Community Service


About three years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching the Jenny McKean Moore workshop at George Washington University. Since I am back in DC for a few days, I sent out an email to my former JMM students and a few folks showed up to say hello. (First semester JMMers, please forgive me. The group email bounced back and I didn’t know it!)
Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to tell all of you about the JMM program. If you live in Washington, DC, you may be able to take a FREE workshop. Please visit the GW English Department for information. The info for next year’s isn’t up yet, but you can call to get put on the list to be sent an announcement.
If you are a published author who loves working with community writers, please apply for the JMM job. I can honestly say that it was the best job I ever had.
And finally, here are some highlights:

  • First semester blockparty! (photos)
  • Second semester farewell (photos)
  • Who was Jenny McKean Moore?
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    Tell A Girl She’s Brilliant

    As most of you know, I am Vice Chair of the Board of an amazing organization, Girls Write Now. At GWN we match teenage girls with writing mentors. It’s a simple concept, which has been wildly successful. 100% of our girls have been accepted to college. They have won scholastic keys and last year we were honored by Michelle Obama.

    I am writing this as part of our Spring Appeal. Short version, please give us some money. Whatever you have. Give us your latte money. Here’s a link and here’s why.

    When I was coming up, there was nothing like Girls Write Now to guide me when I was just a baby writer trying to figure out what to do with myself. Picture Southwest Atlanta circa 1986. I was not in a good place. Because I had been skipped, I was younger than my classmates, but just as tall as I am now. (Not a good look at 15. I promise.) I had been bounced around a little bit– a different school for 7, 8, 9, and 10th grades, so I wasn’t really in synch with my classmates. Added to it all was the fact that I was enrolled in a Math and Science magnet program. What was a girl writer to do? Pray and wait for college.

    When I got to Spelman College, Pearl Cleage told me I was brilliant and changed my life. This was before Oprah came a-calling and Pearl became a superstar. This was when she was a working writer who mentored a young lady who just wanted to write.

    I am involved with Girls Write Now because I want all girls to have the experience of a one-on-one relationship with a woman writer who will read what she writes and listen to what she has to say.

    We are a volunteer organization. Our mentors give their time. To be fair, our girls give their time, too. On Saturdays, they commute to Manhattan from as far as the Bronx to attend workshops on poetry, memoir, college-essay writing and more. Our Chapters Reading Series on Friday nights is SRO, every time. GWN is where motivation meets inspiration meets dedication.

    The economy is in the toilet. We all know this. But certainly you can give a little something to help secure the future of our girls and really the future of American writing. These girls ARE the future. They are what America looks like. Help us get their voices out there. Please. Make a donation and let me know about it. Nothing is too small.


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    Report from Spelman

    I was in such a rush getting out of town on Monday, that I didn’t get a chance to tell you that I am going to be out of town until Monday. Right now, I am in Atlanta, spending some time at Spelman College, by beloved alma mater. I know I’m getting old because I keep wanting to hug the young ladies that I see walking accross campus. Also, they call me “ma’am” which is another indication that clock in ticking.
    Spelman women who read this blog, listen up. PLEASE give a donation to Spelman THIS WEEK. Any amount. There is a mysterious donor who will give 300,000 to the college if 5000 Spelman Women give a donation before Founders Day. Click here to give now. Don’t let Spelman down.
    The reason I am still in Atlanta although AWP starts tomorrow is that Spelman is honoring my mentor Pearl Cleage and I will make a tribute to Pearl this evening at 6:30 pm in LLC2. Not to be overly dramatic, but Pearl taught me how to be writer. I love her very much.
    After that, it’s off to the AWP conference to talk about my other passion, GIRLS WRITE NOW.
    More later, and hopefully pictures from the Spelman events. I have my camera, but not my cord…

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    Chapters Reading Canceled

    I am so sorry to tell you that the Chapters Reading– featuring Dolen Perkins-Valdez– has been canceled. The reading was set to be a swell event, so we are all very disappointed. Not only was I looking forward to hearing Dolen, but I was also excited to hear from our Girls Write Now mentor/mentee pairs. When you see our girls in action, you will see right away why Michelle Obama presented GWN with The Coming Taller Award. Girls Write Now is preparing the next generation of women writers one girl, and one word at a time. Please consider giving GWN a donation to help us continue this important work. Since the entire Northeast is snowed it, how about you give us the money you won’t be spending on cab fare…..

