take a moment to go inside
joi m. sears takes a moment to go inside

Creative Director’s Biography


Ebony Noelle Golden is the daughter of Pearl Glover, Bertha Sims and Betty Sims. She is a native of Houston, TX. Ebony holds a BA in English Literature and Poetry from Texas A & M University an MFA in Poetry from American University and a MA in Performance Studies from New York University. Ebony is an artist and cultural worker who has been awarded grants from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Fund for Southern Communities, North Carolina A & T University and New York University. She has been published by Black Issues and Books Review, American Book Review, Obsidian, Pluck, and Third World Press.   Ebony serves as the creative director of Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, a boutique arts consulting group, based in NYC and NC.  Her current projects include, “Gumbo Ya/Ya or This is Why We Speak in Tongues”, Images: for Younger SiStars, The Community Writing Intensive, i hear you breathing for me/ an embodied blues for meagan williams (multi-media performance) and “again, the water carriers” (a full length book of poetry).  Ebony’s work is informed by her ancestral and spiritual family, guides, and homes, primarily.   She can be reached at bettysdaughterarts@gmail.com or www.bettysdaughterarts.synthasite.com.

kenyaKenya C. Harris, Intern 

I am a mother. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I have been one this earth for 34  years. Life is unfolding beautifully. I am grateful for this new experience in North Carolina and my adventure as an intern for Gumbo Ya  Ya. My first career is an an educator. I have a Bachelor’s in English, Writing. I am currently a Part time Instructor at Durham Technical Community College. I am a full time Wife and MOM. My family and I find great peace in educating and empowering Black families.


2009 Gumbo YaYa Participants

mama-nia1Poet, storyteller, grassroots organizer, Nia Wilson  has acquired over twenty years of direct care services, ranging from early childhood education, youth drop out and pregnancy prevention and mentally handicapped adults. As the current Executive Director of SpiritHouse, a local grassroots organization committed to the liberation of oppressed communities of color, Nia works alongside those most affected by illiteracy poverty and racism to assess, express and address community needs, to determine a better future for us all. 







SiStar Bryonna (bio coming soon)


miss-kiuDr. Kiu Smith is a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a healer who humbly admits her own limitations while boldly asserting that it is absolutely necessary to transform. In every moment of her interactions with the women of our community she is living proof of the power to survive, living witness to the power of faith, and living dedication to the power of each of us to be whole. In the meantime, she is a psychologist, risk and prevention specialist, certified holistic health counselor, and holds advanced degrees from Wesleyan, Harvard, and New York University.  


sisalexis2Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a queer black trouble maker, a diasporic afro-antillean grandchile, a domesticated graffiti artist, and love embodied. Alexis is progressing towards a PhD in English, African and African American Studies and Women’s Studies at Duke University. Her academic work looks at gender and violence in diasporic black literature in the Americas with a focus on the Caribbean Diaspora and Third World Women’s publising initiatives. She is also the founder of BrokenBeautiful Press, a not-for-profit creationspace (brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com), and member of the advisory board of The Coup Magazine (thecoupmagazine.com). Alexis is also facilitator of a creative writing/community reimagining program through SpiritHouse (spirithouse-nc.org) and artistic response point person for UBUNTU, a women of color/survivor led coalition committed to ending gendered violence (sustaintransformlove.blogspot.com or iambecauseweare.wordpress.com) Feel free to tag Alexis back at alexispauline@gmail.com  


SiStar Nadirah (bio coming soon)










Connie Leeper of JadaWorks, A Kannapolis, North Carolina native, developed her love for gourds and percussion through a gradual process of linking her handwork to her heartwork.  Her deep roots in the community, including extensive family and community relationships, shaped her understanding of the necessity for integrating our full selves for transformational healing.  This led to bringing her cultural work into her community building and activism. JadaWorks was designed as her personal healing process and grew into a public tool to lift up individual creativity while promoting a connection to community and culture.  JadaWorks brings intent and mindfulness to our ability to tap into our creative process despite any negative messages we have internalized.  Connie continues to make gourd works for art and utility and offers workshops for young people and adults to re-learn to create.  She views cultural work as a sustaining, healing tool toward the long haul of movement building for social change and personal and community well-being.  Connie is an Organizer and Trainer with the Durham based non profit, Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network.



SiStar Mykayla (bio coming soon)








After graduating from Duke University in 2006, Zachari J. Curtis received a Fulbright Grant to study women in Brazilian youth culture and popular music in Rio de Janeiro.  She is now an artist, dancer and activist in Washington, D.C. Her interests include sisterhood, capoeira angola, and afro-feminist futurism.






SiStar Precious (bio coming soon)









Dr. Anjail Rashida Ahmad is currently the director of the New Creative Writing @ A&T program at North Carolina A&T State University. As a poet who experiences blindness, she seeks to link her knowledge of the sighted world with her perceptions through blindness with life’s invitation to get involved with living fully in every moment. She believes that every voice and every vision is vital to the life of a community. She also believes that art in order to be truly effective has to be rooted and grounded in authentic life experience, what it means to be human. As a poet educator and activist, Ahmad strives to use her voice as well as her vision to bring these ideals into reality.

Ahmad has received numerous awards and honors, among them, in 2008, she was reelected to the board of the North Carolina ACLU. In 2007 she was one of two NC artist to win a Headlands Center for the Arts Residency and a NC Arts Council Artist Grant. In 2006, she was nominated for the Human Rights Medal for her community service and efforts at social justice in the area of disability rights. Ahmad was a leader in the recent initiative to retain affordable paratransit fares in the City by working with both the North Carolina ACLU and The North Carolina Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities  to register the voices of concerned riders.





