About Us

Kevin Willmott (Director) is a University of Kansas Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies. He is the 2019 Oscar co-winner with director Spike Lee for best screenplay adaptation. Willmott also wrote and directed the critically acclaimed feature film C.S.A: Confederate States Of America, about America, had the South won the Civil War. After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, IFC Films purchased the film for domestic theatrical distribution. CSA was released theatrically in the U.S. by IFC and was distributed in several foreign countries.

The Only Good Indian, 2009, starring Wes Studi (Avatar, Last of the Mohicans), J. Kenneth Campbell (Bulworth, Yulee’s Gold) and newcomer Winter Fox Frank, premiered at The Sundance Film Festival. The Only Good Indian was written and produced by Thomas L. Carmody. PorchLight Entertainment has secured sales rights for foreign distribution. Domestically, the film is currently being seen on the Encore and Movieplex television networks, and can be streamed online at Netflix.

The Battle for Bunker Hill, 2008, starring NYPD Blue‘s James McDaniel, Saeed Jaffrey (Gandhi), Laura Kirk (Lisa Picard is Famous), Kevin Geer (American Gangster) and Blake Robbins (Oz, The Office). Willmott is producer and director of Bunker Hill, from a script he wrote with Greg Hurd.

Ninth Street, an independent feature film starring Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes, was written, produced and co-directed by Willmott. He also played the role of “Huddie” one of the films main characters. Ninth Street was released by Ideal.

Randal Maurice JelksRandal Maurice Jelks (Executive Producer, Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Professor of American Studies and African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. He also holds courtesy appointments in History and Religious Studies and serves as co- editor of the journal American Studies. Jelks is also one of the founders and editors of http://theblackbottom.com a blog of African American Politics, Culture and Activism in Michigan. A graduate of the University of Michigan (BA in History), McCormick Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity) and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in History), Jelks’s research and writing interests are in the areas of American Religious Studies, Religions of the African Diaspora, and Religion in American Social Movements. He is the author of two award-winning books: African Americans in the Furniture City: The Civil Rights Struggle in Grand Rapids (The University of Illinois Press, 2006), winner of the 2006 State History Award, given by University and Commercial Press, Historical Society of Michigan; and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography (University of North Carolina Press 2012), winner of the 2013 Lillian Smith Book Award, sponsored by the Southern Regional Council, University of Georgia Libraries, and the Dekalb County Library/Georgia Center for the Book.

IMG_7328Darren Canady (Writer) hails from Topeka, KS. His work has been produced at the Alliance Theatre (Atlanta, GA), Congo Square Theater (Chicago, IL), Horizon Theatre (Atlanta, GA), the Old Vic Theatre (London, UK), M Ensemble (Miami, FL), Milwaukee Repertory Theater (Milwaukee, WI) and others. His awards include the Alliance Theater’s Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award, Chicago’s Black Excellence Award, the Black Theatre Alliance Award, and the American Theatre Critics Association’s Osborn Award. His work has been recognized in the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Competition, the Theodore Ward Prize for African-American Playwrights, and the James W. Rodgers Competition. His work has been developed at numerous festivals including the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwright’s Conference. How Theo Changed His Name, an opera for which Darren provided the libretto, was premiered through the Pittsburgh (PA) Symphony Orchestra. His play You’re Invited appeared in The Best American Short Plays 2010-2011. His work has been seen or developed at the Quo Vadimus Arts’ ID America Festival, the Fremont Centre Theatre, Premiere Stages, the BE Company, Penumbra Theatre, and American Blues Theater. Darren is an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Juilliard School. He is a former member of Primary Stages’ Dorothy Strelsin New Writers Group, and a past participant in the T.S. Eliot US/UK Exchange. He is an artistic affiliate with American Blues Theater and Congo Square Theatre. He currently teaches playwriting at the University of Kansas.

Tess Banion (Producer), is an author, a producer and activist.  She received her Master’s degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of Kansas in Spring 2011. Before graduate school she worked for several decades in political campaigns in Kansas and Minnesota.  She is in pre-production I Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled through the Dream Documentary Collective with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She produced a trailer Kids Who Die for the Hughes project and a short film, Langston’s Lawrence, funded by the Kansas Humanities Council of Kansas and sponsored by the Douglas County Historical Society.

