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  • ‘Midnight Delight’ Wins Top Honors at the Oregon Film Awards 2015

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    Midnight Delight, the latest feature from New York Film Academy graduate Rohit Gupta has been honored with the prestigious Platinum award for Best Experimental Film at the 2015 Oregon International Film Awards. “We are highly delighted about such an encouraging honor,” said Gupta, whose third film in a row continues to enthrall audiences around the world. Gupta’s earlier feature Life! Camera Action… picked up the Grand Jury Choice Award, the highest recognition at the same event in 2011.

    Tag-lined “Say hi to high…” and “Couch. Conversations. Clarity,” the 85-minute unique comedy film, Midnight Delight, produced by Gupta and Saumin Mehta under the banner of production company Dot and Feather Entertainment, is a composition of nine vignettes of characters at a smoking lounge and their hilarious antics with people they’ve never met before. Gupta shot the entire film over two-nights with a multi-camera set up. Mehta also post-produced the film, including an animated sequence, in only three months. The ensemble cast includes award winning actor Shaheed Woods, Michele Suttile, Alexandra Hellquist, award winning actress Dipti Mehta, John Crann, Maggie Alexander, Bill McCrea, Rachel Myers, Michael Laguerre, Adit Dileep, Sofia Sivan and Michael Lester who is also credited as co-editor. The theme song is I get high by Filo.

    When asked Gupta about the significance of the title, Gupta replied, “Midnight Delight has been my all time favorite ice-cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery.” Fair enough.

    The Oregon International Film Awards (OIFA) recognizes the very best in contemporary international independent cinema and screenwriting. OIFA presents awards annually to unique and compelling films from around the world. Awards are presented each year in four top recognition levels: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and only to those films and filmmakers that demonstrate a superior level of craftsmanship and quality.

    midnight delight

    Gupta and his team have another reason to celebrate this festival season as Midnight Delight has also been announced as an Official Selection at the Blow-up Chicago International Art House Film Festival 2015, which takes place towards the end of December. The Festival, named after the Michelangelo Antonioni’s iconic film Blow-Up, brings original storytellers together with adventurous audiences for its annual program.

    Earlier in 2015, Midnight Delight won the Judges Choice Film of the Festival award at the Cannabis Film Festival in Humboldt County, California, where the jury stated, “Midnight Delight is like smoking a cinematic joint.” At the film’s Washington state premiere at the 2015 Hempapalooza Music and Film Festival, it was said, “Midnight Delight is a pure cinematic aphrodisiac that brings a completely new and unique take on cannabis based movies and culture.”

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    December 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5615

  • Former Student Cody Broadway Directs ‘She Rides Bulls’

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    At a gala sponsored by the San Angelo Library, former New York Film Academy student Cody Broadway, director of the film She Rides Bulls, pulled back the curtains on his new dramatic short film, to a crowd of over 200 well wishers, crew members and public. The film was produced in and around San Angelo with a cast and crew from all over Texas, including seasoned professionals and amateurs all drawn to the project by its unique, thrilling story and the dynamic will power of its director.

    cody broadway

    The project began back in 2008, when the writer, Greg Mcgee, was a commercial producer at a San Angelo TV station (not coincidentally, where he met Cody Broadway).

    “I had always been a fan of the rodeo — especially the bull riding competitions,” said Mr. McGee. “I’d been looking for a script idea to sink my teeth into, and for some crazy reason I came up with the idea of a girl going toe to toe against all those macho cowboys in the PBRA. It was just outlandish enough…but not something I figured any sane woman would actually DO anytime soon. I sat down one Friday night and started writing. The words were leaping on to the page. I knew I was onto something, because the script was virtually writing itself.”

    The first person Greg showed it to was Cody. Greg was something of a mentor to Cody at the time, as this was Cody’s first industry job, and it was a “late career” job for Greg. “When I read the script, I literally BEGGED Greg to let me direct it,” said Cody. “It was such a great story. As a country boy from San Angelo, the rodeo setting and the strong family values in the story had a strong impact on me. It was something I knew I could do better than anybody else in the world, if I was given the chance.”

