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PEN Write Now: Your South, Our South

Presented by PEN Write Now, “Your South, Our South,” explored the various ideas of the “South” through the experiences of emerging writers of color who identify beyond the region. Featuring an enlightening conversation between writer and educator Dasan Ahanu, Scalawag‘s Director of Movement Partnerships Jonah Vincent, and Rofhiwa Bookstore owner Naledi Yaziyo, attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a “Defining Your Personal South” zine production workshop 

Exploring themes of displacement, identity, and heritage, the workshop portion of this program called on attendees to engage with their creativity and explore their personal understandings of the American South. Participants responded with poetry/prose or visual art with the opportunity to have their work included in a zine that PEN Piedmont will print and distribute via Rofhiwa. 

This event was conducted in partnership with PEN Piedmont, Rofhiwa Books, and Scalawag.

This event was part of PEN Write Now, an initiative that engages North Carolina’s traditionally underserved communities through joyful, literary-focused interactive events. The series will create spaces for collective conversations and cultivate audiences often underrepresented by literary programming. PEN Write Now is sponsored by the Piedmont Chapter of PEN America with support from the North Carolina Arts Council.

PEN Write Now: Your South, Our South

About the Panel

Dasan Ahanu is a North Carolina-based cultural organizer, artist, and scholar. In conjunction with creative arts, his academic work focuses on critical writing, creative writing, hip-hop, and popular culture. The self-described introvert with a very public profession has always enjoyed challenges. More than blending culture and academia, Dasan balances the practical with possibilities. It’s this mindset that has afforded him the opportunity to craft dreams into accolades.

Dasan is a visiting professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, teaching courses on hip-hop and Black culture. He has authored four poetry collections, The Innovator (HWJW Publishing, 2010), Freedom Papers (HWJW Publishing, 2012), Everything Worth Fighting For: An exploration of being Black in America (Flowered Concrete, 2016), and Shackled Freedom: Black Living in the Modern American South (Willow Books, 2021).

Naledi Yaziyo is the co-owner and curator at Rofhiwa Book Cafe, a bookstore in Durham.

Jonah Vincent brings two decades of experience as an organizer, musician, and educator to his work with Scalawag. He started organizing in 2008 when he supported Black civic engagement for the Obama presidential campaign. Later, he served as Eastern North Carolina Field Coordinator for the NAACP and Tennessee State Director for Vote Mob. Jonah is also an accomplished musician, recording artist, and one-half of hip-hop duo Beatnam. Raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, he now lives in Durham, where he enjoys spending time with loved ones, building relationships, and grilling a good Tomahawk ribeye.


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