February 28, 2008


Tyrsa Pratcher

Tyrsa Fawn Pratcher, a true Stamford native, was born in the Stamford hospital in 1965, and received her education throughout the Stamford public school system. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Connecticut, where she received the “Stamford Campus Scholar in English,” and the “Award for Excellence” in English. She has served her country through an enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, where she received the Navy Achievement medal, and an honorable discharge. During “Operation Desert Storm” in 1991, she was recalled to active duty and later discharged at the rank of Sergeant.

Tyrsa is the author of “Keeping the Store,” an increasingly popular book of poetry, that is inspiring, truthful, funny, and real. As one reader put it, “it has teeth!” She published this first book through her own company Fawn Publishing. Tyrsa expects to release her much anticipated, second book of poetry, entitled “Broken in Pieces” in 2007, and is at work on her third book. Another one of her goals is to help other aspiring authors pursue their dream of publishing. Her book is available through BORDERS bookstores, UCONN Co-op downtown Stamford, and on her website www.fawnpublishing.com.

When I asked Tyrsa to name her favorite jazz musician she said, "Kersten Stevens God-given gift as a violinist serves as an awesome inspiration to me as a poet. This is a divine connection, which I am delighted to be paired with. When she plays, my poetry is taken to new levels. To put it poetically: the poetry is given wings of an eagle – which allows it to soar into the heart of the listener."

What is the relationship between jazz and poetry, and what is the importance of each to our culture? I asked.

"Jazz and poetry are related in the sense that they are very deep expressions of the heart, birth out of the pain and joys of the human experience. Jazz reaches the soul of man through the ear, while poetry is absorbed through the eye as well as the ear. Both jazz and poetry cause us to look beyond the surface,
which is essential in raising societal awareness in our culture."

Kersten Stevens

Kersten Stevens, the musically gifted, beautiful, virtuosic & poised professional violinist, is truly a gift. Being blessed with a talent for jazz, gospel and classical performance, she has excelled from a local star hailing from Stratford, Connecticut to a national buzzworthy artist! A recent graduate of the Yale University Class of 2006 with a B.A. in Music and African American Studies, KERSTEN’s musical journey began with classical violin instruction at the age of three. She began studying and performing jazz, gospel and contemporary styles at age fourteen! Kersten has since been the opening act for the late Ray Charles, made a 2004 appearance for the National Boys and Girls Clubs at the request by Denzel Washington, appeared in 2005 as a featured soloist with Dionne Warwick and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, performed with world-renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter, has studied with violinist John Blake, Jr., and has twice taken Showtime at the Apollo by storm, winning competitions in 2003 and 1999!

KERSTEN’s stirring violin improvisational skills have received a number of awards and recognitions. In 2007 she was awared Gospel Instrumentalist of the Year by Connecticut's Holla Back Video Awards. She was crowned the Hal Jackson's Talented Teen Miss Connecticut 2000 and International 1st runner up and in 2002 was the Gold Medal winner of the NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics in the Music/Instrumental Contemporary category. Also in 2002, she received awards from the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Youth Orchestra for musical excellence and from Vivian Ayers-Allen and Phylicia Ayers-Allen Rischad for her musical accomplishments. Recently, she was awarded for artistic excellence by the Afro- American Cultural Center at Yale University.

Kersten has completed two solo projects. The Beginning, released in 2002, features jazz classics like Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” and funk charts like Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster.” September 2005 celebrated the release of Kersten’s highly anticipated sophomore gospel album entitled Walks of Faith. A fusion of contemporary jazz and gospel, the project features such legendary musicians such as bassist Lonnie Plaxico and is complete with gospel standards “The Lord’s Prayer,” contemporaries like “Shabach” and spirituals like “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” The album is truly an electrifying musical and spiritual experience!

The dynamic virtuosity of Violinist Kersten Stevens distinguishes her as one of the most uniquely gifted artists to hit the scene today! She continues to perform across the country and looks forward to sharing her music across the world.

February 27, 2008


Nikki Giovanni is a Black American poet, essayist, and lecturer, whose work influenced many throughout the years of the BAM. Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni, Jr., in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1943. She attended Fisk University where she received her degree in 1967. Giovanni has since further studied at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work and Columbia University's School of Fine Arts. In 1970 Giovanni founded a publishing company called Niktom Limited. She now works as a professor in the English department of Virginia Polytechnical Institute.

Giovanni believes that change is necessary for growth. Her poetry is renowned for its call of urgency for Black people to realize their identities and understand their surroundings as part of a white-controlled culture. She is considered a leader in the Black poetry movement. Her collection of poetry, Black Feeling, Black Talk, Black Judgement, captures the militant attitude of the civil rights and Black Art movements of that time. In other works, Giovanni also focuses on her family and personal relationships. She is known for her recordings of her conversations with prominent African-American writers James Baldwin and Margaret Walker. Giovanni continues to write, speak and teach about the history and future of Black people and has become a symbol of the BAM, as well as for Black women and women writers today.

