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Black Studies: Notable Alumni

A guide to our history, our present, our future, solely for our wellbeing.

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An ever-growing list of notable Black Bennington College alumni. Please share your suggestions for additional people to add to this list.

Kay Crawford Murray '56

Kay was valedictorian of Pittsburgh's Schenely High School, class of 1952. She graduated from Bennington College in 1956 with degree in psychology and earned an MA in Psychology from Columbia University Teacher's College. After working as a research associate with the New York City Board of Education until 1974; she earned her JD from Columbia University School of Law in 1976.

In 2002, Kay Crawford Murray retired as general counsel to the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, the position she had held since the establishment of the agency in 1979. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the agency for her work there.

Murray’s participation in bar associations has been extensive. She has served on committees of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), the New York City Bar Association, and the New York County Lawyer’s Association (NYCLA).

Issues of special concern to women have long been an area of Murray’s interest. She is a former chair of the Women’s Rights Committee of NYCLA and of the NYSBA Committee on Women in the Law, from which she received the Edith I. Spivack Award. She was also the inaugural recipient of the committee’s Kay Crawford Murray Award, an award named in her honor given to women in the profession who recognize the value of diversity in the legal profession and have dedicated their time to advancing the professional development of women attorneys.

In the words of Taa Grays, chair of the NYSBA’s Committee on Women the Law, “Kay C. Murray has been an inspiration and mentor to many women, particularly young African American women, because she took on the tough issues that were important to women, minorities and families at a time when few women of color even considered a career in the law.”

Murray served on the Board of Trustees of Bennington College from 1970 to 1977. She was the commencement speaker in 1993. 

Reflecting on Bennington on the occasion of her 50th class reunion in 2006 Kay wrote, "After my mother and my husband, Bennington had the greatest impact on my intellectual, social, and emotional development. I feel greatly indebted to Bennington for the experience and opportunities it afforded me."

Kay Crawford Murray died in 2018.

Anne Forrester '63

Anne Forrester was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Bennington in 1963. She received her master's degree in African studies at Howard University, in 1968. In 1974 she received her PhD from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati.

was appointed to the ambassadorship of Mali in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and was one of the first African American women to hold the post. A scholar and activist in the 1960s, she made the transition into a position of power in government and diplomacy. "What I represent is the generation that learned traditional values in the 1950s, was cast into turbulent changes in the 1960s, learned a new vocabulary and had to integrate the changes," she told The Washington Post in 1979. Forrester served as ambassador until 1981, then returned to Washington to work as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, where she laid the groundwork for the anti-apartheid bill that passed Congress in 1986.

She helped Randall Robinson as he launched the TransAfrica Forum, which lobbies on African issues. Forrester joined the United Nations staff in 1985, a decade after working as staff director for Andrew Young at the State Department, when he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She met and married Marvin Holloway, and they became involved in Washington's Drum and Spear Bookstore and Press, a center of black nationalist activism. After her ambassadorship and work on Capitol Hill, she became a guest scholar at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an adjunct professor in the African studies department at Georgetown University. 
 

Her work for the U.N. Development Program took her to Lesotho and Ghana and later to Barbados and the eastern Caribbean. She worked in the U.N. regional bureau for Africa under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, now president of Liberia. Ms. Forrester became a senior adviser to the administrator in charge of launching the U.N. Foundation and in her first year raised $20 million.

Forrester retired from the United Nations in October 2001 but continued to work as senior policy adviser on Africa, Afghanistan and HIV-AIDS matters for Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) for a year. She returned to New York and continued to work as an international consultant on African and Caribbean development issues. She died on June 24, 2006.

Safiya Sinclair, '10

Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She graduate from Bennington in 2010. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Virginia, and is currently a PhD candidate in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

She is the author of Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Poetry, the Phillis Wheatley Book Award, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Cannibal was selected as one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year". 

Sinclair’s other honors include a Pushcart Prize, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, fellowships from Yaddo, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Nation, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Oxford American, and elsewhere.

Maren Hassinger, '69

Born Maren Louise Jenkins, Hassinger grew up in Los Angeles.  She enrolled at Bennington in 1965, originally intending to study dance but instead she studied sculpture with Isaac Witkin and drawing with Pat Adams. She graduated in 1969 with B.A. in Sculpture. Her interest in dance would remain strong and she often integrates it into her sculptural forms.

After a brief stay in New York, she returned to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA in fiber from the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating in 1973. Hassinger's study of fibers proved beneficial to her work in sculpture, and she learned techniques that would inform her later work. Since 1997 she has been director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, bringing her spirit of experimentation to teaching as well.

Hassinger has work held in the permanent collections of Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Baltimore, MD; California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Williams College Art Museum, Williamstown, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA.

In 2009 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art, Maryland Institute College of Art.

Her photogravure, Whole Cloth, is on display in Crossett Library.

Gay J. McDougall, '69

Gay Johnson McDougall is an international human rights and racial justice lawyer. She studied social science at Bennington College. Her senior thesis was titled "An Examination of the Effects of Five Proposed Guaranteed Income Plans on a Selected Area of the Alabama Black Belt." She graduated with her B.A. in 1969. She received a J.D. from Yale Law School and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has honorary doctor of laws degrees from Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), the School of Law of the City University of New York, Kalamazoo College, and Agnes Scott College.

McDougall served as the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues from 2005 to 2011. She was executive director of the international NGO Global Rights from 1994 to 2006. From 1997 to 2001, she served as an Independent Expert on the UN treaty body that oversees compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a committee to which she recently re-elected for a second term. During her first term on the committee she negotiated the adoption of General Recommendation XXV on the Gender Dimensions of Racial Discrimination, which requires governments to report explicitly on the situation of women impacted by racial discrimination. She played a leadership role in the UN Third-World Conference Against Racism.

As Special Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape and sexual slavery practices in armed conflict when she served on the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (1995 to 1999), McDougall led that body in calling for international legal standards for the prosecution of such acts. She was one of five international members of the South African governmental body established through the multiparty negotiations to set policy and to administer the country’s first democratic, nonracial elections in 1994, resulting in the election of President Nelson Mandela and the transition from apartheid. For 14 years prior to that appointment, she served as director of the Southern Africa Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In that capacity, she worked with South African lawyers to secure the release of thousands of political prisoners.

McDougall is currently a member of the faculty of the Oxford University Masters of International Human Rights Law Programme and Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School. She was the Robert Drinan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center from 2011 to 2012. She was a distinguished scholar-in-residence at American University Washington College of Law from 2006 to 2008 and a professor in the annual Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at American University.

In 1999, McDougall was a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 2015, the Government of South Africa bestowed on her the Order of O.R. Tambo Award for her contributions to ending apartheid. She has also received the Butcher Medal of the American Society of International Law for outstanding contributions to human rights law and the Thurgood Marshall Award of the District of Columbia Bar Association among numerous other national and international awards.

Don Belton, '81

Don Belton was born August 7, 1956 in Philadelphia. He received his B.A. from Bennington in 1981. His senior work was "It's Almost Midnight (Chapters from a Novel-in-progress)." He received his M.A. in writing from Hollins College.

He was the author of Almost Midnight, a novel, and editor of Speak My Name: Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream, an anthology.  His short stories appeared in the Indiana Review, Black Literature Forum, and Calling the Wind: An Anthology of the Twentieth Century African-American Short Story

He wrote for Newsweek, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Advocate, Utne Reader, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  

He lectured in the Ivory Coast (sponsored by Arts America/United States Information Agency), at the Sorbonne, and at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He taught literature and fiction writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Macalester College, Bennington College, and Temple University.  

His awards include a Lila Wallace International Travel and Research Grant, a Bellagio/Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, and, most recently, a Dance Advance/Pew Charitable Trust Grant for Dramaturgy.

"The major themes of the work of African American writer and editor Don Belton include the gulf between real and represented masculinity, the impossibility of living without love, and home and the quest for sanctuary. His friendships with black gay writers James Baldwin, Melvin Dixon, Randall Kenan, Essex Hemphill and the filmmaker Marlon Riggs influenced the exploration of the potential of a range of caring relationships between men in his writing." - Emmanuel S. Nelson, Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States. Belton died in 2009. 