Dr. Nana Anoa Nantambu has lived in Durham, NC since December 2005.  Before that time, she had lived most of her life in New Orleans, LA.  Nana Anoa is purposefully living through her efforts to develop the newly incorporated Wholely Living Simply Living, which she refers to as her life work. The mission of Wholely Living Simply Living, Inc.(WLSL) is to provide well-being, coaching and resource services to African American women to promote, encourage and reinforce their holistic health and their full acceptance and actualization of inherent power to transform their lives, their families, their communities and the planet. The inaugural event of WLSL was held on March 15, 2008.  The gathering of African American women met to consider the theme of the event: Fortifying Trust to Live in Trust.  There have been three additional gatherings since that time.


msnadirah3As Founder & Visionary of the Wombmens Temple, Nadirah Goldsmith has always enjoyed organizing and gathering women;  bringing them together to enlighten, inspire, encourage and motivating them to live their greatest life. Ms. Goldsmtih has been most passionate about empowering women to transform the direction of the world by healing themselves, their families, their community, the nation and ultimately the world.

Since graduating from Bennett College in 1999 with a B.A. in Psychology and studying in the graduate Women & Gender Studies at UNCG Nadirah has been extensively involved with the work of healing women throughout the nation.  After organizing and sponsoring a 2003 event at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center featuring World renowned Healer Queen Afua and drawing more than 200 women from 4 states; I received a vision for the Heal a Woman, Heal a World: Sacred Wombman Tour. A leading empowerment concert touring production featuring a variety of female musicians, empowerment specialists and performing artists devoted to healing and transforming the minds, hearts and souls of women of all ages through enlightening, inspiring and empowering entertainment. 


shapeimage_2Mabinti Shabu is a Master djembe player and teacher with experience performing with Valerie Naranjo, The African American Dance Ensemble, and many more.  Mabinti has been dancing all of her life, touring and performing with dance companies in NYC and abroad. Mabinti currently teaches and choreographs with Ethyln Lassiter dance ensemble as well as teaching dance classes in Raleigh and Durham NC.  Mabinti is  a master Balafon and Ngoni player. She is currently recording the Balankora album.  www.themagicofafricanrhythm.com.


sistaindia1Little SiStar India (bio to come)






Little Sistar Diamond (bio to come)


 2007-2008 Gumbo YaYa Participants



Vision boards led by Kenya Harris.

Assistant Director

Geneva S. Thomas is the daughter of Shirley Thomas-Calhoun, Geneva Thomas and Classie Brown. She is an artist-scholar and native of Detroit, MI. Geneva has studied Katherine Dunham, Senegalese and Hip Hop dance techniques since a youth. She holds an interdisciplinary B.A. in history, theater and Black Diasporic studies from Michigan State University where she studied Black women’s language, feminism(s) and performance under the mentorship of Drs. Geneva Smitherman and Pero G. Dagbovie. Geneva has studied in the UK, France, South Africa and the Caribbean. As a graduate student at New York University’s Gallatin School, under the advisement of Dr. Debra Willis, her current interests deals with representations of Black women’s bodies in fashion and the body politic. Geneva is interested in laying claim to a fashion narrative that considers how socio-political movements have both informed and influenced the costuming of Black women’s bodies. Geneva is currently hard at work in the development of “The Black Girl[Politic]” a methodology and discourse of “equal opportunity feminism” that she says speaks to the “Big Mommas, Keyshias and Uncle Junebugs.”


Ayanna Williams earned a MA in Performance Studies from New York University. She is a singer, actress, and dancer/choreographer who combines mediums to query and re-conceive traditional performance practice. Her theoretical interests include critical race theory, post-colonial politics, diasporic relationships, and gender politics as they relate to her own performance practice. She is currently working on her first solo work and debut album.

Camille Evans is a social worker and graduate of the MA program in Social Work/ Counseling program here at NYU. She directs a community center in Brooklyn.

Ron Amber is a poet and graduate student at NYU.  She has been awarded a Fulbright grant and has lived and created music in Germany.

Brandy Peyton is a MA student at NYU.  Her interests include construction of celebrity, film and TV.  Brandy holds an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies from Swathmore in Philadelphia.

Crystal Boyd is an undergraduate theatre major NYU. She is currently affiliated with The Collective and the Hip Hop Theatre Initiative.

Tonya Hegamin is a poet, author, belly dancer and yogi from Philadelphia, PA. www.tonyacheriehegamin.com.

Samantha Thornhill is a poet, teacher and performer currently teaching at Julliard.

Alexis P. Gumbs is a doctoral candidate at Duke University. She can be found at www.thatlittleblackbook.blogspot.com.

Joi M. Sears is a playwright, poet and community artist interested in social justice theatre. She will study this summer with Augusto Boal in Brazil and has been featured at the Gallatin Arts Festival. She is a graduate student in the department. http://www.theatreforthefreepeople.com/

Chelsea Adewunmi is a MA student in the Performance Studies department. Chelsea is also an accomplished singer and dancer.

Heather Wilson is a dancer and choreographer from Norwalk, CT. She has been awarded scholarships for her dance and choreography from the American Dance Festival at Duke University.

Nia Wilson is a visionary and organizer living and working in Durham, NC. Her community work is widely funded by local and state-wide organizations. She is the Executive Director of SpiritHouse. www.spirithouse-nc.org

Johanna F Almiron is a graduate of the MA in Performance Studies Program at NYU. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Hawaii. Her interests include Basquiat, Black Performance, spirituality and dance.

Please note: Some participants chose to remain anonymous.


Kenya’s vision board.