A Nation In Exile: Heartwood Narratives

February 8, 2024

Embark on a powerful journey into the heart of the black femme experience with Heartwood Narratives—an exploration of exile, identity, and finding home. Unveiling the layers of the StrongBlackWoman stereotype, this event delves into vulnerability and openness, shattering walls and embracing authentic identities. 

Witness the resilience of black femmes, historically dubbed Earth Mother or Mother of All, as they navigate the intersections of marginalization and self-exile. 

Join us in laying down burdens and collectively embracing our narratives. Heartwood Narratives not only promises a transformative experience but also supports the community—donations will be collected for Uzazi Village, a black femme-run non-profit dedicated to advancing black maternal health.


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Robert E. Coppage III

Robert E. Coppage III is an actor and teacher from Wyandotte County, KS. He has over 20 years of theatre experience and has enjoyed performing all over the KC Metro area doing film, commercial, theatre, and improv. He co-founded Tribe University and now teaches improvisation to young people in neighborhoods similar to where he was raised. Through improv he is able to give voice and confidence to overlooked stories and storytellers. Tribe University promotes public speaking skills, clear decision-making skills, and quick thinking abilities.


Courtney Faye Taylor headshot

Courtney Faye Taylor

Courtney Faye Taylor is a writer, visual artist, and the author of Concentrate (Graywolf Press, 2022), selected by Rachel Eliza Griffiths as the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Concentrate was awarded the T.S. Eliot Four Quartets Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and was named a finalist for the NAACP Image Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and other honors. Courtney lives in Atlanta, GA.

Natasha Ria El-Scari

Natasha Ria El-Scari, a seasoned poet and performer with a Black Feminist lens, boasts a rich artistic journey spanning two decades. As a Cave Canem alum and Ragdale Residency recipient, she has published poetry, academic papers, and personal essays in various esteemed platforms. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha holds a BA from Jackson State University and an MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her literary prowess is evident in books like “Screaming Times” and “The Only Other,” while her recent ventures include a novel, “Growing Up Sina,” and a performative collaboration, “Te Deum: Lessons.” A multi-talented artist, Natasha is also a founder, curator, and recipient of awards, including the 2021 KC People’s Choice Award. Discover more at natasharia.com.

Maya Williams headshot

Maya Williams

Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a religious Black multiracial nonbinary suicide survivor who is currently the seventh poet laureate of Portland, ME. Eir debut poetry collection Judas & Suicide (Game Over Books, 2023) was selected as a finalist for the New England Book Award. They also have a second poetry collection, Refused a Second Date (Harbor Editions, 2023). Follow her at mayawilliamspoet.com

Melissa Headshot

Melissa Ferrer Civil

Melissa Ferrer Civil (she/they) is a christian, first-gen, queer, Haitian, Cuban, femme, multi-disciplinary artist, organizer, educator and theologian who battles with mental illness. As such, a lot of their work deals with  the impact of oppressive institutions upon the mind, heart, body and soul of marginalized individuals as well as the reclamation and redefining of community. Primarily a poet, Melissa writes into and from the body, and the spirit therein. She believes deeply in the quote spoken by June Jordan that says “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” She holds a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Italian and a Masters in Urban Education. You can find her work in The Plentitudes, JMWW, New Territory Mag, voicemail poems, Fahmidan Journal, Zin Daily and elsewhere. She was long listed for the 2021 Palette Poetry Emerging Poet Prize. Melissa is a Charlotte Street Studio Resident, and a Chrysalis Institute Alumnus.  You can follow them on IG: @melissaferrerand or Twitter: @melissafpoet. Or at their website: melissaferrerand.com

rachel j atakpa headshot

rachel j. atakpa

rachel j. atakpa (rae/raje) is a poet, artist, and grower whose work engages ecosomatics, ritual, and social practice. atakpa is a Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident (2022-2024) and author of one chapbook FITS: a biomythography (2023). rae’s writing has appeared in publications such as Berkeley Poetry Review, The New Territory Magazine, and Contemporary Verse 2. find raje work @ atakpa.cargo.site

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Mesonjixx: Soon after her performance debut in 2015, Mesonjixx has not only become a fixture of the Nebraska music scene, but has risen to the top of artists in the Midwest. As solo, duo, and full band – Mesonjixx has collaborated with many talented, multidisciplinary artists and musicians in the Midwest over the last near decade. Because of this, her heart is full and a flame.

Her trio, with keyboardist and producer Nate Asad (f.k.a INFNTLP) and percussionist John Evans, was selected to open for Kamasi Washington’s recent performance in Omaha in 2020, and was a returning festival favorite at True/False Independent Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri (2019, 2020). In November 2021 Mesonjixx released a live album that was recorded at Omaha’s Culxr House. Featuring musicians: Kekeli Dawes, Nate Asad, Myles Jasnowski and Jacob Sorensen.

Mary looks forward to releasing a few singles and new visuals in January 2024.

Organization Partner

Uzazi Village

Uzazi Village is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “Centering Black and Brown families in maternal and infant health”. African-American childbearing persons and their newborns are at much greater risk of illness and death.

Uzazi Village works to address the reasons behind that increased risk so that our community can enjoy the good health that others have come to expect. Through direct services, research, systems transformation, advocacy, policy work and professional development, they work to eliminate racially-based health disparities related to childbearing.

Their programs include; the Village Doula Program, Ida Mae Patterson Center for Maternal and Infant Wellness, Perinatal Doula Training and others.  Located at 4232 Troost Ave. KCMO 64110, you can also find them online at uzazivillage.org and on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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