Morgan Jenkins, '16 MFA

Morgan Jerkins is a writer based in Harlem. She  graduated from Princeton University with an AB in Comparative Literature, specializing in nineteenth century Russian literature and postwar modern Japanese literature. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.

She was an Associate Editor at Catapult. Her short form work on race, gender, and culture has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ELLE, The New Republic, and The Atlantic, among many others.

 She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America. Her next two projects, Why We Get Out and Caul Baby, are forthcoming from Harper Books.

Jennifer Mieres, '82

Jennifer Mieres, MD, is one of the leading experts and patient advocates in the fields of cardiovascular disease in women. A graduated from Bennington College in 1982. Her senior work was titled "Purification of the Enzyme Glutamate-Oxalacetate Transaminase from a Pig Heart." She received her M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine.

In her role as leader of Northwell Health’s Center for Equity of Care, Dr. Mieres has oversight of the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, all of Northwell's health, wellness, community health education and healthcare access programs. She is also the health system’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and is a member of the health system’s leadership team.

She is a Fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) and in 2009 she served as the first female president of the ASNC. Dr. Mieres is board certified in cardiovascular diseases and nuclear cardiology and is actively involved in clinical cardiovascular research. She chaired the AHA’s 2005 and 2014 writing group on imaging in women and is the lead author of the AHA’s 2014 scientific publication on diagnostic testing for women.

She recently presented work on new models for the delivery of healthcare at the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare, 2013 in London and 2014 in Paris, as well as at the American Hospital Association Leadership Summit, 2013 in San Diego, California. In addition she has authored and coauthored more than 60 scientific publications and has presented her research, as distinguished invited faculty at over 100 national and International conferences, including scientific sessions of the ACC, AHA, ASNC and the International Conference of Nuclear Cardiology.

Dr. Mieres is a national spokesperson for the AHA’s Go Red For Women movement and has served as chair of several national AHA committees including the Professional Education Committee; the Cardiac Imaging Committee of the Council on Clinical Cardiology (2006-2008) and was a member of the AHA’s National Board of Directors (2004-2006), as well as serving as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for WomenHeart; the national coalition for women living with heart disease. Dr. Mieres is a recipient of numerous awards, including the 2014 AHA Chairman’s Award.

She received the 2014 Women in Cardiology mentoring award from the national ACC, in acknowledgement of her dedication and commitment to mentoring women in cardiology. In appreciation for her work as a cardiologist, researcher, patient and community advocate, she was the recipient of the 2011 national AHA Louis B. Russell, Jr., Memorial Award, presented annually to an AHA volunteer for outstanding service in addressing healthcare disparities and/or service to minority and underserved communities, as well as a 2008 Woman’s Day Red Dress Award for her contributions to Women’s Heart Health. In 2005, she received the Long Island AHA Award for Outstanding Service as President and was the recipient of the AHA’s William Groom Award for Volunteer of the Year. She was also awarded the Women Heart Wenger Award for Healthcare in April 2004 and a 2002 New York State Governor’s award for excellence.

She was featured on the cover of the May 2008 issue of Black Enterprise magazine as one of America’s leading doctors and in 2009 and 2010 she was listed as one of the best doctors in New York magazine. In January 2011 she was featured in Essence magazine as an expert on women’s health. Her first co-authored book, Heart Smart for Black Women and Latinas: A Five Week Program for Living a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle, was published by St Martin’s Press in 2008.

Cosmo Whyte, '05

Cosmo Whyte was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica in 1982. He has a BA from Bennington College, a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from  Maryland Institute College of Art for his Post-Baccalaureate Certificate and an MFA from University of Michigan. 

In 2010 he was the winner of the Forward Art emerging artist of the year award. In 2015 he was the recipient of the International Sculpture Center’s “Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award” and in 2016 he was the recipient of an Artadia Award.

He has exhibited his art in many locations including: La Philharmonie de Paris;  MOCA GA – Atlanta, GA; Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; Gallery Momo, Cape Town, South Africa; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Punkt ø/Galleri F 15, Oslo, Norway; National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston; United Nations Gallery, New York, NY; CEFATI Gallery, Portobelo, Panama; Agnes Scott College’s Dalton Gallery, Atlanta, GA; and Anonymous Gallery in Mexico City.

He participated in the Atlanta Biennial in 2016 and the 2017 Jamaica Biennial. He is based in Atlanta, Georgia and Montego Bay, Jamaica and is currently a professor at Morehouse College.

Rone Shavers, '93

Rone Shavers is an Associate Professor of English at The College of Saint Rose. He graduated from Bennington College in 1999. He has an M.F.A. from The New School and a Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago.

His fiction has appeared in ACM: Another Chicago Magazine, www.identitytheory.com, Nth WordPANK magazine, and Thought Catalog. His essays and reviews have appeared in such publications as BOMB Magazine, EBR: Electronic Book Review, the Los Angeles Reader, and The Quarterly Conversation. 

In 2019 he co-curated with Judie Gilmore the exhibition In Place of Now showcasing both emerging and established artists whose work engages in the politically subversive acts of picturing “otherness,” reinventing the past, and reclaiming the future at the Opalka Gallery at The Sage Colleges.

Reginald Shepherd, '88

Poet and editor Reginald Shepherd was born in New York City in 1963 and grew up in the Bronx. He graduated from Bennington College in 1988. His senior work was a collection of poems titled "Without Wings." He received MFAs from Brown University and the University of Iowa, where he attended the Iowa Writers Workshop. He subsequently taught at Northern Illinois University and Cornell University. Shepherd met his partner, Robert Philen, in December, 1999 while at Cornell.

In his last year at the University of Iowa, he received the "Discovery" prize from the 92nd Street Y, and his first collection, Some Are Drowning, was chosen by Carolyn Forché for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs' Award in Poetry. His other collections include: Fata Morgana, winner of the Silver Medal of the 2007 Florida Book Awards; Otherhood, a finalist for the 2004 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Wrong; and Angel, Interrupted. He is also the author of A Martian Muse: Further Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (published posthumously in 2010), Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry and the editor of The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries and of Lyric Postmodernisms

His work has been widely anthologized, including in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies. His honors and awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the Florida Arts Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His 2008 book of essays, Orpheus in the Bronx, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Shepherd died in 2008.

Judith Wilson, '74

Art historian Judith Wilson-Pates was born in 1952. She arrived at Bennington in 1970 after many years of planning "I’d dreamed of attending Bennington since I was 12 years old, had begun corresponding with the admissions director when I was a freshman in high school, took my SAT’s a year early and was admitted on the college’s early decision plan. When my parents balked, saying that at 16 I was too young to go back east for college, I was accepted into an experimental program at UC Berkeley, in which “accelerated” high school students were allowed to take undergraduate courses at the university during their senior year." She arrived at Bennington a year later. At graduation, she was one of a few students selected to give a public thesis readings. Her senior thesis was titled "The Cultural Orientations of the Harlem Renaissance: Prelude to a Literary History." She graduated in 1974.

After graduating from Bennington she began her career as an editor for Ms. Magazine in 1975. In 1979 she wrote a profile of Alma Thomas for that magazine, after which she began writing regularly about visual art and cultural politics, reviewing exhibitions, writing feature articles, and serving as guest editor for several publications.

She has written extensively about African American art, and more broadly, Black visual culture. "The situation of women of color was not simply one of being doubly oppressed but one of constantly having to doubly define ourselves and doubly question existing descriptions of gender and culture," writes Wilson.

Her research interests included African-American art and black visual culture. She received her MA in history of art in 1982 from Yale University and her Ph.D. in history of art from Yale University with a dissertation on the artist Bob Thompson in 1995. Her teaching career included full-time positions in art history at University of Virginia, Yale, and the University of California, Irvine, as well as part-time and visiting professorships at several other schools.

In 2006 she retired from the University of California, Irvine after eight years. During her career Wilson served on editorial and advisory boards for art publications and wrote many catalog essays including essay for catalogs at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; as well as scholarly journals, art magazines and contributed to anthologies.

When Bennington magazine asked alumni to describe the college in three words or less, Wilson-Pates said "Freedom to fail."