Awards and Honors
1970 Ebony Magazine, Woman of the Year
1971-99 Keys to more than a dozen cities, including Dallas, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Los Angeles
1971 Mademoiselle Magazine, Woman of the Year
1972 Ladies Home Journal, Woman of the Year

National Association of Radio and Television Announcers (N.A.T.R.A.) Award for Best Spoken Word Album, for Truth Is On Its Way
1973 Life Membership & Scroll, The National Council of Negro Women

National Book Award Nomination for Gemini
1974 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Honorary Member)
1983 YWCA Woman of the Year, Cincinnati Chapter
1985 The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame

Outstanding Woman of Tennessee
1986 The Post-Corbett Award

Distinguished Recognition Award, Detroit City Council

Duncanson Artist in Residence, The Taft Museum
1988 Cincinnati Bi-Centennial Honoree

Silver Apple Award, Oakland Museum Film Festival

The Ohioana Library Award (for Sacred Cows)

McDonald's Literary Achievement Awards: Poetry Award to be presented in the name of Nikki Giovanni in perpetuity

Spin A Soft Black Song selected by the United States Information Agency for Inclusion in the Exhibition to the Soviet Union

The Children's Reading Roundtable of Chicago Award (for Vacation Time)

National Festival of Black Storytelling Initiates the Nikki Giovanni Award for Young African American Storytellers
1991 Utrecht International Poetry Festival, Featured Poet

The Cecil H. and Ida Green Honors Chair, Texas Christian University, April 16-19

"Two Friends." Incorporated as a Permanent Tile Wall Exhibit by the Oxnard Public Library, California
1992 Martin Luther King, Jr., Visiting Professor, University of Oregon, January 15-22

Portland Art Beat, Featured Poet

Community Volunteer of the Year Award, Warm Hearth Village

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Roanoke Chapter) initiates The Nikki Giovanni Annual Artistic Award

The Beach Lecturer, University of Minnesota

The John Tate Lecture for Excellence in Academic Advising, University of Minnesota
1993 The Hill Visiting Professor, University of Minnesota
1994 Keys to the cities of Kokomo, Indiana; Mobile, Alabama; and Morgantown, West Virginia

Black Women's Honor Society Award, University of Southern California

Tennessee Writer's Award, The Nashville Banner
1995 Visiting Professor of English, University of Indiana/Kokomo

The Jeanine Rae Award for the Advancement of Women's Culture, National Women's Music Festival
1996 1996 Tennessee Governor's Award In the Humanities.

The Tennessee Humanities Council.

Honorary Citizenship, City of Baltimore. 27 January 1996.

Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni nominated for NAACP Image Award. 6 April 1996.

Featured Writer. Literacy Partners Benefit Reading. Lincoln Center. New York. 29 April 1996.

Keys to the Cities of Natchez, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama.

Outstanding Humanitarian Award. The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 25 June 1996.

Artist-in-Residence. The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 28-29 June 1996.

Knowledge Heritage Award. The Knowledge Afrocentric Empowerment Coalition, Augusta Correctional Center. 27 September 1996.

Contributor's Arts Award, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing. 26 October 1996.

The Langston Hughes Award for 1996. City College of New York. 7 November 1996.

Selected Author for The Literacy Letters Auction. Sponsored by Literacy Partners, Inc. Sotheby's. 5 December 1996.

Parents' Choice Award for The Sun Is So Quiet.
1997 Esther Eberstadt Baldwin Scholar. College of Notre Dame of Maryland. 9-10 February 1997.

Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies. Virginia Tech.
1998 NAACP Image Award for Love Poems.

Belle Ringer Image Role Model Award. Bennett College. 20 March 1998.

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johnson & Wales University. 1-2 April 1998.

Robert E. Dennard Visiting Scholar. St. Mark's School of Texas. Dallas, Texas. 15-17 April 1998.

Invited Guest. Millenium Evening at the White House. 22 April 1998.

Living Legacy Award. Juneteenth Festival of Columbus, Ohio. June 1998.

National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. The Gwendolyn Brooks Center of Chicago State University. 16 October 1998.

The Appalachian Medallion Award. University of Charleston. 3 December 1998.

The 1998 Tennessee Governor's Award in the Arts
1999 Invited Participant at Children's Defense Fund Symposium. Organized by Marian Wright Edelmann. Other participants included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Education Donna Shalala, Toni Morrison. March 1999.

University Distinguished Professor. Virginia Tech. Blacksburg, VA. August 1999.

Blues: For All the Changes. Nominated for Library of Virginia 2000 Poetry Award. September 1999.

Blues: For All the Changes. NAACP Image Award for Literature. 12 February 2000.

