Randal 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.
Madison Davis Lacy (Director) 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.
Darren 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) received her Master’s degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of Kansas in Spring 2011. Her finely tuned organizational skills, honed during her years on the campaign trail in Minnesota, Kansas and Pennsylvania, as well her film education have prepared her for the role of producer. Since receiving her degree she has been active in the Lawrence film community. She has acted as a producer for a major feature film, produced a sitcom pilot, created a parody news program, crafted political campaign commercials for the election cycles of 2012 and 2014 and produced two videos for the University of Kansas Endowment fundraising campaign “Far Above The Campaign for Kansas” and “Scholarships Open Opportunities.” She also completed her fifth feature length screenplay.
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. 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).
Elena Lacy (Archival Researcher) got her first degree in history and social sciences at the Pushkin Leningrad State University in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, received training in archival and museum studies, and practiced at an archeological site in Staraya Ladoga (Old Ladoga). After graduation from the university in 2001 she was invited to teach English at the Pushkin Leningrad State University where she got her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 2006. Her thesis was “The Organization of Hypertext on the Internet.” Elena has published one book and several articles on the topic of hypertextuality, presented at a conference in Tel-Aviv, Israel and other events. In 2012 she got a Fulbright scholarship to the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas, as a visiting professor. Her objective was to learn about using media in teaching English. In the process she acquired skills in media production. To conclude her Fulbright experience she shot and edited a fifteen-minute film, “Fulbright Cookbook”.