Peggy King Jorde '80

Peggy King Jorde was born in Albany, Georgia.  She studied architecture and theater design at Bennington and graduated in 1980. She went on to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture.

She has worked public and private sectors in architectural design, cultural resource management and development, construction, project management, public art, and community relations. She served as a planner in New York Mayor's office of construction.  It was there in 1991 that she first heard of the African burial ground.  She alerted city administrators to the archeological site's importance for African American history.  As the press began to cover this project and the likelihood that "archeological resources stood to be compromised," she was officially assigned to the project. For over a decade King Jorde worked on the project, helping ensure that the remains were preserved, and after archeological study at Howard University, reinterred at the site. The African Burial Ground which contains the remains of between 10,000 and 20,000 people. It was awarded designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and was named a National Monument in 2006.

She served as a board member at The Putney School in Vermont for more than a decade, was former Governor at the Englewood Field Club in New Jersey and served on the Planning Board for the City of Englewood, New Jersey.  She chaired the Planning Committee for the Malcolm X Memorial with Dr. Betty Shabazz, was a board member of the Harlem Heights Historical Society, served on panels for the Percent for Art and Art in Architecture programs commissioning public art for federal and city buildings and spaces. Her awards include a New York Women's American Institute of Architects Award and the Young Achiever Award from the Professional Women in Construction and Allied Industries. In 1995, she was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

Roberta Hunter, '74

Roberta Octavia Hunter is an attorney with a private practice in general law.

She studied anthropology and photography at Bennington and received her B.A. in 1974. Her senior thesis was titled "First Notes on the Shinnecock people." She has a a M.A. in public administration from Long Island University at C.W. Post and a law degree from the City University of New York Law School at Queens College.

She is a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. She grew up in Jamaica, Queens and spent summers on the reservation. As noted in a New York Times article, there was no electricity or heat but she still loved it. “The freedom of it was just incredible,” she said. “To walk those roads, to feel so at home, to know everyone around you was family.” She move to the reservation full time in 1973.

In the early to mid-1990s, Ms. Hunter served on the Southampton Town Board. She has served on the Southampton School District Board of Education since 2001. In 2016 she was elected as the president of Southampton School District Board of Education.

Asha Bandele, '99 MFA

Asha Bandele received her B.A. from the New School, and her MFA at Bennington College in 1999. 

She is an author, journalist and poet, a former features editor for Essence Magazine. She was the Director of the Advocacy Grants Program at the Drug Policy Alliance. She was a Columbia University Revson Fellow.

She is author of The Prisoner's Wife: A Memoir, Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story, Daughter, The Subtle Art of Breathing and Absence in the Palms of My Hand

Jovita Moore, '89

Jovita Moore is a news anchor. She was born in New York and came to Bennignton in 1964. While at Bennington she interned at Amsterdam News in Harlem and the The New York Times. Her senior thesis was titled "Voices of Ancestors in the Novels of Toni Morrison." She received her B.A. from Bennington in 1989. She has a M.S. in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 

She has been interested in journalism and new from a young age, "I grew up in a one bedroom apartment, and we only had one TV. So when my mother came home from work and turned on the news, I would sit there and watch with her," Moore recalls. "I was the kid who always knew current events. I read the paper as a child, The New York Times and the Daily News, and then I would go to school and talk about it." 

Morre joined WSB-TV in Atlanta in 1998 and anchors the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts on Channel 2 Action News. Previously she worked at WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee and KFSM in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Arkansas.​

Moore is a member of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a member of Leadership Atlanta’s Class of 2007, and a member of Outstanding Atlanta’s Class of 2004. She serves on the board of Genesis Shelter, a nonprofit organization focused on homeless women with newborns. Moore covered Obama’s inauguration in 2008, and despite it being freezing cold, she loved it. “It was so very special to me because of its place in history,” Moore said. She was featured on the 2007 list of 40 Under 40 by Georgia Trend Magazine. She has received several Emmy Awards for her work.

Philemona Williamson '73

Philemona Williamson is an artist. Shewas born in New York City in 1951. She graduated from Bennington in 1973, and went on to New York University where she obtained a Master's in painting in 1979. 

She has worked at Parsons School of Design, The Getty Institute for Education in the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Bard College, Rhode Island School of Design and Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

She was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant in 1997. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Painting, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited at The Queens Museum of Art, Wenger Gallery, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania State University, June Kelly Gallery, New York, The School of Visual Arts and  the IV Bienal Internacional de Pintura en Cuenca, Ecuador. 

Veneita Porter, '90

​Veneita Porter studied drama at Bennington and graduated in 1984. 

In 1988 she published “Minorities and HIV” in The New England Journal of Public Policy. She has worked as the director of the New York State Office of AIDS Discrimination, where she helped design the first educational projects and trainings for state workers, hearing judges, and legal staff. She served as the executive director of Spectrum, a social service agency serving Marin County, CA, director of education and publication for Planned Parenthood San Francisco and executive director of Rhode Island Project/AIDS. 

Porter has received the Mayor's Commendation for Service in San Francisco and was named special honoree of the Human Rights Campaign Fund in Boston. She has served on the Federal Health Resources and Service Administration Advisory Board and was a committee chair at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS.

Ione '59

Ione (formerly Carol Ione Lewis) is an author, playwright/director and poet.  She studied painting, French, and literature at Bennington, graduating in 1959. 

Her works include the memoir, Pride of Family Four Generations of American Women of Color, described by the New York Times as "a remarkable, beautifully written memoir."  Other works include; Listening in Dreams; The Night Train to Aswan and Nile Night: Remembered Texts from the Deep and Spell Breaking. She is the playwright and director of Njinga the Queen King  (BAM’s Next Wave Festiva ) and the dance "Opera Io and Her and the Trouble with Him" ( Union Theatre, Madison,WI) "The Lunar Opera"; "Deep Listening For_Tunes". (Lincoln Center Out of Doors).

 She has created two experimental films, Venezia e L’egitto and Dreams of the Jungfrau. Ione is the Founding Director of the Ministry of Maåt, Inc ( MoM, Inc) and Former Artistic Director of Deep Listening Institute, Ltd.

Discussing Bennington in the 1993 summer/fall issue of Quadrille Ione said, "I was very much shaped by the school; it provided a kind of context in which to understand my visions and my needs artistically. I felt—and still feel—that Bennington is this place that cradles and encourages people like me. It was potent: it helped me comprehend myself as an international being."

In 2009, on the occasion of her 50th class reunion, she wrote, "I was interested in literature, French and French literature, dance, and painting. I had extraordinary guidance in each of these areas—notably from Thomas Wilcox, Wallace Fowlie, Martha Hill, and Paul Feeley!"

Dominic Messinger, '75

Dominic Messinger is a composer, songwriter, and music supervisor. He studied music and composition at Bennington. 

He is an American television composer. He began his work in soap music on General Hospital, and has since composed for reality series and documentaries including Intervention, Brace for Impact, and for Nickelodeon's teen drama Hollywood Heights.

He has won 14 Daytime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series and Outstanding Achievement in Design Excellence for a Daytime Drama Series.

Clyde Morgan, '67

Clyde Alafiju Morgan, is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, received his early theater and dance training at the Karamu House Theater and came to Bennington in 1963. He holds a BA from Cleveland State University.

He made his professional debut with the José Limon Dance company. His professional studies in New York include work at the Merce Cunningham, New Dance Group, Robert Joffrey, Paul Sanasardo, and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo Studios. He has appeared as a soloist in the companies of Babatunde Olatunji, Sophie Maslow, Daniel Nagrin, Louis Falco, Pearl Lang and Anna Sokolow. With his own New York duo (Clyde Morgan and Carla Maxwell) he toured West and East Africa performing and conducting research in African music and dance. After completing years of service on the New York stage, he began the second phase of his career in Brazil where he held the position of Choreographer and Artistic Director of the Grupo de Danca Contemporanea da Universidade Federal Da Bahia in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 

He has received a  Leader and Specialist Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of State and a Fulbright Professorship.

He now holds the position of Associate Professor of African Dance and serves as the artistic director of the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble at SUNY College at Brockport.

