho (Bridge Maker). This Chieftaincy title was bestowed under the auspice of the North American African Cultural Restoration Monarchy, AdeOlomo, Vidaho Osunsi Monarch. 

Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers

Judy Bateman (MIZ JED)

Judy Bateman (MIZ JED) is a storyteller, retired teacher, wife, mother, church usher,  toastmaster, and quilter.  Judy is also involved in her sorority (AKA) and is a member of several storytelling organizations.   She has even been an award winner in several National Storytelling events  Being a native of Virginia, she loves to tell southern tales.   As a former teacher, she has plenty of teacher tales.   Her two miniature schnauzers also left her with many tales to tell.  When she’s not working on new stories, Judy enjoys watching some of the old television shows she couldn’t watch when she was working.. often bringing on new ideas for new stories.  She says one blessing from the pandemic has been to stay in, read more and sharpen her skills in writing more tales for when the better days come.  Well…they’re almost here.   Judy’s favorite saying is,” Play as hard as you work”.

Michele Rudolph

Michele is a retired social worker and acknowledges that a story can bond a group together. The story becomes the shared experience that unites the audience.  As a professional storyteller and teaching artist she uses stories to share and celebrate her rich and beautiful culture.

Michele is the immediate past President of the Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers (CABS), member of CABS Executive Board and a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). 

Ms. Rudolph has performed at schools, libraries and community events for audiences of all ages.  She was one of the featured artists in “A Tribute to Maya Angelou” at the historically renowned theater, Karamu House. She wrote, directed and performed two original shorts; 3 Winds Blowing Towards Freedom, 2017 and A Tiny Black Mountain 2020 at Cleveland Public Theatre Station Hope, a celebration of hope, freedom and community at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland’s Underground Railroad Station.  Michele’s short story, Cleveland: The New Promised Land was published in the book Far From Their Eyes: Ohio Migration Anthology, Volume 1.

Donna Willingham

Donna Willingham is a retired Branch Manager from the Cleveland Public Library system. She is also an “always learning” Storyteller. Stories shared strongly emphasize African and African-American culture, and are tailored to be shared with either youth or adult audiences. 

Ms. Willingham uses storytelling as a means for highlighting and illustrating morals, offering encouragement, and stimulating imaginative thinking. According to Ms. Willingham, “If a message can be passed from a story that eases an emotional hurt, helps to illustrate the importance of a moral, or just brings out a good “laugh”, then I’d like for that to happen”.