Ke’Shunta Drake is a rising senior at Alcorn State University, where she majors in English Literature. Ms. Drake is also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a member of Sigma Tau Delta. As an undergraduate, Ms. Drake has had the opportunity to engage in scholarly research that pertains to her interests in Africana Womanism, Assata Shakur, Black Nationalism, and Black identity and culture, through the Ronald E. McNair Post baccalaureate Achievement Program. Her interests also include creative poetry, African and African American folklore, African American Literature, activism, and Black feminism. As for her scholarly goals, Ms. Drake plans to pursue a graduate degree that focuses on Black identity and culture. Ms. Drake aspires to become a scholar, activist, and pillar for her community.
Maria Hope Thompson is a senior English Major Music minor from the capital of the hospitality state —Jackson, Mississippi. While studying at Tougaloo College, Maria’s research interest includes African American literature and women’s and gender studies. As both a UNCF Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research fellow and Rutgers English Diversity Institute fellow, Maria has been able to engage with scholars across the world with similar interest. As a literary scholar whose works reflect her personal intersections, Maria endeavors to give voices to muted and marginalized groups —specifically the Black woman’s. Currently Maria is completing her senior defense titled #Culture in 140 Characters:An Analysis of Black Twitter as a Cultural, Social, and Political Authority. Maria’s scholarly interest include: slave narratives, the African American oral tradition, gender studies/queer theory, and women/feminist studies. Maria aspires to continue her studies in literature focusing on that which is most important to her.
Gabrielle Jean-Louis is a senior Mellon Mays Fellow at CUNY Queens College, majoring in English and Secondary Education. She is actively exploring Diasporic Caribbean identities in literature with a particular focus on Haitan Women’s writing. Her analysis of the works of Haitian writers Marie Vieux Chauvet and Edwidge Danticat as well as the Jamaican Marica Douglas and Antiguan Jamaica Kincaid is intended to address multi-generationalism in Diasporic Studies. As a Junior Activity Specialist for Queens Community House of I.S. 499, Ms. Jean-Louis promotes literacy and artistic skills when teaching her Cosmetics and Film classes. In the near future, she plans not only to earn her Doctorate’s degree in her chosen field but also build a career as an activist to better serve communities inclusive of the multilingual and multigenerational community she grew up in.
Ariana Costales Del Toro is currently in her final year as an English Literature Major at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Aside from her love for literature, she is also interested in gender and feminist theory which is why she is pursuing a minor in Gender and Women Studies. As an undergraduate student, she has researched the topics of family, spatial theory and colonialism found in cuir Puerto Rican poetry. More of her interests include Caribbean literature, Afro-Caribbean cultures, religion, post-colonialism, and sexuality. Besides her scholarly work, Ariana is also a writer and freelance editor. She has been published twice in Sábanas Literary Magazine and has had the opportunity to be a part of the editorial team in Tonguas Literary Magazine. Her love for the community has also given her experience in the cultural management field. She interned at the Casa Ruth Hernández culture center where she helped organize free workshops, fairs, and cultural nights for the people of Río Piedras. After her bachelor’s degree, Ariana will continue her graduate studies in hopes of earning a Ph.D. and becoming a literature professor.
Havannah Tran is a recent graduate of Wellesley College where she studied English and Computer Science. Her senior thesis titled “Reading Mythology in Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds through Just Memory” explored the relationship between mythology, empire, and the ways that queer refugee identities question the fabric of American identity. She hopes to go to English graduate school to further explore the role of mythology, as it proceeds from the Romantic period, in the creation of empire. More importantly, she’s interested in how marginalized writers respond to these dominant narratives. At Wellesley, she founded the Southeast Asian Student Association. Currently, she volunteers with the Asian Prisoner Support Committee where she supports anti-deportation efforts.
Gabriella Davis is currently an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in English and Spanish, as well as a minor in history at Grand Valley State University. As an undergraduate student, Gabriella has been able to combine her interests in the literary, cultural and historical through her scholarly work with the Ronald E. McNair Program where she analyzed how literature allows Afro-Ecuadorians to reclaim their sexuality and resist Ecuadorian anti-blackness. Her additional scholarly interests include neo-slave narratives, African American spirituality, Black sexuality, configurations of race in Latin America through the use of language and Black communities in Latin America. Furthermore, she is also passionate about combining the scholarly and the artistic in her work. In the future, Gabriella hopes to earn her graduate degree in literature and become a published author.
A Haitian-American, first-generation college student from Miami, Florida, Arselyne Chery is currently pursuing a BA in American Studies and a concentration in Africana Studies at Williams College. As an Allison Davis Research Fellow (ADRF) at Williams, Arselyne has enjoyed exploring her research interests in: Afro-Diasporic literature, Haitian-American literature, Haitian representation in U.S. news media, Haitian self-representation and identity in literature & the arts, and Haitian history. Arselyne’s future academic goals include attending a Doctorate degree program that will allow her to engage with literary, historical, and sociological approaches to the study of Black people from the African Diaspora, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Afterwards, Arselyne hopes to become a English/Africana Studies professor where she can advocate for the need for more racially and ethnically representative literature to be taught in the college English curriculum.
Agnes Sastre Rivera is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. They major in English Literature and a minor in Women & Gender Studies. Among their greatest passions are books (especially poetry books), Caribbean literature, education, and creative writing. As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, they have been developing research that explores the themes of queerness, trauma, space and religion in Caribbean literature under the mentorship of Professor Dannabang Kuwabong. Throughout their experience as an undergraduate, Agnes has been intrigued by the relationship of the domestic space in English Speaking and Spanish speaking Caribbean literature and the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and religion that occur in it. In their free time, Agnes enjoys writing, giving creative writing workshops, working on an artistic project titled Fractal Puerto Rico and watching Netflix.
Musical artist, Naajidah Correll, is the 2019 Wilfred Cartey Scholar for African Literary and Creative Excellence previously awarded all three of the City College of New York’s most prestigious fellowships in the areas of Humanities, Law and Public Policy. The primary locus of her research interests, which has been strengthened by the English Literature Department and Black Studies Undergraduate Program, resides at the critical nexus of African and African diaspora literature, critical race theory, performance studies, nationalism and narratology in the U.S. As an undergrad, her Mellon Mays research examined how Black icons’ acts of political resistance generated discursive patterns in American media while disrupting transnational performances of U.S. nationhood. Although, this four time fellow graduated with highest honors her proudest accomplishment has been participating with community based organizations that foster and strengthen accessible arts-inclusive educational programs for underserved populations of youth in the state of New York. Her favorite scholars includes Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Cheryl Sterling, Nicole Fleetwood, and Saidiya Hartman.