Buddy Booker, '78

Garvall Buddy Booker is a bassist and music educator. He was born and raised in Harlem. He began to study bass in high school and came to Bennington in 1974. At Bennington he studied with Henry Brant, Bill Dixon, Milford Graves, Jeff Hoyer and Gunnar Schonbeck. He graduated in 1978 with his B.A. in Music and Black Music.

He has been an electric bass instructor at The New School since 2006 and a private instructor since 1982. In considering his dual roles as a musician and educator, Booker reflects, "I look at it was two completely separate art forms. There's the art of music and then there's the art of teaching and both of the take constant care to grow."

Lydia Brassard, '08

From Fall 2015 through Fall 2017, Brassard, public anthropologist and educator, served as the director for institutional diversity and inclusion at Bennington. She has been an instructor in the Urban Studies Department at Queens College, City University of New York, as well as a tour educator at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, New York. Brassard’s article, Standing Their Ground in #Ferguson, outlines how and why anthropology is relevant to analyzing contemporary social issues. Brassard graduated from Bennington College in 2008, upon completing her undergraduate thesis, Alumni Perspectives on Race at Bennington College. Her undergraduate research set the foundation for her doctoral research on women of color diversity practitioners at historically white liberal arts colleges in the Northeast United States. She was a visiting faculty member at Bennington from Spring 2015 through Fall 2017.

Dionne Peart Hayes, '20 MFA

Dionne Peart Hayes is an attorney, serving as general counsel for a District of Columbia government agency and an author. She has described herself as "attorney by day and writer by early, early day.”

Dionne was born in England to Jamaican parents and grew up in Canada. Her debut novel, Somerset Grove, was inspired by the many stories of Caribbean families she grew up with while living in Winnipeg. 

She has a B.A. in psychology and criminology from University of Manitoba. In 2002, she graduated with her J.D. from Hamline University School of Law. She is currently attending Bennington Writing Seminars.

Her work has appeared in Akashic Books’ Duppy Thursday series and the 2017 Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition Collection. She is the author of the novels Somerset Grove and Butterfly. She was also a finalist for the D.C. Mayor’s Awards in the Larry Neal Writers’ Award category.

Dionne serves as a literacy ambassador for the Read Across Jamaica Foundation. She is on the board of directors of the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

Rashid Keith Dilworth Silvera, '72

Rashid Keith Dilworth Silvera is an educator and model. He was born on December 8, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts to Don Hector and Phyllis Matilda Silvera. In 1969, transferred from Colgate to Bennington College, as one of six men in the first Bennington co-educational class. He received his B.A. degree in political science and anthropology in 1972. He obtained his M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1974 and his Ed. M. degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1976.

In 1975, Silvera was hired as a teacher in the history department of the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He taught at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, New Jersey from and then at San Francisco University High School. Silvera returned to the East Coast in 1979, to work as a teacher at Rye Country Day School in New York.

In 1981, he began teaching at Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, New York. Around this same time Silvera was noticed by owners of a modeling agency, who then launched his career as a model. Silvera appeared on the cover of GQ, Essence, and CODE. He was the first African American male to model for a Polo Ralph Lauren advertisement campaign.

He retired in 2017 after 35 years of teaching psychology, public policy, and race and ethnicity at Scarsdale High School. Reflecting on the contrast of his two careers - photoshoots and runways in Paris and Milan versus lesson plans and the classroom, Silvera told Westchester magazine, “Teaching is what’s glamorous to me.”

Danielia Cotton, '90

Danielia Cotton is a singer and songwriter. She was born in 1967 and grew up in Hopewell, NJ. She studied music and acting at Bennington and graduated with her B.A. in 1990.

Throughout her career, Danielia has played in clubs and festivals around the country, and has opened for manyartists including the Allmans, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Bon Jovi.

In 2005 Danielia released her debut album "Small White Town."  he released "A Prayer" in 2006, which Miami Latin News described as brimming with "simmering emotionality, soulful grooves, and invigoratingly redemptive choruses."

Her album "Rare Child" was released 2008 and in 2009 Danielia released the EP "Live Child", as companion piece to the studio album. This document of her live set won the 9th Annual Independent Music Award for the ‘Best Live Album’ and 'Live Performance Album Vox Pop'. 

In 2012, Danielia released "The Gun in Your Hand" followed by "The Real Book" in 2014. Danielia released "The Mystery of Me" in 2017. The New York Times featured the song "Set Me Free" from her 2017 album, describing the song as "dramatic and soulful enough to fill a revival tent."

Liana Conyers '03

Liana Conyers, is a dancer, choreographer, and educator.  She received her B.A. from Bennington College in 2003 and her M.F.A. from University of Oregon. 

he has performed with Keith Thompson, Jhon Stronks, Wayne Smith, Habib Chester Iddrisu, Masankho Kamsisi Banda, and CORE Performance Company. Her work has been presented at Emory University, Spelman College,University of Oregon, the ACDF NW Conference, Big Range Festival, and Philadiction Movement.

Liana has presented Body Politics (2013), Jars of Pennies (2014), South Ward  (2016), and IDKWTTI (2018) for Movement Research at the Judson Church. She conceived and performed I Invited Oprah (2017) as part of Dance and Process at The Kitchen.  Liana say of her work, "I view the arts as a means to connect with myself and the world around me. During my investigations, I am interested in how people form a sense of self, and I explore how identity and autobiography influence artistic practice and performance. In my work, I focus on the depth of the human experience. I believe that we are all complex creatures, with unique untold stories. I am interested in bringing these narrative moments into performance as a means to share the interconnectedness of human nature – what it means to be flesh, bones, lovers, friends, black, white"

She teaches dance and a philosophy course in Black Aesthetics at Bard High School Early College Newark, and is a 2017-2018 Bard Faculty Fellow. Liana is a 2018-2019, NYLA Fresh Tracks Resident Artist.

Tor Snyder '85

In October 1994 Tor participated in a three day celebration at Bennington, commemorating the 1964 October Revolution in Jazz in New York City, where Bill Dixon organized a series of concerts to create an awareness of jazz among other artists, club owners and the public. The 1964 performances and discussions helped to form a community of musicians whose influence continues to be felt today.

Tor has been active professionally since the 1980's with groups such as Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble and Irrepressible Spirit.  News outlets described his May 2013 performance at New York City's, Intar Theatre as "his singular, from-another-planet sound that he channels through a Moog guitar. It will be a night of far-searching music and energy as the musicians look to both epitomize and transcend the nature of the guitar" 

Tor has studied with Sonny Sharrock and Joe Morris and performed and recorded with such musicians as Bob Moses, Kenwood Denard, and John Medeski. Tor is a faculty member at various NYC public and private schools. 

Dennis Warren '84

Dennis Warren is a self described Quantum drummer who led several different personnel in the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble where the essence of the music is based on all the time drum power. While at Bennington, he studied with Black music theorists like the late Bill Dixon and drummer Milford Graves and took part in Dixon's This is our Strategy concert in 1976.  In 2015, Dennis released his latest CD, Quest, in which he references his relationship with Dixon and Milford Graves.

"The key to humanity is in this music! The war of revenge and hatred must end. Improvisation is the art of the 21st Century. Improvisation contains the science of evolution and the natural chaos of the universe with all its potential. This music demonstrates our ancient roots and our future communications, swirling through our biochemical spheres and igniting our souls for the hope of love in humanity." - Dennis Warren

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, '99 MFA

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah was born on September 13, 1967 in Accra, Ghana. She is a writer. Danquah immigrated to the United States in 1973, at the age of six. She grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland. 

Though she never formally completed her undergraduate degree, in 1999 she earned a MFA from Bennington College. She has taught at the University of Ghana--in the Department of English and in the graduate School of Communication Studies--and at Otis College of Art and Science, and in Antioch College's MFA program.

She is the author of a memoir, Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey Through Depression. Her work also appears in several anthologies including, The Black Body and Becoming American: Personal Essays by First Generation Immigrant Women.

Odili Donald Odita '90

Odili Donald Odita is a Nigerian-born, Philadelphia-based abstract painter whose work has been shown in museums and art institutions around the globe.

In recent years, Odita has been commissioned to paint several large-scale wall installations including The United States Mission to the United Nations in New York (2011), the Savannah College of Art and Design (2012), New York Presbyterian Hospital (2012), New Orleans Museum of Art (2011), Kiasma, Helsinki (2011), and the George C. Young Federal Building and Courthouse in Orlando, Florida (2013).

Odita’s work, which explores color both in the figurative art historical context and also in the sociopolitical sense, has been the subject of several solo exhibitions including Savannah College of Art and Design; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Studio Museum in Harlem; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita; and Princeton University.

He has been the recipient of a Penny McCall Foundation grant in 1994, a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant in 2001, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant in 2007. Also in 2007, his large installation Give Me Shelter was featured prominently in the 52nd Venice Biennale exhibition Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind, curated by Robert Storr.

Eloise Carey Bishop, '42

Eloise Carey Bishop was born in 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her mother was also named Eloise Carey. Her father was the Rev. Dr. Shelton Hale Bishop.

Eloise studied art at Bennington. She was the chair of the recreation council that planned student activities and she was involved in the student cooperative store. 

After graduation she joined the staff the Museum of Modern Art in New York and she later taught art at King-Smith School in Washington, D.C. She was a sculpture and textile designer. She exhibited her sculptures at shows of the Society of Independent Artists. 

In 1945, she married Joaquin Fiorillo in Washington D.C.. Her sculpture, Head of a Boy, was featured in a 1946 Life Magazine article highlighted works by artists of color. She was the only female artist featured in the article. She died at age 40 in Manhattan on Feb 27, 1962. Her play The Hill of Nazareth was published posthumously by Pageant Press in 1964.

Mohammed Naseehu Ali, '95

Mohammed Naseehu Ali, a native of Ghana, is a writer and musician. A graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and Bennington College, he is the author of The Prophet of Zongo Street, a short story collection. Ali’s fiction and essays have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Mississippi Review, Bomb, A Gathering of Tribes,  Essence, Open City and other publications.  His short story "Ravalushan" was selected as one of The Best American Short Stories 2016. He was the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Ali lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches at NYU's Creative Writing Program.

Ulysses Dove, '70

Ulysses Dove, born in 1947 in Columbia, South Carolina, began dance study with Carolyn Tate while a premed student at Howard University. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin to study with Xenia Chlistowa of the Kirov Ballet, and in 1970 he graduated from Bennington College with a degree in dance.

Upon moving to New York, Dove joined the Merce Cunningham company and also performed with Mary Anthony, Pearl Lang, and Anna Sokolow. In 1973 he joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he quickly gained key roles and acclaim for his commanding presence, bright clarity of movement, and truthful dramatic intensity.

Dove turned to choreography at Ailey's urging, and created the 1980 solo Inside for Judith Jamison. He left the Ailey company that year to begin a significant freelance career choreographing dances for the Basel Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, London Festival Ballet, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and the Choreographic Research Group of the Paris Opera where he spent three years as assistant director. He was also the choreographer for the Robert Wilson-Philip Glass opera ''The Civil Wars,'' in 1986. 

Several Dove ballets have found their definitive interpretations in performances by the Ailey company, including Night Shade (1982) Bad Blood(1984), Vespers (1986), and Episodes (1987). Dove’s Red Angels (1994) was a hit of the City Ballet’s Diamond Project and a companion piece Twilight (1994) was his final project. Mr. Dove's work was the subject of ''Dance in America: Two by Dove,'' an Emmy Award-winning 1995 show in the ''Great Performances'' series. Dove died on June 11, 1996. His choreography was marked by its relentless speed, violent force, and daring eroticism.

Anaïs Duplan, '14

Anaïs Duplan is a poet and curator. They studied literature and anthropology at Bennington, receiving a B.A. in 2014. They have an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Duplan is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Take This Stallion and a chapbook, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus.

Their poems and essays have been published by Hyperallergic, PBS News Hour, the Academy of American Poets, and the Poetry Society of America. Their writing has appeared in Ploughshares, The Paris Review, Complex Magazine, THUMP, Los Angeles Review of Books and MICE Magazine.

Duplan is a curator and the founder of the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for artists of color. They are a joint Public Programs Fellow at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

Remica L. Bingham, '05 MFA

Remica Bingham-Risher, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is an alumna of Old Dominion University and Bennington College. She is a Cave Canem fellow and Affrilachian Poet. Among other journals, her work has been published in the New York Times, the Writer’s ChronicleNew LettersCallaloo and Essence. She is the author of Conversion (Lotus, 2006) winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, What We Ask of Flesh (Etruscan, 2013) shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Award and Starlight & Error (Diode, 2017) winner of the Diode Editions Book Award. She is the Director of Quality Enhancement Plan Initiatives at Old Dominion University and resides in Norfolk, VA with her husband and children.

Jordan A. Thomas '92

Jordan A. Thomas is a lawyer whose practice focuses on investigating and prosecuting securities fraud on behalf of whistleblowers and institutional clients. He received his B.A. from Bennington College in 1992 and his J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law.

He created, and serves as the editor for, the website SEC Whistleblower Advocate, dedicated to helping responsible organizations establish a culture of integrity and courageous whistleblowers to report possible securities violations—without personal or professional regrets. A longtime public servant and seasoned trial lawyer, Thomas served as assistant director of the Securities and Exchange Commission prior to going into private practice. He had a leadership role in the development of the SEC Whistleblower Program, including leading fact-finding visits to other federal agencies with whistleblower programs, drafting the proposed legislation and implementing rules, and briefing House and Senate staffs on the proposed legislation. He is also the principal architect and first national coordinator of the Commission's Cooperation Program, an initiative designed to facilitate and incentivize individuals and companies to self-report securities violations and participate in its investigations and related enforcement actions. In recognition of his important contributions to these national initiatives, while at the SEC, Thomas was a recipient of the Arthur Mathews Award, which recognizes “sustained demonstrated creativity in applying the federal securities laws for the benefit of investors,” and, on two occasions, the Law and Policy Award.

Throughout his tenure at the SEC, Thomas was assigned to many of its highest profile matters such as those involving Enron, Fannie Mae, UBS, and Citigroup. He successfully investigated, litigated, and supervised a wide variety of enforcement matters involving violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, issuer accounting fraud and other disclosure violations, audit failures, insider trading, market manipulations, offering frauds, and broker-dealer, investment adviser, and investment company violations. His cases resulted in monetary relief for harmed investors in excess of $35 billion.

Prior to joining the Commission, Thomas was a trial attorney at the Department of Justice, where he specialized in complex financial services litigation involving the FDIC and Office of Thrift Supervision. He began his legal career as a Navy judge advocate on active duty and continues to serve as a senior officer in its Reserve Law Program. Earlier, Thomas worked as a stockbroker.

Thomas is a board member of the City Bar Fund, which oversees the City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar Association. He also serves as the Chair of the Investor Rights Committee of the District of Columbia Bar.

He was named a 2015 Top Thought Leaders in Trust by Trust! Magazine and a 2014 Superstar by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. In 2012, he was named a Legal Rebel by the American Bar Association Journal in recognition of his trailblazing efforts in the legal field. Ethisphere Institute, an internationally recognized think tank, selected Thomas as a Rising Star in its listing of 2012 Attorneys Who Matter, which recognizes leading practitioners in the world of corporate ethics and compliance.

He is also a decorated military officer, who has twice been awarded the Rear Admiral Hugh H. Howell Award of Excellence—the highest award the Navy can bestow upon a reserve judge advocate. Thomas has received an AV Preeminent rating, the highest attorney rating available, from the publishers of the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

Caleen Sinnette Jennings, '72

Caleen Sinnette Jennings is a playwright. She graduated from Bennington in 1972 and has an MFA in MFA, Acting/Theatre, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

She is Professor of Theatre at American University. She has directed for the main stage season and taught thirteen different courses in the theatre and general education programs. She is a faculty member of the Folger Shakespeare Library's Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

Dramatic Publishing Company has published her plays: "Elsewhere in Elsinore: The Unseen Women of Hamlet", "Inns & Outs"," Playing Juliet/Casting Othello", "Free Like Br’er Rabbit", "Sunday Dinner", "Chem Mystery", "A Lunch Line", and "Same But Different". "Uncovered" is published in the Lane/Shengold Anthology, "Shorter, Faster, Funnier" and her play, "Classy Ass" is published in five anthologies. 