Membership in The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, The State of North Carolina. 5 November 1999.

Capitol Citation. State of North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State. 5 November 1999.

Voted Ohio's Favorite Author of Poetry by Ohioans. Ballot sponsored by Ohioana Library Association. October 1999.

Black Feeling, Black Talk. Included in "Some 100 classic millennial books," Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., The New York Amsterdam News, 30 December 1999 – 5 January 2000, p. 20.
2000 N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for Blues: For All the Changes

Member, 2000 Council of Ideas, The Gihon Foundation

Virginia Governor's Award for the Arts.

Judge, Poetry Panel. The National Book Awards.

Distinguished Member Recognition Award. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Wilberforce Alumnae Chapter. Wilberforce, Ohio.

Appreciation given to Nikki Giovanni by the Virginia Dept. of Correctional Education.

Certificate of Appreciation. The Black Caucus of Virginia Tech.

City Council Resolution Honoring and Welcoming Nikki Giovanni. City of Youngstown, Ohio. Proclamation of welcome by Mayor George M. McKelvey. City of Youngstown, Ohio.

Member. Council on Ideas. Gihon Foundation. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Commendation. State of California.

Certificate of Appreciation. City of Los Angeles.

Commendation. County of Los Angeles.

United States Senate Certificate of Commendation. Presented by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Celebration of Poetry, Art, & Music. Los Angeles, California.

Official Welcome. Resolution, Erie County Legislature. Buffalo, NY. Resolution: Nikki Giovanni Day. City of Buffalo Common Council. Plaque of Appreciation. Nu Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. University of West Florida.

Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni. Top 10 Books on MosaicBooks.Com.
2001 Keys to the Cities of Saginaw, Michigan and Dallas, Texas.

2002 The SHero Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award. (First recipient.)
2003 American Library Association's Black Caucus Award for Non-fiction (for Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea)

NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (for Quilting)

Honorary Citizen of Louisville, Kentucky

Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Delta of Tennessee Chapter, Fisk University

Honored in a Proclamation from the Mayor of Hartford which proclaimed that 10 April 2003 was "Nikki Giovanni Day In the City of Hartford".

"Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea." Selected as one of Top 10 Adult Picks in the 2003 African American Booklist. Detroit Public Library.

Name one of the "HistoryMakers" in 2003.

2004 Nominated for a Best Spoken Word Grammy in the 46th Annual Grammy Awards for her album "The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection."

Nominated in the poetry category for the 7th Annual Library of Virginia Literacy Awards.

Nominated for NAACP Image Award for Literature.

Honored by Robert Baker from Texas Tech University by naming a species of bat in her honor (Micronycteris giovanniae).

Named one of "Women of Strength & Courage." American Legacy. New York, NY. 26 February 2004.

Featured in the "African American Wisdom Knowledge Cards" compiled and illustrated by Bob Johnson and Mary Margolies. Rohnert Park: Pomegranate Communications Inc.

Featured in the "Literacy Encounters" 2004 Calendar by Jill Krementz. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. 15-21 November 2004.

Featured in the "Freedom Forum's First Amendment Calendar" for 2004. 17 August 2004.

Featured in "The Ohio Reading Road Trip".

Elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Chapter of Tennessee as an alumnae member.

Winner of the Atlanta Daily World 2nd Atlanta Choice Awards. The East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame Award for Poetry. 27 Apr. 2004.

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea selected for the 2004-05 Adelante! Book Club of the American Association of University Women.

2005 Key to the City – City of Grambling. Grambling, LA. 2005.

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, Poet-In-Residence Award. 2005.

Virginia Arts Celebration in NYC. Special guest of the Governor. 09 Apr. 2005.

The Mu Zeta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 14 Apr. 2005.

"The Legends" designation from The Oprah Magazine. Aug. 2005.

Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford, Fourth Humanitarian Award. 06 Aug. 2005.

The 2005 John Henry "Pop" Lloyd Humanitarian Award. Atlantic City, New Jersey. 1 Oct. 2005.

The Federal City Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Commendation. 20 Nov. 2005

The 2005 ALC Lifetime Achievement Award. 01 Dec. 2005.

2006 Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 18 Jan. 2006.

University of Virginia Women's Center, HUES Leadership Network for Women of Color Award. 18 Mar. 2006.

Theta Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Certificate of Appreciation. 26 Jan. 2006.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Texas A & M University – Commerce, Certificate of Appreciation. Spring 2006.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award for Rosa. 2006.

Rosa named Child Magazine's Best Children's Book of the Year, Oct. 2005.

Rosa selected as the Anchor Book for Celebrate with Books. Cleveland Public Library.

Rosa is #3 on New York Times bestseller list. 12 Feb. 2006.

Rosa named a Caldecott Honor Book.

Rosa receives the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration.