Joel Dias Porter (a.k.a. DJ Renegade) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force. After leaving the service, he became a professional disc jockey in the DC area. In 1991, he quit his job and began living in homeless shelters, while undergoing an Afrocentric self-study program. From 1994 through 1999, he competed in the National Poetry Slam, finishing as high as second place in the individual competition, and becoming the 1998 and 1999 Haiku Slam Champion. His poems have been published in Time magazine, The Washington Post, Callaloo, Antioch Review, and the anthologies Meow: Spoken Word from the Black Cat, Role Call, Def Poetry Jam, 360 Degrees of Black Poetry, Slam (The Book), Revival: Spoken Word from Lollapallooza, Poetry Nation, Beyond the Frontier, Catch a Fire, and The Black Rooster Social Inn, which he also edited. In 1995, he received the Furious Flower "Emerging Poet Award" from James Madison University. He has performed on the Today Show, in a commercial for Legal Jeans, in the documentaries Voices Against Violence and SlamNation, on BET's Teen Summit and By the Book, and in the feature film Slam.
Christy Zink holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in writing from Emory University and an M.F.A. in fiction from George Mason University, where she served as editor of The George Mason Review, a journal of exemplary undergraduate writing. She has been awarded a literature grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and has twice been a resident fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She is currently completing her first novel, House Afire.
Christy has taught writing and literature at several universities, including American, George Mason, and currently George Washington. She is the former director of PEN/Faulkner’s Writers in Schools program, which brings nationally known writers into public schools across the country. That experience fed directly into her current research interests, which focus on the urban landscape, the importance of the arts in education, and the challenges that young college writers face coming out of the American high school experience.
Nina Angela Mercer, a native Washingtonian and graduate of the DC public school system, is a scholar of twentieth-century literature and urban contemporary folklore of the African diaspora. She is also a poet, playwright, performance artist, teacher, and mother of two. She believes that artistic exploration and literacy are the ideal means of achieving popular education and democracy.