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Andrea Michele Better

Andrea Michele Better, a native of Baltimore, MD, graduated from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Cum Laude, with a B.S. in criminal justice. During her matriculation at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore she was appointed President of the Pre-Law Society and served as a peer tutor as recommended by the Dean of Criminal Justice Studies. Upon graduation Andrea gained employment at T. Rowe Price where she continued to exhibit her leadership skills by training and coaching new hires. She is currently in T. Rowe Price’s legal department where she negotiates, drafts and amends various legal agreements.

 

In 2000 Andrea was drawn to support Baltimore’s youth and became a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake. Through various mentee matches she has been an active mentor with the program, participating in both school-based and community matches. Currently, she is a tutor through TutorMate, an online literacy program, engaging elementary students on a weekly basis with one-on-one reading sessions. Additionally, she sends children’s books abroad in support of the Jamaican based Rick Rowe Reads campaign, a Jamaican youth literacy program that provides roadside libraries for children; the initiative ensures that kids have easy access to books and strives to spark enthusiasm for reading at an early age.

 

Andrea is an avid reader, marathoner, triathlete and student of the yoga practice and yogic lifestyle. Her passion is to encourage youth—especially young women of color—to build a firm literary foundation that exposes them to the world and its many facets. She knows that exposure to literature is crucial and that it supports critical thinking and builds essential verbal and written communication skills—contributions that enable young people to live their best lives, fully and boldly.

Nichelle Calhoun

Nichelle Calhoun has taught and worked in non-profits in the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean. While deepening connections to the African Diaspora abroad, the Black Atlantic, she began a personal journey with her own roots, returning to ancestral spaces in Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties, Virginia. She now works as a researcher/future podcaster with the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County. Her first published work, Songs of Yemaya, shares the intersectional voices of Black women in the Diaspora through the veneration of the deity, Yemaya. Nichelle brings an interdisciplinary approach to her training and facilitating incorporating ethnography, creative writing, history, and anthropology. Nichelle holds a Master’s in Latin American + Caribbean Studies from Florida International University and a Master’s in International Administration from the University of Miami. 

Andria Nacina Cole

Andria Nacina Cole read The Color Purple in 9th grade. There was no one to tell. She read Beloved in 11th. Shared the glamour and devastation of it with a chemistry professor. He nodded when her eyes got wide, but also when she cried. She did not read Sonia Sanchez until college, and Gayl Jones? She was 35 before she knew her. Also, along the way were: June Jordan, Lucille Clifton, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Ntozake Shange, Zadie Smith, Warsan Shire, Dorothy West, Paule Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Finney, Jamaica Kincaid, Toi Derricotte—the list is getting long and not nearly enough (it’s missing James Baldwin for instance—God knows Jimmy was a womanist). Each writer tilted her some. Put her in her body a bit. Valerie Boyd, for instance, a biographer, made her pay better attention to her own chopped up, glorious, on time (right on time) speech. Every one gifted her a thing. And she used them, the things—the command of metaphor, the stripped down structure, the burdened structure, the tone achieved little word by little word—to write her own stories, which have been published in places like Ploughshares, The Feminist Wire and Fiction Circus.

 

What she has learned by practice and careful study has been supplemented, a wee bit, by degrees in writing from Morgan State and Johns Hopkins. She has also earned a few awards, including five grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, one of which was the organization's top prize. She is the 2010 recipient of the Cohen Award, a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grantee, and a Rubys Literary Awards artist. In 2017, Baltimore City Paper named her Best Storyteller.    

 

In addition to her writing experience, she is a certified special education teacher. She taught middle and high school for 13 wonderful, difficult years, and still maintains relationships with many of her students. She has also taught a variety of English classes at the college level. Currently, she helps school communities resolve conflict and repair harm in her role as a restorative practices specialist with Akoben.

Shamoyia M. Gardiner

Shamoyia Gardiner read her first book at the age of two—if a toddler memorizing bedtime stories and randomly flipping pages counts as reading. She adamantly resisted reading Harry Potter until she was seven, opting instead for Madeline because she "didn't want to read a book about some ugly boy." It wasn't until her freshman year of high school, when her creative writing teacher asked her to recite Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool" that Shamoyia saw herself reflected, truly reflected, in a piece of text. 

Her first love was the Miami spoken word poetry scene. Something about brown skin, sunshine, Spanglish colloquialisms, and salty beach air held her. The first poem she ever wrote was a tired amalgamation of her favorite song lyrics (all alternative and pop rock, all sung by white folk). After Mayda del Valle and her first poetry slam, she began to see light in other brown bodies. After bell hooks and her first year of college-level policy debate, she was blinded by her own (light).

 

Shamoyia was, is, and will always be a teacher, a poet, a bookish nerd, a big sister, a mentor, an audiophile, and a fierce advocate for and companion to those who ask. She believes in the entropy of the universe and the power of empathy.

 A Revolutionary Summer was co-founded by Andria Nacina Cole and Malene Kai Bell in 2015 after the murder of Freddie Carlos Gray.  

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