Kai Cameron and April Brown
Kai Cameron and April Brown

This is Us

The current staff of LHCPR continuously build on the legacy of Langston Hughes. Co-directors April Brown and Kai Cameron both attended Howard University and both had a long career in education.

 

In 2021-2022, the LHCPR staff will embark on an organizational planning process to build sustainability and continuity of this important project in perpetuity.

Quote from Langston Hughes

Life is a big sea full of many fish. I let down my nets and pull.…I'm still pulling.

April Brown

Co-Director

April Brown

April Brown is an educator, ordained minister, poet, singer and actor living in Providence, RI.  She has performed in the United States, Japan, and Israel.  Ms. Brown holds a B.A. from The American University in Washington, DC and an Ed.M. from the University of Rhode Island. Her passion for arts and culture education manifested itself with experience in museum work with the Smithsonian Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the National Museum of American History she worked on the as an artist programmer for the 2004 and 2008 Folklife Festival, the National World War II Reunion on the Mall and the Celebration of Baseball.  Locally she has worked with Rhode Island Black Storytellers and the National Association of Black Storytellers as the African marketplace director. Recently, she served as the Local Program Director for Turnaround Arts: Providence. She has worked in educational systems with a focus on cultural engagement; professional development; and local community activism.  She has held several community at large leadership positions for arts organizations, as a seasoned professional. She currently serves as a board member of Community Music Works and is on the Special Committee for Commemorative Works for the City of Providence.

Over the course of her career, she has used her arts expertise in a variety of applications including pre-K, secondary, post-secondary arts training, working effectively with administrations serving low income students. Her specialties include curriculum and professional development, community engagement, staff management, and team oversight/coaching.

 

For April, arts practice is the way we speak life into humanity and we need to teach this to our youth.    

S. Kai Cameron

Co-Director

Kai Cameron

Upon retirement from the Providence Public School District as an Administrator for twenty-plus years, S. Kai Cameron has served for the past three (3) years as the Co-Director for the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading Committee (LHCPR), which in 2019 was the recipient of the distinguished RISCA Expansion Arts program. Notably, prior to her involvement with LHCPR, Kai has been an advocate for Rhode Island’s high-risk youth and their families as a classroom teacher, program developer, project manager and community engagement activist primarily in the City of Providence. Her ‘body of work’ started with the well-known community-based organizations of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of RI (OIC), Providence Housing Authority and Urban League of RI, where she functioned as an Education Specialist/Supervisor to develop youth and families to combat lack of education, low self-esteem, school suspension and joblessness. In the late 1990’s, as Project Director, Kai implemented a nationally funded city-wide five-year substance-abuse prevention program for youth and adults under the leadership of the Mayor’s Council for Drug and Alcohol Abuse. In 2000, she served as the Interim Director of Student Relations for the Providence School Department and advanced there until her retirement to lead a number of projects designed to enhance the education of children and to empower their families to be valuable partners within the education system.  

 

Kai has received a number of local, state and national awards including the US Housing and Development (HUD) Minority Fellowship, a ‘Join Together’ Fellowship sponsored by Boston University School of Public Health/Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and the Student of the Year Award from the RI Chapter of the American Planning Association. Additionally, she has participated as a community volunteer and/or board member in numerous associations, such as Violet’s Village, Neighbors 4 Revitalization, and the RI Coalition of Black Women. 


A native Rhode Islander, Kai received her BA in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College and holds a MA in Community Planning for social policy development from the University of Rhode Island. Currently, she is in the process of developing an entrepreneurial fashion design business, called “Kai’s Kloset”.  Deliberately created as a social enterprise, her business will provide eco-friendly clothing that is one-of-a-kind and fashionable.

ya Tande

Committee Member

Ph.D. (Philosophy, Art Theory and Aesthetics) Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts
M.F.A. (New Media Arts and Performance) Long Island University
Certificate, Martha Graham Technique, Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance
B.F.A (Theatre Arts/Dance) Howard University


Prior to joining the Temple faculty, yonTande served as Adjunct faculty at Long Island University Dance Department, Program Director of Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, and Dance Program Manager at AS220. He has taught nationally and internationally at various schools and colleges namely The Ailey School, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, Harlem School of the Arts, Dance Institute of Washington, and Centro Nacional de Danza Contemporánea (MX), and
others.


