The 2017 Kimbilio Fellows


Tiffany Austin

Tiffany Austin often talks about places because she is originally from the amorphous Upper South and therefore a wanderer.  She currently teaches rhetorical and creative writing at the University of The Bahamas.  She holds a BA from Spelman College, JD from Northeastern University School of Law, MFA from Chicago State University, and PhD in English from Saint Louis University (where she studied musical connections between the works of Gayl Jones and Afro-Ecuadorian writer Luz Chiriboga).  Austin maintains a concern for social justice, examining at conferences the body politics of post-incarceration, the protest of non-mobile corporeality, and being invited as a guest lecturer on “Poetry and Social Justice” at Ball State University.  She has published poetry in African American ReviewCallalooObsidianpluck!Valley Voices, and Sycorax’s Daughters, a speculative literature anthology.  Her photo essay “A South in Sound” was also recently published in TriQuarterly and her essay “The Gendered Blues in Sonia Sanchez’s Morning Haiku” in the anthology Sonia Sanchez’s Poetic Spirit through Haiku.  She has received fellowships or grants from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Mississippi Arts Commission, and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop.

Tara Campbell

With a BA in English and an MA in German, Tara Campbell ( has a demonstrated aversion to money and power. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she has also lived in Oregon, Ohio, New York, Germany and Austria. She currently lives in Washington, DC where she volunteers with literary/arts organizations like Artomatic, 826DC, the Writer’s Center, and the Washington Independent Review of Books.In 2016, she was the grateful recipient of two awards from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities: the Larry Neal Writer’s Award in Adult Fiction, and the Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding New Artist.

Tara is an MFA candidate at American University and an assistant fiction editor at Barrelhouse. Her monthly column at the Washington Independent Review of Books, Text in the City, covers all things books and writing in the DC area. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Barrelhouse, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Establishment, The Master’s Review, Litbreak, Punchnel’s, For Harriet, Quail Bell Magazine, Booth, Heavy Feather Review, Luna Station Quarterly, District Lit, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse.

Her first novel, TreeVolution, was released in November 2016, and her collection of short fiction and poetry, Circe’s Bicycle, will appear in fall 2017.

Herve Comeau

Herve Comeau is a Haitian-American writer. He received his B.A. in English Literature from Florida State University in 2008. In 2009, he went on to attend Cornell Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate in 2013. He is a also a recent graduate of Syracuse University’s prestigious MFA program. His poetry has appeared in Pif, and Birdfeaast; his fiction in Hobart. He was a winner of the Leonard Brown Poetry Prize, a recipient of the Cornelia Carhart Ward fellowship, and a finalist for the Olive B O’Connor Fellowship. He currently works as a public interest Immigration attorney in Syracuse, NY. He serves on the advisory board of the NY Civil Liberties Union, and is an organizer with Black Lives Matter Syracuse.

Chekwube Danladi

Chekwube Danladi is a writer of of fiction and poetry, born in Lagos and raised in D.C. and West Baltimore. She is working towards an MFA at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She enjoys vegan baking, hiking, and Nigerian pop music.

RJ Eldridge

RJ Eldridge is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and educator. A graduate of the University of South Florida’s graduate program in Africana Studies, where his studies focused on literature and critical theory, Eldridge has engaged widely on the role of the arts in constructing identity, and seeks to help expand the dimensions of contemporary discussion on the intersections between performance, history, race, ontology and myth.

His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Apogee Journal, AFROPUNK, Obsidian,the Offing, Puerto Del Sol, Transition, wildness and others. He is a contributing essayist to The Whiskey of our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience and Change Agent (2017 Haymarket Books) edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Georgia A. Popoff. His photography, visual and performance work has been exhibited at the Logan Center, Chicago Art Department, Hyde Park Arts Center, Arts Incubator, Galeria Bianconi and others. He made a national television debut in September 2013 as a performer in the series Lexus Presents: Verses and Flow and stars in the short film Akata.

His current projects include an ongoing photographic study and documentation of Party Noire, a Chicago-rooted Black queer femme-centered dance party / ceremony, and works in prose, poetry visual art that inquire about and explore yearning and the Black mind in a shifting moment.

Jonathan Escoffery

Jonathan Escoffery hails from Miami, and is the winner of the 2016 Waasnode Fiction Prize, a 2017 Somerville Arts Council Artist Fellowship, and the 2017 Ivan Gold Fellowship from The Writers’ Room of Boston. His writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, The Caribbean Writer, Salt Hill Journal, Solstice, and elsewhere. Jonathan earned his MFA in Fiction from the University of Minnesota, where he was a DOVE Fellow. He has taught creative writing at UMN and at GrubStreet in Boston, where, while on staff, he founded GrubStreet’s Writers of Color group and helped develop workshops that de-centered whiteness. He is currently the Writer-in-Residence at Wellspring House artist retreat in Western MA.

Faithna Geffrard

Faithna Geffrard is a Haitian-American writer and traveler. She doesn’t like writing about herself, but here we are. As a student of Anthropology, she often reads about other cultures and has been known to watch too many documentaries. Faithna believes in taking risks which is why she eats ice cream despite being lactose intolerant.

Enyeribe Ibegwam

Enyeribe Ibegwam was brought up in Lagos, Nigeria. His work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He lives in Washington DC, where he’s a graduate student at Georgetown University.

Matthew B. Kelley

Matthew B. Kelley earned his BS in Chemistry from Morehouse College. He is a writer and Teach for America ’15 corps member teaching Chemistry at Langston Hughes High School in Atlanta, GA.

Jessica Lanay

Jessica Lanay is a short story writer and poet originally from the Florida Keys. She is interested in writing towards the incalculable nature of human emotions, psychology and metaphysical dilemmas. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh and works at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. Before Jessica was published she participated in the writing workshops La Casa Azul (moderated by Emilia Fiallo and Staceyann Chin), and the Brown University Callaloo Workshop. She also founded a women’s’ editorial group called The Jasper Collective while working in the advertising department of Poets & Writers Magazine. It was during her work with the Jasper Collective that Jessica published the majority of her fiction pieces, she believes that working with a diverse body of women in editorial partnership was a large reason for achieving those publications. Jessica Lanay’s fiction writing can be found in Five Quarterly, Crab Fat Literary Magazine,TAYO Literary Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, Duende, and Black Candies: A Journal of Literary Horror. She is currently editing her collection of short stories.

Charlise Lyles

Charlise Lyles a constant gardener. I can grow luscious food and beautiful, limelight hydrangea paniculata, purple gladiolas, and gigantic red and orange canna lilies that leap like a match just lit. My lifeline is as long as my tree line–seven insouciant Japanese maples, three pine trees with attitudes, and one stuck-up crepe myrtle.  Like Charles Dickens and Derrick Walcott, I am a constant walker,  seven miles in a day, sometimes eleven. This is my way of dancing and praying and plotting my protest all at once.

I study, embrace, and practice a form of Mayahana Buddhism.

In another life, I was a journalist-reporter, columnist, and education editor-who won many awards: An Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship; an Ohio State University Kiplinger Public Affairs Journalism Fellowship; First and Second Place Best Religion Reporting, and Best Social Justice Reporting (editor)/Ohio Society of Professional Journalists; Two First Place Women in Communications prizes (editor); Best Commentary (nomination)/National Association of Black Journalists; and a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship. I’ve done some ghost writing, and I wrote a memoir, now in paperback, second edition: Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? From the Projects to Prep School.

I have a warm, sweet husband who is a strict coach and Ray of sunshine. He can outread me any day.

Some day soon, I hope to have a published novel for him to read, as well as a collection of essay/short stories, and maybe a screen-story or two.

So much creativity, so many beautiful written and spoken words, what new forms will emerge? I wonder.

I am a graduate of Smith College and studied in the MFA program at Old Dominion University, and the Writer’s Path at Southern Methodist University.

Jennifer Maritza McCauley

Jennifer Maritza McCauley teaches and writes in Columbia, Missouri. She is also a doctoral candidate at the University in Missouri in creative writing, with an interest in African-American and Afro-Latino literature, and Contest Editor at The Missouri Review. She has received creative writing fellowships from Sundress Academy of the Arts, CantoMundo and the Knight Foundation. Her work appears in editions of Vassar Review, Columbia Journal, Passages North,  Jabberwock Review, Split this Rock’s “Poem of the Week” and Puerto del Sol, amongst other outlets. Her full-length poetry collection SCAR ON/SCAR OFF will be published by Stalking Horse Press in fall 2017.

Janelle Poe

Janelle Poe is a multidisciplinary artist and City College of New York MFA student in creative writing, exploring the intersections of injustice and nuances of privilege and oppression. A DJ with degrees in international studies, Spanish, and fashion design, and nearly twenty years of life in New York City, the influence of her diverse experiences and travels is transparent in her writing as is her Black, feminist, and American identities. A VONA/Voices of Our Nation participant and coordinator of the CCNY MFA Reading Series, she is committed to building community among artists and creating opportunities to gather and share truth.

Janelle has recently read her work at Revolution Books, Printed Matter, The Drawing Center and Hudson 205 Gallery in New York City. Publications include Stark Short Fiction Prize winner, “Eyes of The Tiger”, in Aster(ix) literary journal’s Winter ’16 Edition, and “Black & White Studies”, a zine to raise funds for Black Lives Matter featuring her poetry alongside artwork from painter Sheryl Oppenheim, released on Small Editions press. Following her dreams and passions along all the curvy, jagged parts, she encourages others to do the same.

Ivelisse Rodriguez

Born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Ivelisse Rodriguez has crisscrossed the country living in New York City, Miami, Chicago, and Boston but is a New Yorker at heart. She grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts until one day a stranger showed up at her door, and suggested she apply to Northfield Mount Hermon School, a boarding school in Northfield, Ma. Off she went and kept going. She then earned a B.A. in English from Columbia University, an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College, and a Ph.D. in English-creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Her short story collection, Love War Stories, is forthcoming from The Feminist Press in spring 2018. The Belindas, a fiction chapbook, is forthcoming in 2017. She has also published fiction in All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color, Kweli, the Boston Review, the Bilingual Review, Aster(ix), and other publications. She is the senior fiction editor at Kweli and a VONA/Voices alum. She is currently working on the novel The Last Salsa Singer about 70s era salsa musicians in Puerto Rico. Two excerpts from the novel are forthcoming in Obsidian and Label Me Latina/o.

To learn more about Ivelisse visit:

Icess Fernandez Rojas

Icess Fernandez Rojas is a writer, blogger, teacher, and former journalist. She earned her BA in Communications from the University of Houston and her MFA from Goddard College. Her journalism has been published in USAToday and Her commentary has been published in HuffingtonPost and the Guardian. Her fiction has been anthologized in Soul’s Road: A Fiction Collection and published in literary journals including Minerva Rising and The Fem Lit Magazine. She is the most recent recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, which allowed her to create a writing retreat for Afro­Latina writers. In addition, she is a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Foundation alum. She’s an adjunct professor at Lone Star College-North Harris and San Jacinto College­North.

Delia Selina Taylor

Delia Selina Taylor is an Afro-Latina writer born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She recently graduated from Middlebury College with a BA in English and American Lit, a minor in Classics and a focus in Creative Writing on a Posse leadership scholarship. Her writing often focuses on voicelessness and its many manifestations, while her study abroad experience in Brazil has stylistically tinted her writing with a magical realistic quality and a Portuguese cadence. Last summer she received a sholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and she is currently working on a novella.

Martin Wiley

Martin Wiley: As a mixed-race child of the 80’s, I grew up both confronting and embracing a world that was as mixed and confused as I was.  In New Jersey, the land of Bruce Springsteen, I was surrounded by mouthed beautiful words one minute, then screamed hate the next.  I was told that we are moving towards a better world, but I’ve always thought the future would be the same as today, only more so.  My work today is an attempt to wrestle with my hopes for tomorrow with my realistic (and fantastical) concerns about the future. After receiving my MFA from Rutgers-Camden, I live in Philadelphia, teaching at community college, working as an activist, being a dad and husband, and finding time, when possible, to write.

Janelle M. Williams

Janelle M Williams is an African American writer from Decatur, Georgia. She received her BA from Howard University and her MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. Her work has appeared in The Feminist Wire. She currently works at Writopia Lab where she instructs workshops for young writers. She is inspired by soul music, soul food, and black family reunions.



%d bloggers like this: