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2011 Speakers' Biographies

Christina AsquithChristina Asquith has been an award-winning journalist for over 15 years, writing for The New York Times, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her book, Sisters in War: Love, Survival and Family in the New Iraq, is based on the 18 months she lived in and reported from Baghdad, Iraq. She is also the author of The Emergency Teacher (Skyhorse Press, 2007), a non-fiction account of her year as a 6th grade teacher in low-income Philadelphia middle school. Christina received her BA in Political Science from Boston University and her MA in Philosophy and Policy from The London School of Economics. In 2007, she was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is a board member of ASUDA-USA, an organization that empowers female immigrants and refugees of Iraq descent, that are either victims of violence or vulnerable to violence, to attain economic independence and judicious social adjustment. Born in New York City to British parents, she travels frequently to the UK and the Middle East. She currently lives with her husband and daughter in Cambridge, MA, where she is senior editor of The Solutions Journal. 

Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University, and since 1994 has taught Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Media Studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. She has also been a member of the faculty of the interdisciplinary Project Renaissance program at the University at Albany, SUNY, since 2002. In 2004, she published the anthology Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean, which collected essays and poetry from that region’s well-known and emerging women writers. A new anthology, African Women Writing Resistance, co-edited with Pauline Dongala, Omotayo Jolaosho and Anne Serafin, was published in 2010 by the University of Wisconsin Press, African Women Writers series, and is also being issued by Pambazuka Press in London for distribution in Europe, Africa and Australia. In her scholarship, teaching and activism, she has followed the trail of women’s resistance across cultural and geographic boundaries, gravitating to narratives and stories written by women whose voices are not typically heard in mainstream U.S. discourse. Since 2002 she has directed the annual conference in observance of International Women’s Day at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and served for five years as Vice President for Programs of the Berkshire Chapter of UNIFEM/USA, now known as Berkshire Women for Women Worldwide, as well as two years on the national Board of UNIFEM/USA.

Pauline DongalaPauline Dongala of Congo-Brazzaville, co-editor of the anthology African Women Writing Resistance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010) came to the realization that, as an African woman, there were certain topics that made her boil inside, but were hard for her to discuss openly. After she fled the Congo in 2000 she went through a long period of depression and inner turmoil, trying to adjust to her new surroundings in the U.S. and dealing with the untimely and violent deaths of many family members and friends. Pauline believes that spirituality and faith are essential to the empowerment of women, and that women must reach out to support one another. She is working towards a B.A. in women’s studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Nathalie Etoké Nathalie Etoké earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in modern literature at the University of Lille in France and her Ph.D. in French from Northwestern University. She is an assistant professor of French and Africana Studies at Connecticut College, focusing on African film, literature and philosophy. She is the author of Melancholia africana, l'indispensable dépassement de la condition noire (Paris, Editions du Cygne, 2010) and L’écriture du corps féminin dans la littérature de l’Afrique francophone au Sud du Sahara (Paris, L’Harmattan, 2010). She has also published two novels: Un amour sans papiers (Paris: Editions Cultures Croisées, 1999) and Je vois du soleil dans tes yeux, published in Cameroon in 2008.

Hannah Fries is Poetry Editor and Associate Editor of Orion magazine. She received a BA from Dartmouth College and an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College. Three of her poems have won prizes from the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, and her work has appeared in journals such as faultline, PMS (poemmemoirstory), Relief, and The Berkshire Review. 

Omotayo JolaoshoOmotayo Jolaosho is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She traces her relationship to resistance through her Nigerian maternal family line. At the feet of her mother's mother, Victoria Adebanke Bedu, she learned the quintessence of resistance—having a goal and pressing on towards that goal no matter what obstacles are encountered along the way. From her mother, Jolaosho learned the resistant value not necessarily of "speaking truth to power" but of claiming power by refusing to bow to circumstance. Her ongoing research is focused on arts resistance and the attainment of human rights in South Africa and her native Nigeria.

Demetria MartinezDemetria Martinez is an author, activist, writing coach and journalist. Her books include the widely translated novel, Mother Tongue (Ballantine), winner of a Western States Book Award for Fiction. Mother Tongue is based in part upon Martinez's 1988 trial for conspiracy against the United States government in connection with smuggling Salvadoran refugees into the country, a charge that with others carried a 25-year prison sentence. A religion reporter at the time, covering the faith-based Sanctuary Movement, Martinez was found not guilty on First Amendment Grounds. Born in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1960, where she now resides, Martinez earned her B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Her other book-length publications include Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana (University of Oklahoma Press), which won the 2006 International Latino Book Award in the category of best biography; two books of poetry, Breathing Between the Lines and The Devil's Workshop (University of Arizona Press); and a children’s book, co-authored with Rosalee Montoya-Read, called Grandpa's Magic Tortilla (University of New Mexico Press, 2010). She is a recipient of the 2010 Friends of New Mexico Books Award for her contributions to literature of the state and the Southwest. She teaches at the annual June writing workshop at the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and blogs about human rights issues for The National Catholic Reporter. She serves on the board of Enlace Comunitario, an immigrants' rights group which works with Spanish-speaking survivors of domestic violence and is the co-founder of the Albuquerque Chapter of Poets Against War.

Deborah MirandaDeborah A. Miranda is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University, where she teaches Poetry, Native American Literatures, Women's Literature and writing. Of Esselen, Chumash, French and Jewish ancestry, she is enrolled with the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of California. Her publications include The Zen of La Llorona (Salt Publishing, 2005); Indian Cartography (Greenfield Review Press, 1999) and Deer, a chapbook of poems. Her poetry has been widely published in such anthologies as The Dirt is Red Here: Art and Poetry from Native California (HeyDay Books, 2002) and The Eye of the Deer: An Anthology of Native American Women Writers (Aunt Lute, 1999). Her work has also been published in such journals as the Bellingham Review, Bellowing Ark, California Quarterly, Calyx, Callaloo, Cimarron Review, News From Native California, Poets On, Raven Chronicles, Sojourner, Weber Studies Journal, West Wind Review, and Wilderness.

Mileta Roe, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. She has also taught at Boston College and Brandeis University. Her scholarly work and interests include 20th-century prose fiction from Latin America, critical theory, the aesthetics of francophone and Spanish-language film, and the adaptation of stories across disciplinary and linguistic boundaries.

Anne Serafin, co-editor of the anthology African Women Writing Resistance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), taught English at numerous high schools in the U.S. and at Newton North High School for more than 30 years. In the early 1990s she received an NEH Teacher-Scholar Award to read and research African literatures and in 1996 she established an African literature discussion group at the Newton Free Library, which has continued to the present. She has also published articles and reviews in various journals, presented papers on African literature and film at academic conferences, and conducted workshops in African literatures for school groups and adult education programs.

JoAnne Spies is a singer/songwriter who uses music as a tool to understand environmental issues, build community and empower voices for positive change. Recent works include her CD, "North Avenue Honey," "Watershed Waltz," an interactive environmental program for schools and Marmalade Productions, and "Sounding Mohican Pathways" an ongoing event that honors Mohican heritage, celebrates the river and makes history come alive through music improvisation. JoAnne is a member of the faculty of Community Access to the Arts in Great Barrington, MA, and specializes in songwriting with elders and Alzheimer groups. She is a recipient of a composer’s fellowship at the Millay Colony and is president of the Women’s Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires.

Sandra Steingraber -- photo by D. HatchSandra Steingraber, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized authority on the environment links to cancer and human health. Her highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. Originally published in 1997, it was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and won praise from international media including The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times. Released as a second edition in 2010, Living Downstream has been adapted for film by The People’s Picture Company of Toronto. This eloquent and cinematic documentary follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. Sandra is also the author of Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, which is both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology, revealing the extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each stage of infant development. The Library Journal selected Having Faith as a best book of 2001, and it was featured in a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers. Sandra has received many honors for her work as a science writer. She was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year and later received the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s first annual Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer.” The Sierra Club has heralded her as “the new Rachel Carson,” and Carson’s own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Sandra Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award. In 2006, she received a Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund and, in 2009, the Environmental Health Champion Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles. She has testified in the European Parliament, before the President’s Cancer Panel, and has participated in briefings to Congress and before United Nations delegates in Geneva, Switzerland. A columnist for Orion Magazine, Sandra is currently a scholar-in-residence in Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. She is married to the artist Jeff de Castro, and they live in a 1000-square-foot house with a push mower, a clothesline, a vegetable garden, and two beloved children.