She received a grant from Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays and the Heideman Award from the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. In 2003 she received American University’s Scholar-Teacher of the Year Award. She is a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, and founding member of The Welders, a D.C. based playwrights' collaborative.

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, '05

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko is a Nigerian-American curator, poet, and performance artist from Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Bennington in 2005.

He is a 2017 Jerome artist-in-residence with Abrons Arts Center, a 2017 Association of Performing Arts Presenters Leadership Fellow, a 2015 American Express Leadership Fellow, a 2012 Live Arts Brewery Fellow as part of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, a 2011 Fellow as part of the DeVos Institute of Art Management at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and an inaugural graduating member of the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University. He has held producing and curatorial positions at New York Live Arts, 651 Arts, and The Watermill Center, among others. In 2018, Kosoko co-curated the Black Poetry Symposium at Princeton University with Tracy K. Smith and Joshua Kotin.

Kosoko is the recipient of a 2018 NEFA National Dance Project Award, a 2019 DiP Residency and Production Grant Award from Gibney, a 2018 Live Feed Residency from New York Live Arts, a 2016 Gibney Dance boo-koo residency, and a 2016 U.S. Artists International Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.His performance work #negrophobia received a 2016 New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award nomination and toured throughout Europe.

His work has received support from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through Dance Advance, The Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, The Joyce Theater Foundation, and The Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Kosoko has created original roles in the performance works of visual artist Nick Cave, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Keely Garfield Dance, Miguel Gutierrez and The Powerful People, and Headlong Dance Theater.

His poems, interviews, and essays have been published in The American Poetry Review, Poems Against War, The Dunes Review, Silo, Detroit Research v2, Dance Journal, The Broad Street Review, MR’s Performance Journal, and Critical Correspondence

Harry Sheppard, '69

Harry Whittaker Sheppard was a dancer and choreographer active in post-modernist companies in New York City. Sheppard was born in Wilmington, Del. He trained in dance at Bennington College in the late 1960's, then went to Paris, where he performed and played piano for dance classes. 

He join the company, the School of Hard Knocks, in 1984. From 1972-73, he taught dance at Antioch College in Ohio, after which he went to New York. Sheppard also performed with Andy De Groat, Bill T. Jones, David Gordon and Wendy Perron '69. His own choreography was presented at the Dance Theater Workshop and the 14th Street Dance Center in Manhattan.

In 1989 he participated in Bennington in New York, a dance performance by three Bennington alumni. He performed "Spare Moves, Step-Dance from Dakostakada Dada", "Stamping Dance" and "2B2B2". The New York Times noted "he empathized intricate rhymthic patterns for the feet" and "his nimbleness" made him worth watching.

His life companion was Philip Pares. He died in 1992.

Michelle Murrain, '81

Michelle Murrain is a writer and practitioner of contemplative spirituality. Michelle graduated from Bennington in 1981. She has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University, and a  Certificate in Theological Studies from the Pacific School of Religion. 

Her work has spanned numerous disciplines, including neuroscience, education, nonprofit technology, theology and spirituality. She writes science fiction with progressive, feminist themes, and diverse characters.

Murrain is a practitioner of contemplative spirituality, both in Buddhist and Christian traditions, and has a interest in contemplative and healing rituals and practices from all traditions. She teaches Christian practices such as Lectio Devina, Centering Prayer, and others, as well as teaches some Buddhist practices informally. She has made a deep study both of contemplative Christian practices, as well as Buddhist practice from a number of lineages.

She is the author of The Casitian Universe Series, Friends with Wings, Saturn Moon, and Conscious Lesbian Dating & Love: A Roadmap to Finding the Right Partner and Creating the Relationship of your Dreams. She lives and works in Northern California.

Tiffany Briere, '11 MFA

Tiffany  holds a PhD in genetics from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from Bennington College. Her PhD dissertation research focused on achieving a molecular and genetic understanding of human autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) and to then convert that understanding into a strategy for effective therapy.

Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Tin House, The Cut, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Among other topics, she has written about looks at the collision of hard science and mysticism in her Jamaican and Guyanese family history. She has been awarded a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a Pushcart Prize.

Leslie Harriet Lowe, '73

Leslie Harriet Lowe was an  attorney. She was born in Queens, NY, on July 14, 1951. She grew up in the New York metropolitan area. She received her B.A. from Bennington College in 1973. Her senior work was a translation of A Tempest by Aimé Césaire.

Her received her M.S. from Columbia University School of Journalism. She graduated from Harvard Law School and did post-graduate research in economic and social history at the University of Paris. 

She was a fierce fighter for social justice, whose work focused on corporate and governmental accountability as well as environmental law and policy. She worked as program officer at the Rockefeller Family Fund, where she was instrumental in the fossil fuels divestment decision and engaged in projects like the Rural Electric Co-op Democracy Project in Alabama.

She fought for corporate accountability in her role of Director of Energy and Environment Program for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). She also worked as the Executive Director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, fighting back when NYC tried to bulldoze the public gardens and blew the whistle when NYC would not recognize the damage that pollution was causing to communities of color. 

Lowe was a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Environmental Disclosure and she served on the board of the Social Investment Forum.

She died on November 22, 2017.

Sandra Burton, '87 MFA

Sandra L Burton is a dancer, choreographer, educator and arts presenter. Her choreography for theater includes five seasons at Williamstown Theater Festival as well as productions at PlayMakers Repertory Theater (Salome), Goodman Theater (Joe Turner Come and Gone), Henry Street Settlement (Duet) and five seasons with Williams College Theater Department.  She choreographed composer Craig Harris’ productions of Gods Trombones (two seasons at the Apollo Theater and additional performances at MASS MoCA, Harlem Gate House and Teatro Manzoni Milano, Italy).  Burton’s choreography has also been performed at Dance Theater Workshop, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Inside/Out, Judson Memorial Church, MASS MoCA and at venues in Brazil, Nicaragua and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  She toured nationally for eleven years as a member of the Chuck Davis Dance Company and also performed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and the Horse’s Mouth Project during the 2004-2005 seasons.

Current projects include collaborating with Dr. Don Quinn Kelley on a documentary film, Out SomeWhere Dancing on the life and work of choreographer/humanitarian Chuck Davis, and collaborating with other Berkshire County, Massachusetts residents to found and execute Lift Ev’ry Voice, a festival celebrating African American culture and history since 2011.  Recently Burton researched and co-curated with Dalila Scruggs “African Americans and the American Scene 1929-1945”, an exhibition of visual art and media for Williams College Museum of Art, January-April 2012.

Burton serves on the board of the New England Foundation for the Arts, is a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Corporator (since 2010), a Trustee Emeritus of MASS MoCA and retired from the Jacob’s Pillow board in 2007.

She was appointed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Education’s Arts Curriculum Framework Committee from 1993-96 and selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as a dancer/educator serving nationally in the Artist in Education program from 1978-1983. She has been a panelist or consultant to the National Endowment for the Arts, Surdna Foundation, LEF Foundation, Doris Duke Foundation and numerous state arts councils from 1982 to the present.

Souleymane Badolo, MFA '13

Badolo started his professional career as a dancer for the DAMA, a traditional African dance company.  He has danced with world-renowned contemporary African dance company Salia ni Seydou, worked with French choreographers Elsa Wolliaston and Mathilde Monnier, and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina. He and Kongo Ba Téria are featured in the widely-screened documentary Movement (R)evolution Africa which documents the continent’s emergent experimental dance scene.

Since moving to New York City in 2009, Badolo has created a number of solo and small ensemble projects commissioned and presented by Danspace, New York Live Arts, Dance New Amsterdam, Harlem Stage, the 92nd Street Y, the Museum of Art & Design, River to River Festival (R2R), and BAM. He has collaborated with Nora Chipaumire, Ralph Lemon, Reggie Wilson, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women.