She is currently in post production on a documentary film about the pluralistic society that features foreign workers, asylum seekers and refugees working in the Kansas agriculture and meat packing industry in Southwest Kansas.   A foiled bomb attach, planned by white supremacists in 2016, by the FBI, which targeted Somali refugees, show the strength, courage, and legacy of the people of Garden City – the descendants of the earliest inhabitants and new arrivals. This film provides a connection to the heated national discussion of immigration.

Tess’ inaugural novel,  A Parting Glass, was described by James A. Cox, of the  Midwest Book Review as  “A deftly crafted and engaging story of hope and transformations,  “A Parting Glass” showcases author Tess Banion’s genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling. One of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf, “A Parting Glass” is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.

John Edgar Tidwell (Ph.D., University of Minnesota) is Professor of English at the University of Kansas.  His areas of research include American and African American literatures.  He has published numerous books, including Livin’ the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet (1992); Black Moods: Poems by Frank Marshall Davis (2003);  After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling A. Brown (2009); Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press (2007); Montage of a Dream: The Art and Life of Langston Hughes (2007); Sterling A. Brown’s A Negro Looks at the South (2007); and, with Carmaletta M. Williams, My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938 (2013).  He has also published a considerable number of essays, book reviews, literary dictionary entries, interviews, and bibliographies. In 2001-2002, he served as Project Director for “Reading and Remembering Langston Hughes,” funded, in part, by the Kansas Humanities Council.  He has also served as a member of KHC’s Speakers’ Bureau and Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) program.

Carmaletta M. WilliamsCarmaletta M. Williams (Ph.D., University of Kansas) recently retired from Johnson County Community College after serving 26 years as a professor of English and African American Studies.  Over the course of her career, she focused her academic interests on racial identity formation; slavery; novelist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston; the Missouri-born Langston Hughes; and the Harlem Renaissance. Williams has performed a one-woman play, Zora Neale Hurston: Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, throughout the Midwest, nation, and the world. Williams is also the author of several articles, book chapters, literary encyclopedia entries, book reviews, and books, including Langston Hughes in the Classroom: Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me (2006); Of Two Spirits: American Indian and African American Oral Histories (2007); with John Edgar Tidwell, My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938 (2013); and Jacine and Grandma’s Cane (2014).

Madison Davis LacyMadison Davis Lacy (Special Advisor) is a four-time Emmy Award winning producer/director of documentaries for television, audio/visual product for museums, corporate entities, and educational interpretive centers.  Lacy is presently an Associate Professor at the University of Kansas, teaching documentary composition and production in the Film and Media Studies Department, School of the Arts.  Lacy was a contributing producer to Ken Burns’ history of JAZZ, and produced two films for Henry Hampton’s series EYES ON THE PRIZE II.  Lacy has held executive programming positions at PBS, WGBH, and produced for American Movie Classics (AMC), the National Parks Service, and Amaze Design, Boston.  Emmys were awarded to Lacy for EYES ON THE PRIZE, PBS; BEYOND TARA—The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel-AMC; FREE TO DANCE, PBS, and RICHARD WRIGHT-BLACK BOY, PBS.

Sarah Bishop (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is the Chief Communications Officer at the Lawrence Arts Center overseeing marketing, fundraising, and external communications. Sarah started as the freelance grant writer for the Lawrence Arts Center in 2012, and since then, has helped to successfully obtain grant funding from the ArtPlace America Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and other public and private funding agencies. Prior to assuming her full-time position at the Lawrence Arts Center, Sarah also worked as the grant professional at Johnson County Community College and as a grant development research assistant at the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas.  Sarah has her B.A. in English literature, graduating with honors, magna cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University, and her Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature and Film from the University of Virginia.

Stacy Galloway Haywood returned to Lawrence from California in 2012 to start her job as Chief Operating Officer at the Lawrence Arts Center. Her previous position was Controller and Chief Compliance Officer at Halbert Hargrove Global Advisors LLC in Long Beach, California. She was responsible for accounting, human resources and compliance for the corporation. She remains the trustee for the HHR Buy/Sell Trust. Stacy has a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in business-accounting from California State University Fullerton.