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    The Best Reading Series in NYC

    GWN Has the Best Reading Series in NYC
    The Girls Write Now reading series, Chapters, is four kinds of amazing. Maud Newton does the curating and you know she has wonderful taste. Readers include blog-beloved Dolen Perkins Valdez, word-beloved Chimamanda Adiche, and other fastastic writers like Nami Mun, Ru Freeman, and Lizzie Skurnick. Click here for dates, and the price is free.
    And, (cue the infomercial voice), that’s not all– also featured at the events are the genius girls who belong to Girls Write Now, one of the best afterschool programs in country. (You don’t have to take my word that GWN is the best. If you don’t believe me, just ask Michelle Obama.)

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    Goodbye To A People’s Hero

    R.I.P. Howard Zinn

    Originally uploaded by kbcampbell

    Howard Zinn passed away last night at the age of 87. He died of a heart attack while traveling. His landmark work, A People’s History of the United States, was meant to be a small publication– only 5,000 copies were printed– but it has sold over a million copies, each year selling more copies than the year before. The People’s History is American history told from a left-wing point of view, highlighting the stories of people not in power.

    The video below is Alice Walker reading “Sojourner Truth”, from the program “Voices of A People’s History.” Alice Walker and Howard Zinn met when she was a student at Spelman College. He was fired from Spelman when he supported the students who demonstrated for civil rights against the will of the administration.

    Mr. Zinn doesn’t appear in the video, which is strangely right. It was never about Howard Zinn, it was always about the people’s history.

    Goodbye, Mr. Zinn, Goodbye!

  • Posted in Community Service | 1 Comment

    Educate A Woman, Educate A Family

    About three or four years ago, I gave a reading a presentation at Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Here is a link to the report I posted back in 2005. And here is an excerpt:

    I was invited to Mercy because my novel, The Untelling, is set at a literacy center like Mercy. The greatest honor any writer can receive is the appreciation of the people whose lives are depicted in her books. The appreciation of the people who sit on prestigious committees is what gets a person ahead in her career, but the people at Mercy Learning Center are the folks who keep me honest; they are the people who remind me what it as stake.
    Imagine, if you will, a woman walking six miles to her ESL classes, pushing a stroller. She can’t read the street signs yet, she just moves from memory. She has never been away from her baby before, but she will entrust the child to the daycare at Mercy so that she can attend her ESL class for five hours a day, five days a week. Imagine another woman who speaks English as her first language but never learned to read it. She goes to Mercy to learn to read well enough to earn her G.E.D., but walks away in a year with a love of literature and the desire to write her own book.

    I just got an end-of-year letter from Mercy Learning Center and they need donations to say afloat in these hard times. If you can, send them a little something. My birthday is Monday and if you want to give me something, give something to Mercy and tell me about it.

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    Girls Write Now at the White House

    GWN goes to the White House!

    In this photo are Maya Nussbaum (founder and CEO) and Tina Gao (fabulous GWN mentee). Since the whole GWN family couldn’t come, Maya and Tina sent a video home to NYC about the ceremony. The sweetest thing was when Tina, breathless and excited, swooned: We received the award from Michelle Obama’s hand!

    For more information about Girls Write Now, visit our web site. And while you’re there, make a donation, why don’t you?

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    Every Girl Needs A Mentor

    Girls Write Now mentee, Amalie, reads her poem, My Name Is Not My Sky, at the GWN tenth anniversary event. Although Amalie’s mentor is not pictured in this video, this poem was composed with guidance from a GWN volunteer. Our amazing amazing girls and their mentors work together one-on-one for an entire year. In this video you will see a young woman who has found her voice and she has found a community.
    Every girl needs a mentor. Help us make that hapen.

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    It’s PayBack Time

    Spelman College c’2000

    Originally uploaded by OriginalNajeema

    I was going to include this in the links, but I think I should post it by itself. Today is the end of the fiscal year. Please go to the website of your undergraduate institution and make a donation. The schools are able to receive more funds based on the PERCENTAGE of alumni who give back. So even if you give just $10, you are considered active and that ups the numbers.

    My Spelman Sisters, and other HCBU grads, it’s time to step up and you have to do it TODAY. Here is the link to the Spelman site. Just do it. It won’t take but a minute. Think about what you got from Spelman, Morehouse, Southern, FAMU, Hampton, Howard, etc. Was it worth five minutes and a little bit of money?

    Just give.

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