His ongoing research in Africa has been supported by The Suitcase Fund of New York Live Arts. Badolo was nominated for a 2011 Bessie Award (New York Dance & Performance Award) as Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and in 2012, received the Juried Bessie Award (from jurists Lar Lubovitch, Yvonne Rainer and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar). In 2015, his dance for two dancers and one percussionist, Yimbégré, was recognized with a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production. Badolo was commissioned to create a dance for Philadanco as part of James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, produced by The Apollo Theater for presentation there in October 2013, followed by national and international touring dates.

He is the recipient of Wesleyan University’s 2014 Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award and the 2015 Harkness Foundation Dance Residency at BAM Fisher. He graduated from Bennington College with an MFA in June 2013. Since that time, he has been a guest instructor at The New School, Williams College, and Bard College. Badolo was a guest artist at Bennington for Fall 2010 and has been a recurring visiting faculty member since Fall 2013.

Shawnette Sulker, '95

​Shawnette Sulker  was born in Guyana and came to Bennington via Brooklyn in the fall of 1991. At Bennington she studied with Allen Shawn, Frank Baker, and Barbara Martin. She graduated in 1995. She has also studied at the Contemporary Opera and Song Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada and the OperaWorks Summer Intensive Program in Los Angeles.

Sulker has been a featured artist in three San Francisco Opera productions: Porgy and Bess, The Mother of Us All, and Louise. She was also a part of the joint production of Dido and Aeneas between San Francisco Opera and the Crucible, singing the roles of Second Woman and Second Witch. She has sung leading roles with other companies of note, including Hawaii Opera Theatre, Internationale Opera Producties, Opera Naples, Union Avenue Opera, Natchez Opera Festival, Pacific Opera Project, West Edge Opera, Festival Opera, Music in the Mountains, Mendocino Music Festival, and West Bay Opera.

Sulker created the role of Corina in the world-premiere of David Conte’s opera Firebird Motel. The original cast recording can be found on the Arsis label. She has also sung in the American premieres of the following operas: Adam Gorb’s Anya17 in the role of Mila, Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness in the role of River Woman, Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin as La Voix Intérieure, and Zenobia Powell Perry’s Tawawa House as Fanny. 

She has performed with American Bach Soloists, Eugene Symphony, Mark Morris Dance Group, Bear Valley Music Festival, Peninsula Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Pacific Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Choral Society, Santa Clara Chorale, UC Davis Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, Masterworks Chorale, Avedis Chamber Music Series, and Redwood Symphony.

Sara Green, '13

Sara Green came to Bennington from New Orleans and studied dance. During her time at Bennington, she served as a SEPC representative for dance, the Head of SEPC, a House Chair, and a Peer Mentor. She studied dance with Urban Bush Women, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company,as well as performed with the New Orleans Ballet Association, Gris Gris Strut, and the New Orleans Baby Doll Ladies.

After receiving her B.A. from Bennington in 2013, she obtained a M.Ed in Community Development from Peabody College and M.Div from Vanderbilt Divinity School. 

She is the Youth and Young Adults of Color Ministry Associate at the Unitarian Universalist Association. She previously served as Intern Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, TN. Sara says, "I imagine liberation/salvation/beloved community as communities that have the ability to eat good food together, experience pleasure in our bodies and regularly put their hands in soil—all the while free from fear and violence by way of all of the cultural and legal changes that must happen in order for this world to exist. I understand myself as part of a legacy of cultural workers, healers, maroons and creoles, southern queer freedom fighters and artists trying to shape god." 

Brian Sangundi '98

Brian Sangudi studied computer science at Bennington and received his B.A. in 1998. In 2012 he received his M.B.A. from MIT Sloan School of Management. 

 Brian worked in IT consulting at Sapient and Riverton Corporation developing various software solutions in project teams. He then joined Macgregor (ITG, Inc.) and worked on their suite of institutional trading platforms, leading various design and process efforts. He then joined Medullan, Inc., a Health IT consultancy as a Project Manager. Since 2014 he has works at Ericsson, an information and communication technology business working to help clients develop growth strategies in his role of Principal Strategy Consultant.

Sharon Stockard Martin, '69

Sharon Stockard Martin is a writer, critic, and playwright. She was born in Nashville, TN. She studied at Howard University before transferring to Bennington and graduating in 1969. Her senior work was titled "Backward Progression on a Dixie Cup Theme: Three Plays for Black Theatre." She has a M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama and a Ph.D. in cinema / television studies from the University of Southern California.

Sharon Stockard Martin continued her writing education at Ed Bullins's Black Theatre Workshop in New York City, Free Southern Theatre Writers' Workshop in New Orleans, the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop in New York City, the Congo Square Writers' Union in New Orleans, and the Los Angeles Actor's Theatre Playwrights Workshop.

Her plays include: "Proper and Fine: Fanny Lou Hamer's Entourage" and "Hair Products." Her one-act plays include "Further Elaborations on the Mentality of a Chore", "Edifying Further Elaborations on the Mentality of a Chore," "20 Minute Workout,"  "Entertaining Innumerable Reflections on the Subject at Hand," "Canned Soul," and "Deep Heat."

Her writing has been published in Black Film Review, The New York Times, Callaloo and Essence.

Janis Pryor, '71

Janis Pryor is a editor, media consultant, and author. She has worked at the three stations in Boston as a producer and as Editorial Director, where she received an Emmy nomination for a composite entry, which included the first on-location editorials in the broadcast area. She worked as political and media consultant for Boston's Ten Point Coalition for six years. She has taught at Wheelock College and at the Institute of Politics at Harvard. 

In 1984, she produced a series of three one-hour documentaries on Jesse Jackson as presidential candidate and political leader. The production received several nominations and two awards, including the International Television and Film Festival and the Iris Award. 

She has had her work published Essence magazine and co-authored a column in the Cambridge Chronicle for two years. She is the author of the books Dinner with Trixie, Victoria's Family, and White Roses: A Memoir. 

Shauna Barbosa, '17 MFA

Shauna Barbosa received her MFA from Bennington College in 2017. 

Barbosa is the author of the poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southeast Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Boulevard, Poetry Society of America, PBS Newshour, Lit Hub, Lenny Letter, and others.

She is a finalist for PEN America’s 2019 Open Book Award and was a 2018 Disquiet International Luso-American fellow. 

She currently resides in Los Angeles, California where she teaches Creative Writing in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

George Pitts, '73

George Pitts was a fine art, editorial, and fashion photographer. He studied art at Bennington, graduating in 1973.

Select exhibitions include "BLACKS," a traveling group show opening at Antebellum Gallery; Los Angeles,  "Men, Myth and Masculinities," curated by Amanda Trager; Ledisflam Gallery; New York City,  Kinsey Institute 2009 Juried Art Show, and "The Return of the Cadavre Exquis"; The Drawing Center, New York City.

He was director of photography at Vibe magazine from 1998-2004, where he received three National Magazine Award nominations for Best Photography. Of his work at Vibe he says, “It was an important job because it brought unprecedented visibility to my contributions as a photo editor. We endeavored to bring sophisticated and authentic visual approaches to the documentation of African-American culture that would also have broad appeal for all Americans and readers throughout the world.” From 2004-2007, Pitts was  the director of photography for LIFE magazine. 

His work has appeared several books including The Taschen Book of New Erotic Photography and The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photography as well as in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Vice, The Paris Review, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and Camera Obscura.

In 2016, he co-directed with Kathryn Karwat  the documentary film "I Don't Exist If You Don't." about performance artist Ann Liv Young, directed by and George Pitts.  He was director of photographic practices and an assistant professor Parsons The New School for Design from 1998 until his dead. He died in 2017.

Joanne Robinson Hill, '68

Joanne Robinson Hill is an independent arts consultant. She studied anthropology at Bennington. Her senior thesis was titled "A Georgia Town: a Study of Black People in Gray, Georgia." She graduated in 1968.

Hill is the  former Director of Education at The Joyce Theater (1995-2014). She has been a Consultant for the NYC Department of Education, where she was recognized her for leadership.

