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russellsmilingdansmallActress Melissa George, African Voices chairperson Jeannette Curtis-Rideau, Russell Simmons, Danny Simmons and Alaina Simone celebrated
African Voices’ 19 years of service to the arts at the summer soirée held at B. Smith’s in Sag Harbor on Aug 12. Photo: Richard Lewin



Jeannette Curtis-Rideau
Writer/Member, 100 Black Women,
Bergen County Chapter, NJ

Carolyn A. Butts
Public Relations Specialist

Annie Brown
Membership Director
Writer/Realty Property Manager

Kenneth Meeks
Black Enterprise Broadcast Television

Vera Sims
Retired Educator




Carolyn A. Butts, the executive director and publisher of African Voices, has 20 years of organizing programs in the areas of arts, education, business and film. At 25, she was one of the first New Yorkers to publish a literary magazine featuring art and literature by artists of color. As the associate director for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Youth Arts Academy, Ms. Butts managed on-site and off-site arts training programs for young people ages 3 to 18. She supervised a staff of 20 part-time instructors and was responsible for grant writing, budgeting and program development. Carolyn is also the founder the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series (

A graduate of Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus, Carolyn has also carved out a successful career in public relations and politics. She is a former Assistant Press Secretary for New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger.

Jeannette Curtis-Rideau, a retired educator, is a performance poet, sculptor, art curator and author. She is a licensed and certified clinical speech and language pathologist who worked in the Englewood Public Schools system in New Jersey. She earned her Master of Science Degree in Speech Pathology and Urban Languages from Federal City College in Washington, D.C. Ms. Curtis-Rideau is a member of 100 Black Women Bergen Chapter and the Fort Lee Film Commission in New Jersey.


Derick Cross (aka D. Cross) is a multidimensional visual and performance artist who creates imagery in order to reach deep inside the viewer of his artwork. His work is part of the collections of Erykah Badu (Grammy Award-winning Singer-Songwriter), Ed Lewis (Founder of Essence Communications), Ruby Dee (legendary actress), Judith Jamaison (Alvin Ailey director & legendary dancer/choreographer) and Bashiri Johnson (world renowned percussionist & music producer), among others. He is the Art Director of African Voices. As a performance artist he combines the art of Spoken Word, Vocal Percussion (beatboxing) and Hip-Hop (emceeing/rap), making music to ears of listeners everywhere. D-Cross has been featured on Nickelodean, TV Land BET’s 106’s and Park and the Electric Company.


Aziza is a visual artist, fine art printmaker, and illustrator. Her career as a freelance illustrator began early as an art student at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. After graduating, Aziza attended Pratt Institute where she came across African Voices on a walk to school and since her freshman year has been a contributing illustrator. Aziza is currently the Assistant Art Director of African Voices. Aziza is a member of Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and the Lower East Side Printshop, where she was a past recipient of the Keyholder Residency. Aziza has worked extensively in arts and education as a teaching artist through programs such as P.A.L, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration, Publicolor, and residencies in West Africa and Jamaica, WI. Her artwork has been featured on the The History Channel and Style Network Channel. Aziza’s work has appeared in two person and group exhibitions at Manhattan Center, Joloff Restaurant, Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Gallery 402, Marianne Boesky Gallery, University of Iowa, 1199SEIU Bread & Roses Gallery, and Blackburn 20/20. Aziza earned a BFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute with highest honors.

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is a poet, writer, educator, New Yorker and world-wanderer. Her poetry and fiction have been published in several journals including: Crab Orchard Review, Bomb, Long Shot, Paris/Atlantic, Drumvoices Revue, and Carapace. Her works have been anthologized in Listen Up! (One World/Ballantine), Catch The Fire!!! (Penguin/ Putnam), Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Random House), Role Call (Third World Press), Beyond The Frontier (Black Classic Press), The Body Eclectic (Henry Holt), Revenge and Forgiveness (Henry Holt), and The Book of Hope (Beyond Borders). Ekere has taught English and conducted creative writing workshops in London, Amsterdam, New York, Chicago and Rundu (Namibia). She earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College in 2001 and has a B.A. in Mass Communications from Clark Atlanta University in 1996.

Sandrine Dupiton, a staff writer and online journal editor, is a teaching artist and founder of Change X: Journalism & Leadership Institute, an after-school program where teenage students, mostly African-American girls, are trained in leadership and success principles. She is also an accomplished poet, journalism and teacher. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in journalism from Temple University.



MARIE BROWN, the president of Marie Brown & Associates literary agency visit website, is a 40-year veteran of the book business. Ms. Brown acquired a thorough understanding of her “calling” working as an editorial assistant and book editor; bookseller and bookstore manager; editor-in-chief of a magazine; and book-marketing strategist. Ms. Brown has been a bibliophile since her childhood years and currently lives and works in Harlem.

VOZA RIVERS is a leading African-American theater, music, and events producer as well as an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Presently, Rivers is Chairman/CEO of VOZ Entertainment Group; Executive Producer/ Founding Member, New Heritage Theatre Group (f/k/a/ Roger Furman Theatre, New York City’s oldest Black not-for-profit theater); Co-Founder/Executive Producer, IMPACT Repertory Theatre; Executive Producer, Harlem Week and the Harlem Jazz & Music Festival; Co-Chairman, Community Works, an arts and education program servicing 250,000 New York City students and adults annually and Chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance, a cultural service organization of 750 members. As Executive Producer, Rivers produces all of the major events for Harlem Week, the Harlem Jazz & Music Festival and the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame Annual Gala.

SONIA SANCHEZ, author of Morning Haiku, is award-winning poet, activist, scholar, and formerly the Laura Carnell professor of English and Women’s studies at Temple University-is the author of sixteen books, including Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, Does Your House Have Lions?, Wounded in the House of a Friend, and Shake Loose My Skin. She was appointed Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate by Mayor Michael Nutter.

DANNY SIMMONS is a visual artist and author of deep in your best reflection: poems in 160 characters, a collection of erotic poems; I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home, a volume of poetry and paintings; and Three Days As The Crow Flies, a novel about the NYC arts scene in the turbulent 1980s. He is also the co- creator and executive producer of the HBO series Def Poetry Jam. He is the founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and President of Rush Arts Gallery.