    “I couldn’t pass up commitment like that,” said Greg. “Of course I promised him he could direct it, with one caveat. He’d have to raise the money to get it done, because I was a writer, not a producer.” It took a few years, but Cody never forgot that promise, and never forgot the script She Rides Bulls. Flash forward to 2015. Cody was a producer at the CBS affiliate in San Antonio with all his ducks in a row to make a short promotional film for She Rides Bulls. He called in favors from cameramen and lighting professionals, make up artists, designers and props people. Everybody in San Angelo wanted go get involved, so before you knew it, Cody had a herd of bulls, some stunt cowboys and wranglers, horses, locations — everything fell into place perfectly.

    cody broadway nyfa

    “I have a fantastic amount of support from my friends and family. It was sort of like a snowball effect. First, they read the script. Then, they saw my determination in my eyes. And then, they were on board.”

    The film was shot over a long weekend in and around San Angelo, Texas. Working from a 20-page script provided by Greg McGee, based on the original screenplay, Cody used up to 4 simultaneous cameras to capture all the bull riding sequences. “We had some really talented riders from the local rodeo circuit. They were willing to do just about anything to get the shots we needed. It was really exciting to work with these guys,” said Broadway.

    Mr. Shawn Berryhill, who raises bulls and runs a bull riding school in San Angelo, furnished the bulls. “These weren’t amateur bulls,” says Mr. Berryhill. “They’re the same bulls I supply to rodeos all over Texas. They’re professionals, with over 100 years of breeding for one thing: to hate having a man on their back.

    The star of the movie is Melina Lyon, playing the role of Darlene, our bull riding diva. Melina is an accomplished horsewomen as well as a talented actress, but she’d never ridden a bull before. “This was a great role for me. Working with Cody and Michael (Lukaszewskyj, the Director of Photography) and the rest of the crew was an awesome experience. But, in real life, I think I’m going to stick to riding horses. Bulls are just too freakin’ crazy!”

    Cody was not only the director and the producer; he was also the movie’s editor. In less than 30 days, Cody had it finished and ready for the big screen. “We shot most of it on 4K video, which is a huge frame,” says Cody. “It gave me a lot of options in the editing room, such as cropping in on various parts of the picture to get the composition just right, and not sacrificing image quality. There was a lot of footage from multiple cameras, so it was a complicated editing job. It helped a lot to be the guy who shot it as well. I didn’t have to waste time figuring out where all the shots were. I already knew.”

    After a very successful first screening in San Angelo and San Antonio, Cody has entered the short movie in numerous festivals in the U.S. and Europe. “We’re hot on the trail of funding for the full feature film. There’s a lot of interest. I can’t say any more or I’d have to lock you in the stall with my favorite bull. Just kidding.”

    Announcements are forthcoming about major talent being attached to the project!

    She Rides Bulls Trailer #1 from MUSE studio + gallery on Vimeo.

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    June 22, 2015 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5766

  • BFA Filmmaking Grad Finalist in CineGear 2015 Film Series at Paramount Studios

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    medley

    When our filmmaking students graduate from the New York Film Academy, they bring with them a thesis film that they can be proud of. Often the short film will be his or her calling card to the professional world. But before that happens, we encourage our graduates to enter his or her thesis film into as many film festivals as possible, giving him or her and the film the proper exposure needed.

    One of our recent BFA Filmmaking graduates, Diego Andres Londono, has followed this advice, and has already seen success at the festivals with his thesis film, Medley. He’s won awards at two film festivals, California International Shorts and LAArthouse Filmfest, both as Best Experimental Film. Medley has also been selected into the biggest University level Film Festival in Colombia and was a part of the Cannes Short Film Corner.

    “There is a sweet and twisted bliss in Diego’s talents as he sees things with a creative eye that understands both art and commerce,” said NYFA Instructor Saga Elmoraseb. “He is detailed without being demanding and is sensitive about the filmmaking process. These (and many more) are reasons why I feel Diego is a cut above the rest. His film Medley is proof.”

    Now, Diego’s film is a finalist in the CineGear 2015 Film Series, which will take place at the famous Paramount Studios. Diego is competing for $5,000 in equipment for his next project against two other student thesis films from AFI and USC.

    We had a chance to ask Diego a few questions about his film and his young career before his upcoming GineGear screening on June 4th.

    Congrats on the success of your thesis film! Can you tell us what the film is about?

    It wasn’t the first idea that I had and it was born kind of in the middle of turmoil, as I didn’t know if I was going to be able to shoot a thesis film at all. Nevertheless, one night of May 2014, Matías Piegari, a very good friend and composer, whom I met at NYFA, showed me an amazing piano recital experiment called: “4’33.”

    The experiment was conducted by John Cage, and in it, Cage brought a world-renowned piano player and made the audience believe that he was about to play a sonata. The curiosity would build up as the piano player sat down in front of the big audience, but when the time to perform came in, the player would start his metronome and remain motionless until the metronome hit an entire movement. It is what’s called a symphony composed of silence.

    To me, it challenged the very definition of art because it shows that art is not just this thing that is created by a human being for others to judge, it exists on its own. And in the context of Medley, it exists in nature. I went back home and began writing with extreme passion about a piano concert in which the piano didn’t produce the sounds that it was expected to produce, but sounds of nature. Nature for me is what drives my creativity — as I see it — it is in nature where art resides in its pure form and in its universal state.

    medley

    Can you tell us a little bit of how this film came together?

    I got an amazing support from Asaph Polonsky and Tony Schwartz, my directing and producing instructors. They knew of the effort I put on my first thesis idea and the reasons why it didn’t come through. At that time, they put a word in with Mike Civille, who was the head of the filmmaking department at that time. I was asking for an extra semester to be able to shoot my thesis, but Mike gave me an extra month; and he was right: an extra month was enough for me to conceive the idea and shoot it. I had to resource to my own creativity, the producing and directing tools that I had acquired with years and to my friends — the people who I spent three years of my life battling side by side in the sea of projects that is the BFA program.

    I will be eternally grateful to Melissa Inzunza, our Producer, and Yana Surits, our AD: they are not only just classmates, they are my true friends. After the initial struggle, we managed to get Jordan Black on board, an amazing Director of Photography and an equally talented Production Designer, Kalise Wallace (Star Trek: Renegades, Bound). And just like that, we rented a small studio in Glendale and began dressing up the atemporary world where the concert had to take place. A lot of friends came forward and helped in the dressing of the place. To help in the construction, Kalise brought a master threader who works with ‘Cirque du Soleil’ to build their tents and scenery in Vegas. (Only in LA do you get to meet people like that.) He congratulated us for the amazing production value that we were capable of generating with a minimal budget.

    A month after principal photography was completed, we shot the nature sequence. I wanted to contrast the arranged concert as an art form with the pure art that exists in nature. But I knew that I had to choose a place equally beautiful to what we had created artificially. This is why we chose Big Sur as our location for the nature shots. This magical place on Earth is one where Ansel Adams decided to inspire himself and represent his work. At Big Sur, the majestic sequoia trees die by the sea. I’ve never seen that spectacle elsewhere. We hiked for two days with a skeletal crew of five. We captured mesmerizing imagery that, in the words of many photographers, rival those of the National Geographic.

    What do you hope to achieve with this film?

    I wanted to try new approaches to filmmaking by conveying emotions through the creative use of sound and image. I learned heaps in the process; and most likely will affect my future films. As for our audience, I would like to generate questions about what is art, and where does the concept comes from. I would like for them to feel and experience an experimental journey that hopefully will trigger their creativity.

    on set medley

    Would you say your training and education at NYFA was useful in terms of directing this film?

    I am grateful for the education and hands-on training that I received at NYFA. I learned from working on all of my friend’s projects and also from great instructors who taught me to strive for greatness and to stand behind my vision and get my collaborators involved in it. Throughout the time that I spent at the school, we constantly changed and evolved and towards the end of my BFA program I was able to put together all of the directing lessons that I received and implement them in the natural way that I imprinted in Medley’s actors.

    NYFA is a young school but it has an international quality to it that gives you a sense of global perspective that other schools might not give you. This helped me in writing Medley out of a traditional way, and go for an avant-garde style. All for all, I had awesome experiences that allowed me to see the world through other scopes. Being surrounded by different cultures allowed me not only to receive an ‘American Education’ but also to share my cinematic experience with people from around the world. I am proud to say that my film is the first NYFA film to compete in the ‘2015 Cinegear Film Series’ at Paramount Studios, alongside of AFI and USC thesis films, because my school is at that level.

    Are you currently working on another project?

    Currently, I am working on developing a feature film about a murder case in Pleasanton, California, in which authorities work in a crooked way because of the victim being an African American and because of the sense of ‘small town’ that NorCal communities have. We can use all the help that we can get and of course we where planning on coming to NYFA, as we know of the good relationship that the school has with its alumni. I also have projects in development in Colombia and México, which I’m already in conversations with production companies back home to produce in the upcoming years. I say ‘years’ because it seems like feature filmmaking is a marathon and not just a sprinting race, but I’m enjoying the ride.

    Medley has been selected to compete in the Student Film Category for the ‘CineGear film series’ at Paramount Studios on June 4th of 2015. For more information visit: http://www.cinegearexpo.com/

    Have a look at Diego’s trailer for Medley below!

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    June 3, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4211

  • NYFA Alum brings 3D Animation to the Stage

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    bob marley

    On Wednesday, May 13, New York Film Academy 3D Animation alumnus and instructor Mark Reynolds stormed Baltimore’s prestigious Center Stage Theater — not as an actor or musician, but as a 3D animator.

    As a member of the animation team for Center Stage’s production of the new musical Marley, a biography of reggae legend Bob Marley, Mark provided 3D models and animation of numerous locations in the play, from Jamaica’s Trench Town slums to the mountains of Ethiopia, and some very specific locations such as Bob Marley’s house and the breathtaking Bet Giyorgis church in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Under the direction of Projections Designer Alex Koch, the team created a stylized look that combines the earthiness of hand-drawn lines and textures with the bold camera movements and dramatic lighting at which computer graphics excel.

    “What we accomplished is pretty remarkable,” Mark says. “The projections and animation run pretty much throughout the play. We essentially made a two-hour animated feature in ten weeks.”

    Mark, who himself completed NYFA’s one-year 3D Animation program in 2013, now teaches at the school, in addition to working as a freelancer. Most recently, his work was seen projected on the H&M tent ceiling at Coachella. “I spent a week making cartoons of cats shooting lasers out of their eyes. It was ridiculous. This is the kind of gig where you can leave work at the end of the day and say, ‘That was so silly. I love my job!'”

    Marley was written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, and runs through June 14.

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    May 14, 2015 • 3D Animation • Views: 4448

  • New York Film Academy and The Young Storytellers

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    young storytellers

    “In 1997, a group of film students learned that Los Angeles public schools were cutting creative arts programs from the budget. Knowing the value arts-education held in their own lives, they created a volunteer-based creative arts program they could take directly into public schools.” (From http://www.youngstorytellers.com/)

    For close to twenty years, the Young Storytellers Foundation has continued to bring art into thousands of students’ lives. Along the way, New York Film Academy has teamed with YSF by teaching production to their high school students and helping them create their own projects on the Universal backlot.

    nyfa storytellers

    This year – with the invaluable help of YSF’s Bill Thompson & Pilar Alvarez and Valley View Elementary’s Susan Kim – New York Film Academy has become one of a select few colleges running its own Young Storyteller classroom.