She is a past Trustee of Dance/USA, past Chair of its Educators Council, and was an Engaging Dance Audiences Panelist in 2017. She was Education Director for Portland State University's Contemporary Dance Season, where she held posts of Arts Commissioner for Oregon's Regional Arts & Culture Commission and Board Member of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts and Portland Arts & Lectures.

She has served as a Panelist for the NYS Council of the Arts and NJ Council on the Arts, was a Founding Board Member of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, was an Editorial Board Member of the Teaching Artist Journal, and currently serves on the Advisory Committee of Dance on the Lawn.

She has been a Joyce Residency Artist Panelist, Harlem Stage Choreographic Mentor, and recent Guest Curator of a performance for Nimbus Dance Works in 2017. She also was formerly a Founding Dance Member/Honoree of Lincoln Center Institute, Arts Fellow of Leonard Bernstein Center for Education Through the Arts (a division of Nashville Institute for the Arts), Dance Curriculum Developer for National Institute of Education's CEMREL Aesthetic Education Program, and faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College.

Adele Smith-Penniman, '68

Rev. Dr. Adele Smith-Penniman is a Unitarian Universalist minister and social justice advocate.

In 1966 Adele Smith-Penniman transferred to Bennington from Brandeis. Her senior work at Bennington combined her interest in language with African identity, her thesis was titled  "Five Essays in Defense of Negritude" about the concept of Negritude in the poetry of French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean.

After graduation with her B.A. in 1968 she moved to New York and joined the staff of The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) before moving on to teach Head Start on West 126th Street. She received a M.A. in developmental psychology at Columbia University in 1972.

She move to Boston and obtained her M. Div. at Harvard Divinity School in 1979. She completed her Ph.D.  at Andover Newton Theological School, combining psychology and theology from a Buddhist perspective. Her doctoral thesis was title "Buddhist Resources in Pastoral Care." 

She became an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister in 1982, the first African American woman to complete the process. Her life's work has been in community settings particularly with women and marginalized communities.

Claire Ferguson Garcia, '78

Claire Garcia is a Black Feminist scholar whose research and teaching focuses on women writers throughout the Americas and Europe. Claire studied philosophy and literature at Bennington. Her thesis was titled "Phoebe at 17." She graduated with her B.A. in 1978. In 1991 she received her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from the University of Denver.

Garcia joined the faculty of Colorado College in 1991 and is a professor in the English department. She served as the Director of the Race and Ethnic Studies Program and was a core faculty member of the Feminist and Gender Studies Program. Her research interested include: Gender and the Black Atlantic; African American women writers; race, gender and modernism; 19th and early 20th century African American literature; Henry James; and Edith Wharton. 

She is the co-editor of From Uncle Tom's Cabin to The Help: Critical Perspectives on White-Authored Narratives of Black Life. She has written chapters for the following books: Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic: Literature, Modernity, and Diaspora; Henry James’s Europe: Heritage and Transfers​; I’ve Got a Story to Tell: Identity and Place in the Academy; The Harlem Renaissance Revisited; and From Bourgeois to Boojie: Black Middle-Class Performances. Her writing and scholarship has been published in International Journal of Francophone, Ethnic Studies Review, Henry James Review, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Garcia has served as president of the board of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival and on the Colorado Council for Creative Industries. She was named a Pikes Peak Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Colorado in 2012, an honor that goes to women who "have reached remarkable levels of achievement as business, philanthropic, government, education, and community leaders.”

Darryl L. Wellington '88

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a journalist, essayist, poet, and artist. He graduated from Bennington with his B.A. in 1988.

 His essays on poverty, economic justice, race relations, African American history, civil rights history, and post-Katrina New Orleans have appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, Dissent, Crisis, The Guardian, and more.

He is a Writing Fellow at the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC. 

His book, Life's Prisoners, won the 2017 Turtle Island Poetry Award.  He lives in Santa Fe, NM.

Martine Forrester '04

 

Martine Forrester, DMD, MPH, is an Associate professor at Temple University and faculty dentist at Temple University's Faculty Dental Practice.  She received her B.A. from Bennington in 2004. She received her DMD from University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. 

“As a global institution, Temple employs and trains oral health professionals from around the world. It is important that as faculty we share our expertise for the betterment of our students and interact with each other cordially despite political or religious or geographical differences,” she said. “The Alliance hopes to demonstrate all that can be accomplished through tolerance, understanding and collaboration.” (photo: Dr. Martine Forrester, center and left)

Monica Hubbard '02

Monica Hubbard is a marriage & family therapist in Fortuna, CA. She received her B.A. from Bennington in 2002 and her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute 2016.

After Bennington Monica worked at a local bookstore in Humboldt County, CA. As she gained more responsibility at the book store, she realized, “I could do this on my own. I like this life of books and people.” In September of 2006, Monica went into business for herself and opened a used book store called Rain All Day Books. In 2016 she sold the store and opened her practice in family and marriage therapy.

Donna V. Jones '85

Donna V. Jones is a scholar and writer. She graduated with a B.A. from Bennington in 1985. Her senior thesis was titled "Decay, Alientation and the Poet: A Discussion on Martin Heidegger and Georg Trakl." She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, in 1998. 

She is an associate professor in English at U.C. Berkeley were she serves as Core Faculty for the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory and the Science, Technology and Society Center. She is on the Advisory Board for the Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major, and is also affiliated with Gender and Women's Studies.  

Her book The Racial Discourse of Life Philosophy:  Negritude, Vitalism & Modernity was the winner of the Jeanne and Aldo Scaglione Prize in Comparative Literary Studies in 2010. The Prize citation reads: "Donna V. Jones’s Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy: Négritude, Vitalism, and Modernity is a groundbreaking study of négritude and its major theorists, the poets Léopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire, that examines their adaptation and transformation of the philosophies of vitalism proposed by Henri Bergson. Carefully tracing the tradition of Western modernity that posits the mechanical state and mechanism as its dominant forms, Jones shows how Senghor and Césaire rework “vital force” in their metaphysics and poetics and how—even as it is implicated in forms of racism and colonialism— vitalism remains an important influence on modern discourses of postcolonialism and racial emancipation. Expansive in its range and precise in its readings, the book invites a significant rethinking of important movements and philosophies of the twentieth century."

Jones is currently working on two projects, The Ambiguous Promise of European Decline: Race and Historical Pessimism in the Era of the Great War and The Tribunal of Life: Reflections on Vitalism, Race and Biopolitics.

Michele C. Joseph '84

Michele began her 32 year career at Voice of American in 1987 and has served in many roles during her long tenure.  As a Senior Radio Producer, she produced three and a half hours of radio programming in the French to Africa Service of the Africa Division.  Michele also served as a TV producer for Washington Forum, a weekly live half hour interactive show, simulcast on radio and internet.

In 2013, Michele created Anglais Télé (Roger Muntu, co-host), an interactive English learning program targeted for a French speaking audience with listener participation and viewers all over French speaking countries including Asia and the Middle East.  She is also the host of African Voices in Conversation, a series of 30 lessons prepared in collaboration with the State Department in the context of Senegal. (VOA French to Africa Web site)  Michele also produced and hosted English USA , a series of 100 English lessons designed for a Francophone African audience, teaching common American English as well as explaining , American society, values, history and institutions and culture, including business English terms. These lessons are now packaged and have aired for the last 17 years very successfully.

Michele is also a level III Master Practitionner/Teacher Certification in Reiki in the Washington, D.C. area.  

 

William Ransom, '04

William Ransom is an artist and educator. Ransom graduated from Bennington in 2004 with his B.A. in sculpture. 

He makes meticulously crafted, large-scale sculptural works from recycled and found wood, that sometimes include composting and other biological entropic activities. Fusing the old and the new, Ransom combines nostalgia for bygone materials and production methods with sustainable solutions for a future lifestyle.

He has exhibited at the Torrance Art Museum, John Davis Gallery, HANGAR Gallery, Ogilvy & Mater - The Chocolate Factory, Steve Turner Gallery, and others. In 2009, he was an artist in residence at the Lenzer Family Art Gallery at Pitzer College. 

His sculpture, Farm Boy, is on display outside of Crossett Library.