He is an artist/culture worker and BLACK SEED Native committed to #cultureascatalyst. His artistic career has been varied centering around nurturing and cultivating individual and communal spirit through performance, education and curation/community engagement. He has worked with such luminaries in the field of dance and performance as the Martha Graham Dance Company, Kankouran West African Dance Company, Rod Rodgers, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, Martha Clarke, Ralph Lemon, and many others.


His works have been presented through Rhode Island College, Kumble Theater, La Mama, Grace Exhibition Space, Panoply Performance Laboratory, Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival and in the streets of NYC, Chicago and Detroit. His grants and commissions for the creation and exhibition of his works are numerous: Providence Art, Culture and Tourism, New York State Council for the Arts, Puffin Foundation Grant, and others. He has founded and directed various performance collectives, was a Movement Research Artist in Residence (2013-15), and presently founding co-director of Denizen Arts a creative collaborative performance project informed by cultural and art-making heritages that honor African diaspora, queer and other global identities founded in 2016 with theatre/movement artist Jude Sandy.


His research centers on the Africanist aesthetic and perspective in contemporary dance and performance with special attention to African spirituality as a philosophy of embodiment.

Damont Combs

Committee Member

Damont Combs a poet from Southside Jamaica Queens NY and a graduate with a degree in Computer Technology Service from Johnson and Wales University. Mr. Combs otherwise known as Mr. Orange Live has released two books of poetry: My Poem... My Riddle, (Prysmatic Dreams Publishing, 2015) and Damont Combs presents A Touch of Orange. (Kingdom Enterprise LLC, 2016) Mr. Orange’ has noted the brightly colored color at numerous venues such as PVDFEST - Poetry in Public Places, featured at Café S.o.u.l, the Poetry Festival in New York City and at the famous Nuyorican Poets cafe for Verses and in stadiums like Nassau Coliseum with Queens Underground Poets.   

 

Mr. Combs is active in many writing organizations in his communities such as What Cheer writers club, the Association of Rhode Island Authors as the host of Lively Literati (monthly open mic). He is the poetry curator for RI own motif magazine and monthly podcast interviewer as well. He is also an active participant in the Langston Hughes Poetry committee as their Poet in Residence and resident teaching artist, He believes in bridging the gap of pay inequality for poets compared to other careers. He is passionate about bringing open mics back into the community so artists can have a place to flourish even during COVID.  

 

In 2019, Mr. Orange Live CEO of Orange Live Entertainment created Tell Your Truth. Mr. Orange Live presents Tell Your Truth which is a poetry based open mic that encourages open dialogue on many of the topics providence residences have on their hearts and minds. In 2020 Tell your truth was awarded a grant by RISCA for its positive community impact, and later this year a grant by the city of providence to produce a poetry masterclass and a tell your truth event with frequency writers. 

 

His books are available in Providence RI at Books on the Square, Cellar Stories bookstore, Brown University Bookstore, and Johnson and Wales Bookstore, , In Pawtucket at Stillwater bookstore and in New York city - at Queens Center of the Arts. Mr. Combs books are also available online at mrorangelive.com or on amazon.

Mr. Combs has won the indie author legacy award for 2018 Poet of the year. His dedication to his community work, excellent book reviews, and media exposure lead him to win competing against over 800 other artists. In 2020, he is serving a 3 year term for the city of Pawtucket on the advisory commission on arts and culture.

Jessica Brown AKA The Lady J

Committee Member

Jessica Brown is an interdisciplinary, multimedia spectacle generator, creating disruptive & humorous work, steeped in pop culture references. She’s a visual and performance artist, designer, entertainer, musician, and world builder -- curated and unscripted.


She holds a BFA in Furniture Design from Murray State University and a Masters of Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design. Formerly a Toy Designer and Project Manager at Hasbro, she spent 6 years delivering best-in-class product development, executing against a robust toy & entertainment licensed portfolio that includes Monopoly, My Little Pony and Transformers. She is proud to say that her products have been enjoyed by millions of children and adults alike.


Now an Assistant Professor of Industrial Design at RISD, she interprets the profession through a performative and emotional lens, teaching classes like Design & Activism, ArtTwerking: The Experience of Design, and Toy Design: Playing with Purpose. In the classroom, she uses decolonizing and community building methodologies to engage her students and prioritizes cultural competency, community engagement, teamwork and good citizenry as pillars for successful learning in the classroom.