    For the eight weeks, a dozen NYFA students and alumni will each mentor a fifth grader from Valley View Elementary school. Led by “head mentors” Dean of Students Eric Conner, the mentors will encourage their students to create and write their own five page screenplays which will be performed as a “live staged reading” by a group of NYFA Actors.

    young storytellers nyfa

    YSF’s Pilar Alvarez trained and prepared the NYFA mentors for the daunting task of keeping up with the ten-year-olds’ minds! Each weekly session will be split between a lecture on the fundamentals of screenwriting followed by and the fifth graders workshopping their own ideas. One lesson in and the budding writers from Valley View Elementary have already reviewed the basics of three-act structure and what makes us all love storytelling.

    The young writers devised an agreement detailing how the class will be run and what is expected from each of them (and their scripts). Next week’s class can’t come soon enough. Stay tuned!

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    March 12, 2015 • Acting • Views: 4363

  • Acting Grad & Instructor Team Up For One-Woman Show

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    emma mcwilliams

    We’re so proud to announce the upcoming production of mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome, which will make its premiere at the 18th annual New York International Fringe Festival. The show not only features a one woman show written and performed by New York Film Academy AFA Acting graduate, Emma McWilliams, but was also developed and is directed by NYFA Associate Chair of Acting/Departmental Programming, Anne Moore. Moore’s theater credits include the Off-Broadway two woman show, Sit N’ Spin, at the world renowned Atlantic Theater. She also co-founded the critically acclaimed sketch comedy group, The Flying Queens and starred in, Anne Moore and more and more at Catch a Rising Star. Her TV/Film credits include Vegas, Grey’s Anatomy, Good Intentions, and more. She has also won an award for her documentary short film, Czech Daze.

    Her newest production, mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome with Emma McWilliams is an autobiographical account of a quirky girl’s search for identity amidst the confusion of being told she’s “disabled.” She captivates all–transforming into over 20 different unique characters that help share her heartwarming story as she tries to understand her syndrome she was born with spontaneously: Nail Patella Syndrome.

    anne mooreNail Patella Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that occurs in 1 and 50,000 people. The most obvious symptoms are poorly developed fingernails and kneecaps. Other symptoms include: dysfunctional elbows, stiff joints, kidney failure, and glaucoma. Emma is the first in her family to have the syndrome, and her story deals with the issues of discrimination, gender equality, racism, religion, “fitting in”, and finding your identity. In the end, after many laughs and tears, you’ll learn what changed everything, as Emma learns that labels don’t matter.

    First and foremost, Emma wants the world to know that, “NO, SHE DOES NOT HAVE DOWN SYNDROME.” While attending NYFA, Emma’s knack for comedy and standup compiled with her unique look was clearly noticed, and she was encouraged by her former teacher (Moore) to create a one woman show—thus where the project began. Emma is said to be an upbeat quirky girl who will definitely spice up your life. She is a muffin with rainbow sprinkles, a cross between Amanda Plummer and Joan Cusack. She has a wide range that always keeps her having fun; “crazy asylum girl” on Teen Wolf and “the modest girl” on Ant Farm.

    Emma’s motto: “To inspire, impact, and entertain the human spirit—one stage, one theater, one seat at a time.”

    Please come out and support Emma and Anne in this wonderful show, which runs from August 8th-24th at Fringe NYC. For tickets or more information, CLICK HERE.

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    July 21, 2014 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3878

  • Master Class with Award-Winning Filmmaker & NYFA Grad Rob Hardy

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    Rob HardyAs part of the African Black Film Festival 2014, New York Film Academy graduate and highly successful filmmaker, Rob Hardy, will be holding a Master Class at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Saturday, June 21st from 4:30pm- 6:30pm.

    Rob Hardy, who is a 2014 NAACP Image Award nominee, broke into network television with his January 2007 directorial debut of the Emmy Award winning show ER. Soon after, Black Enterprise Magazine listed him among the Top 40 Entertainers under 40 for the year 2008. Since recently Executive Producing on Think Like A Man Too for Sony Pictures, Hardy has returned to television with directing stints on several shows including: Criminal Minds, Arrow, Castle, The Vampire Diaries, Bones, 90210, The Game, The Originals, Grey’s Anatomy, Being Mary Jane, Single Ladies, and Ravenswood.

