Tuesday, July 14, 2020 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT


This event is free and open to the public; registration is required. 


The Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College invites you to 2020 Vision – Writing Social Justice for Today, a virtual panel happening during its July 2020 residency. 

Author and teacher Sheela Chari will moderate a diverse roster of writers and activists, including Solstice faculty members David Yoo, José Angel Araguz, Iain Haley Pollock, Randall Horton, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; our writer-in-residence Renée Watson; and guests Shonda Buchanan and Ibtisam Barakat.  

At this very moment, in the midst of a global pandemic, people across the country and world are speaking out for justice online and in the streets. From issues of police brutality to matters of climate change, we are compelled to contribute our voices to the collective calls for advocacy and policy changes. As writers, how can we use our platform to respond in times of crisis? How do we derive the authority, expertise, and the imagination to write about social issues while maintaining our allegiance to the creation and manifestation of art? This panel will seek answers to these questions and more.

"This might be the most important conversation we can be having now as writers and artists,” Sheela said. “What will we choose to write about? How can art make a difference? Our choices will shape the values of our generation."

This panel offers a look into Solstice MFA's programming and commitment to social justice. Contact us to discover more about the program, including genre concentrations, fellowships, and more.


  • 3:00 p.m. – Welcome & Opening Remarks
  • 3:05 p.m. – Panelists Reading
  • 3:40 p.m. – 10-minute Break
  • 3:50 p.m. – Panel Resumes: 45-minute Discussion Moderated by Sheela Chari
  • 4:35 p.m. – Q&A
  • 5:00 p.m. – Panel Concludes



Sheela Chari is the author of Finding Mighty, a Junior Library Guild Selection and Children's Choice Award Finalist; and Vanished, an APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book, Edgar finalist for best juvenile mystery, and Al’s Book Club Pick on the Today Show. Her forthcoming novel, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, based on the Peabody Award-winning mystery podcast by Gen-Z Media, will be published by Candlewick/Walker US in October 2020. Sheela teaches fiction writing at Mercy College and lives with her family in New York. To learn more about Sheela and her work, visit https://sheelachari.com/.


José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and the author of seven chapbooks as well as the collections Everything We Think We Hear, Small Fires, Until We Are Level Again, and, most recently, An Empty Pot’s Darkness. His poems, creative nonfiction, and reviews have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Prairie Schooner, New South, Poetry International, and The Bind. Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, he runs the poetry blog The Friday Influence and composes erasure poems on the Instagram account @poetryamano. He also reads for the journal Right Hand Pointing and serves as a co-editor of Airlie Press. With an MFA from New York University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati, José is an Assistant Professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, where he also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Salamander Magazine.

Ibtisam Barakat is bilingual Palestinian-American poet, artist, translator, educator, and the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood and Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. The two memoirs combined won more than 30 awards and honors, including the International Reading Association's best book award, the Middle East Council's best book award, and the Arab-American Museum's best book award. Her Arabic language books include The Letter Ta' Escapes, about a letter that refuses to do what it's expected to do in the alphabet, won the Euro-Mediterranean Anna Lindh Foundation's best book award for children's books in Arabic. Her most recent books include The Jar that Became a Galaxy, which was the title for Palestine's national reading campaign in 2019, and The Purple Girl, which won the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020. Ibtisam also leads Write Your Life seminars and is a creative writing coach for individuals and groups to write life stories. She can be reached at http://www.ibtisambarakat.com. Her TEDx talk about her love for language can be viewed here.

Shonda Buchanan is the author of five books, including a memoir, Black Indian, the tale of a mixed race Midwest family caught in intergenerational bi-ethnic and tri-ethnic identity crises. An award-winning poet and educator, Shonda is editing her first novel about Black/American Indian intersections, a second memoir, and a collection of poetry about Nina Simone. Having received several Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Arts Midwest/National Endowment for the Arts grants, she is a Sundance Institute Fellow, a PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellow, a California Community Foundation Fellow, and a Jentel Artist Residency Fellow. Shonda teaches at Loyola Marymount University. Follow her on social media @shondabuchanan, or visit http://www.shondabuchanan.com.

Randall Horton, originally from Birmingham, AL, now resides in Harlem, NY. Randall is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award, a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and most recently the GLCA New Writers Award for Creative Nonfiction for Hook: A Memoir (2015), published by Augury Books. Randall is also a member of the band: Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a group whose unique blend of blues, jazz, funk, hip hop, go-go, R&B, soul, classical music, poetry, dramaturgy and prose, continues the legacy of Amiri Baraka. Randall is Associate Professor of English at the University of New Haven. The University of Kentucky Press is the publisher of his latest poetry collection {#289-0128}.

In addition, Randall has been interviewed on Fox News, NPR, CTNPR, the New Haven Register, and countless online journals, magazines, and radio shows. He is also on the Advisory Board of Pen America’s Pen Prison Writing Program.

Iain Haley Pollock lives in Mount Kisco, NY, and and teaches English at Rye Country Day School. He is the author of two poetry collections, Ghost, Like a Place (Alice James Books, 2018), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and Spit Back a Boy, winner of the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Individual poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Baffler, Boston Review, Callaloo, and The New York Times Magazine. Iain received his undergraduate degree at Haverford College and his MFA in Creative Writing at Syracuse University, where he won the Joyce Carol Oates Award. He held a Cave Canem Fellowship from 2006-2009. He was the Solstice MFA Program’s first Cave Canem Partner Poet and joined the MFA faculty in summer 2012.

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is author of 8th Grade Superzero (Scholastic), a Notable Book for a Global Society and Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She is a co-author of the NAACP Image Award-nominated Two Naomis, and its sequel, Naomis Too (Balzer and Bray/HarperCollins). Her nonfiction work includes Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow (Discovery/MacMillan), and the picture book biography Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins (Seagrass/Quarto). Olugbemisola is also the editor of The Hero Next Door, a 2019 middle grade anthology from We Need Diverse Books. A member of The Brown Bookshelf and We Need Diverse Books, Olugbemisola lives with her family in New York City. Find her on Twitter @olugbemisola and Instagram @olugbemisolarhudayperkovich.

Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) received a Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. Her children's picture books and novels for teens have received several awards and international recognition. She has given readings and lectures at many renown places including the United Nations, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. The New York Times calls Renée’s writing, “charming and evocative.” Her poetry and fiction often centers around the experiences of Black girls and women, and explores themes of home, identity, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.

Her books include young adult novels, Piecing Me Together and This Side of Home, which were both nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and Watch Us Rise, co-written with Ellen Hagan. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists.

One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Renée has worked as a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers through out the nation. Her articles on teaching and arts education have been published in Rethinking Schools and Oregon English Journal. She is currently a writer-in-residence at The Solstice Low-Residency Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College.

Renée has also worked as a consultant within the non-profit sector, specifically around teaching for social justice and the role of art in social justice, providing professional development workshops and leadership trainings to artists, staff, executives, and board of directors. Some of her clients include Carnegie Hall, DreamYard, Lincoln Center, RAW Art Works, and Literary Arts.

Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City.

David Yoo is the author of the novels Girls for Breakfast (Delacorte), which was named a NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick, and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before (Hyperion), a Chicago Best of the Best selection, along with a middle grade novel, The Detention Club, (Balzer and Bray). His first collection of essays, The Choke Artist (Grand Central) was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. He holds a B.A. from Skidmore College and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. David wrote a regular column in Koream Journal. He teaches at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and resides in Massachusetts. Visit his website and/or read David Yoo's interview by Hareem Shafi.

American Sign Language Interpreters

Amber Roseborough is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter. She has been interpreting for 14 years and enjoy all aspects of the work. Amber is a mother of three and has lived in Colorado for 26 years.

Natalie Wehn moved from Ohio to Colorado a year ago in an effort to grow professionally. She has been interpreting professionally for two years. Natalie obtained her Educational Interpreter Authorization and became a National Certification candidate. She loves what she does, and look forward to many more years of interpreting.