In her own multidisciplinary work, she creates flexible environments that facilitate an inclusive space to explore, reflect, & discuss the challenges of social justice concerns in the US- including race politics, class, gender and overlays her own cultural commentary.


She is very active in the local Providence community, formerly a commissioner on the board of Art Culture and Tourism, and the Providence After School Alliance, she currently serves as an African American Ambassador under Mayor Elorza representing post secondary education, musicians, and artists.  She is a working artist in the Nicholson File Building in the Valley Arts District of Olneyville, and has collaborations with the Department of Parks Conservatory, PVD fest, The Avenue Concept, AS220, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts and the Met School.

When she is not teaching, she is the leader of a Womxn’s Activist and Party band, Clam Jam Brass Band, a trumpet player in the Extraordinary Rendition Brass Band, Host of Soul Bingo, a bingo dance party influence by Soul Train and the organizer of Today’s Special, creating pop-up experiences and art works in underutilized spaces around Providence. Long story short, she likes to talk about serious things in a silly way.

Karen Allen Baxter

Committee Member

Karen Allen Baxter is the former Senior Managing Director, Department of Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre, Brown University, where she developed and produced theater projects, productions and programs.

 

These have included Mule Bone by Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, The Disappearance by novelist Rosa Guy; national tours of Heart to Heart; Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas; and the staged reading of The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza. Baxter also curates and produces The Black Lavender Experience (BLX), theater and conversation sparked by queer artists of color, and spearheads the Tougaloo-BLX intensive exchange.

 

She started her career at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem. Baxter managed reggae artists Bob Marley & The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear. She co-produced the Grammy-nominated album Reggae Sunsplash - A Tribute to Bob Marley. From 1987 to 1999, she produced the Annual AUDELCO Awards that honor Black Theatre excellence. She was also the executive director of Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop.

 

Baxter holds a BS in sociology from the City University of New York, an arts management certificate from Harvard University, and a MS in arts management from Lesley University. Baxter was awarded a two-year scholarship by August Wilson for Dartmouth College’s Amos Tuck School of Business completed its 2-year Minority Business Executive Program.

 

Currently she is the chair of the board of Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island.

Elyssa Perez

Committee Member

Elyssa Perez is a creative writer and theatre artist from Providence, Rhode Island. Her love for storytelling comes from listening to her family share their stories that span from living in the Dominican Republic and Rhode Island. Elyssa holds a B.A. in Africana Studies and Theatre Arts & Performance Studies from Brown University. She is interested in African Diasporic ritual and healing practices.

Thangarani "Rani" McNeil

Committee Member

Rani's first memory of Langston Hughes is reciting Dreams with Mrs. Taylor's fourth grade class for their Black History Month Assembly. She fell in love with his poems and Dreams in particular has brought her through some tough times in life. She was so excited to learn about the Community Poetry Reading through a friend and couldn't wait to attend. She signed up to read at the end of that reading and asked how she could be involved two years later. She has loved being a part of the team making the event run smoothly and looks forward to staying an active committee member for many years to come.

Diane Minasian

Committee Member

Diane E. Minasian, M.D. is a physician at East Bay Community Action Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Working with the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading  since 2017, she believes that engagement in the arts contributes to the health and wellness of communities.

Valerie Tutson

Committee Member

Creative Director of RIBS and Funda Fest Founding Director, Valerie has been telling stories in schools, churches, libraries, festivals and conferences since 1991.

 

She draws her stories from around the world with an emphasis on African traditions. Her repertoire includes stories and songs she learned in her travels to South Africa, her experiences in West Africa, stories from African American history.

 

In addition, she is gaining quite a reputation for her exciting retelling of age-old Bible stories.

Shawn Christian

Committee Member

Shawn Anthony Christian, PhD lectures and publishes on twentieth-century, African American literary and print culture, especially during the Harlem Renaissance.

 

A public humanities advocate, Shawn also served on the board of directors for the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.

Marcella Astudillo

Committee Member

Providence School Department Social Studies Teacher Leader, RWMS

 

Graduated from The University of Rhode Island with a Ph.D in Education.  Dissertation title, "Latino Academic Resilience: Stories of High Achieving Middle School ELLs and the Teachers and Families that Helped them Succeed." (published in 2015)

 

A strong advocate for the integration of the arts in school and culturally responsive teaching.

 

Organizer of  Spring Arts Festival Titled:  Pride and Possibilities: A Langston Hughes Poetry and Visual Arts Festival at Roger Williams Middle School.