    Hardy began his career as a high school Senior, with the camcorder-shot movie G-Man. While pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Florida A & M University, he made the leap to film with the low-budget motion picture Chocolate City. This experience earned him the institution’s highest honor, the Bernard Hendricks Student Leadership Award, and launched his company Rainforest Films. The underground buzz on the project soon led to his controversial film Trois. Hardy not only directed and co-wrote the thriller, he was also instrumental in self-distributing the project to be the fastest Independent African American film to pass the $1 million dollar mark. In 2003, after directing the critically acclaimed thriller Pandora’s Box, he added the role of “Producer” to his credits by collaborating with business partner Will Packer, to produce several movies including: Three Can Play that Game, Puff Puff Pass and Motives. 2004 saw penning an “untitled Usher” project for MTV Films. Hardy then wrote and directed the spiritually themed drama entitled The Gospel, and produced the companion Gospel Live!. His hard-earned success has garnered a 2006 “Best Screenplay” (Black Movie Awards) nomination. He then Executive Produced Stomp The Yard, which held the #1 position at the box office for two weekends in January of 2007 and received the 2007 Movie of the Year Award from the BET Hip Hop awards and later directed it’s sequel Stomp the Yard: Homecoming. Later, he created the Sprite Step off TV series for MTV 2 that placed a fraternity step competition into the reality TV space. A documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr’s life as a fraternity member called AlphaMan: The Brotherhood of MLK, soon aired.

    The Hollywood Reporter (December 2002) listed him amongst the New Establishment of Black Power Brokers. Florida A&M University awarded him with the Meritorious Achievement Award, which is the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus. After which he received the inaugural Woody Strode / Paul Robeson Award of Excellence from his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

    His company Rainforest Films, was listed as one of the Top 25 Money Makers in Entertainment (2007) by Black Enterprise Magazine and has gone on to produce feature films including: Ride Along, No Good Deed, This Christmas, Obsessed and Takers.

    Additionally, Hardy has directed commercial projects for clients, including: CNN, TBS (Turner Broadcasting), American Honda, Coca-Cola, Georgia Lottery and The National Cancer Institute. He serves on the Advisory Board for the International Feature Project (IFP) Film Lab series. He resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife and two sons.

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    June 12, 2014 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4502

  • NYFA Grad Releases New Book: ‘Notes From a Colored Girl’

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    Notes From Colored GirlNew York Film Academy graduate, Karsonya Wise Whitehead has recently released a book entitled, Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis. In the book, Whitehead examines the life and experiences of Emilie Frances Davis, a freeborn twenty-one-year-old mulatto woman, through a close reading of three pocket diaries she kept from 1863 to 1865. Emilie’s world-views and politics, her perceptions of both public and private events, her personal relationships, and her place in Philadelphia’s free black community in the nineteenth century, are all explored. The diaries of Emilie Frances Davis is one of only a handful of resources written by a free black woman from the nineteenth century.

    Whitehead’s book was resoundingly endorsed by Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “’To day has bin a memorable day. I thank God I have bin here to see it.’ So begins the pocket diaries of free black woman Emilie Davis of Philadelphia on the day of Emancipation at the midpoint of the Civil War. Her words also capture my feelings in seeing Davis’s diaries published under the expert eye of Karsonya Wise Whitehead, whose scholarly annotations not only set the scene but reveal how this ‘everyday’ domestic-dressmaker’s decision to record her thoughts at the critical hours of the African American journey was itself an emancipatory act.”

    Since graduating from NYFA, Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead is now an assistant professor of communication and African and African American studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland; a Master Teacher in African American History for intermediate, secondary and college teachers; the 2007 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America Maryland History Teacher of the Year; and, a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker.

    In addition, she has been a featured speaker at the 2013 and 2014 White House Black History Month panels co-sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

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    May 28, 2014 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5037