Kuukua YomekpeKuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe immigrated to the U.S. from her native country, Ghana, in 1996, at age 19. She earned a B.A. in English from Old Dominican College, and M.A. in English at the University of Dayton. She is currently pursuing another graduate degree at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Kuukua is a member of the National Religious Leaders Roundtable, Call to Action, Critical Resistance, and Incite!, as well as The Beatitudes Society in Berkeley. She is proud to be an African woman and a politically queer woman of color who believes strongly in justice and equality for all peoples, and lives this calling through her social justice work in the communities to which she belongs. A talented choreographer of Liturgical and African Dance forms, Kuukua has worked nationally with several organizations in expressions of spirituality and healing through dance, as well as other art forms.

Special Dance Performance
‘The Queen Years, ’ choreographed by Anni Crofut, is a modern dance piece celebrating the period in a woman’s life from her mid-50’s to mid-60’s, including her body, passions, sexuality, vitality and losses. The soundtrack is a collage of phrases taken from intimate interviews with five Berkshire women, all in their ‘Queen Years,’ as they reflect upon this period of their lives. Their rich, poignant, entertaining words are enlivened by a diverse musical back-drop including Vivaldi, Bach, Art Tatum, and Los Indios Tabajaras. Three exceptional women dancers, also in their 50’s and 60’s, bring their unique perspectives to Anni Crofut’s lyrical, evocative and humorous choreography.

Anni CrofutAnni Crofut began ballet and modern dance as a child and studied under Lester Horton and Judith Jameson at Jacob’s Pillow as a teen. As an adult she explored Salsa, African dance, Capoeira and Tango abroad. After returning to the U.S. in 2006, Anni has performed with the Berkshire Pulse and at the Mahaiwe Theatre where she introduced her own choreography in ‘The Soldier’s Tale.’ In 2010, Anni created a piece for four women titled ‘Rain,’ focusing on the remembrance of sensuality in young mothers, which was performed at the Sandisfield Arts Center in Sandisfield, MA. Her desire is to create a full suite of dances about the different stages of a woman’s life.

Lauren PaulLauren Paul has been studying, performing and teaching dance for more than 5 decades! Since 1972 most of her dance involvement has been in the South Indian classical form of Bharata Natyam. She studied modern dance with Bella Lewitzky and Donald McKayle at California Institute of the Arts and Bharata Natyam with Balasaraswati both in the U.S. and in India. Here in the Berkshires she practices acupuncture and shiatsu massage, sings, knits and is the loving hostess to her cat Artemisia and dog Thea.

Megan ReiselMegan Reisel, a movement arts educator since 1972, earned a BFA in Dance from California Institute of the Arts in '73 and an MA in Dance from UCLA in '98. She also ran her own dojo for Aikido in Los Angeles from 1980 until 1998, as well as working as a Somatic Movement Therapist. After introducing the Gyrotonic® system at Canyon Ranch in 2001, Megan opened her own studio for Movement therapy, utilizing this system, in the Berkshires in 2003. She currently owns Kinesphere Studio in Lee. As well as contemporary dance, Megan loves dancing Argentine Tango, which she began studying over ten years ago.

Kim KaufmanKim Kaufman has been learning and practicing movement in many forms her whole life. She has an MA in Dance Therapy from Lesley College Graduate School and is a certified practitioner of Body-Mind Centering. She has a bodywork and movement re-education private practice in Great Barrington and is currently teaching experiential anatomy for teens. She enjoys sacred circle dancing and home-schooling her children.