Four noted writers passionate about the St. Louis region share their process and insights from recent projects: journalist Sylvester Brown, Jr., memoirist Vivian Gibson, scholar/curator Jasmine Mahmoud, and poet/educator Treasure Shields Redmond. Exploring hidden, forgotten, or still unfolding stories, what challenges has each writer faced? What kinds of creative approaches do writers use to fill in gaps, to bring readers into important but neglected, often painful histories? What techniques of attention, documentation, and imagination can help us capture the history we are living through right now?
This virtual event is presented in collaboration with the American Culture Studies department in celebration of a new anthology of essays on the St. Louis region emerging from the Material World of Modern Segregation initiative, published in a dedicated issue of Washington University’s The Common Reader: A Journal of the Essay (forthcoming fall 2021), Iver Bernstein and Heidi Kolk, co-editors. Summer Writers Institute director Sylvia Sukop is one of the publication’s contributing essayists and will moderate the discussion.
Left Bank Books
This event is presented in collaboration with St. Louis independent bookseller Left Bank Books, founded more than 50 years ago. Books by our panelists are available for online purchase.
About the Speakers
Sylvester Brown Jr. is a former award-winning columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Prior to that, he published Take Five Magazine for 15 years. In 2020, he was awarded the Deaconess Foundation Fellowship to chronicle the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of Black St. Louisans for the St. Louis American newspaper. Sylvester has worked as a consultant and researcher for SmileyBooks, owned by public radio and TV commentator Tavis Smiley, on several books including Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, by Tom Burrell; Too Important to Fail by Smiley; and The Rich & the Rest of Us, by Smiley and Dr. Cornel West. In 2012, Brown founded the Sweet Potato Project, a program that taught urban youth entrepreneurism through agriculture. In 2019, he self-published, When We Listen: Recognizing the Potential of Urban Youth. His latest book, White Castles with Jesus & Uncle Ray at the Used Tire Shop, a collection of his short stories and commentaries, came out in 2021.
Vivian Gibson was raised on Bernard Street in Mill Creek Valley, 454 acres in downtown St. Louis which comprised the nation’s largest urban-renewal project beginning in 1959. She started writing short stories about her childhood memories of the dying community after retiring at age 66. Her memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek (Belt Publishing, 2020), published when she was 70, won the Missouri Humanities Council 2021 Literary Achievement Award. Her work also appears in St. Louis Anthology (Belt Publishing, 2019) and Plough Quarterly Magazine (2020). In 2020, Gibson was featured in Poets & Writers Magazine’s Annual 5 Over 50. She received an AFA degree in apparel design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Fontbonne University, and a master’s in Nonprofit Management from Washington University in St. Louis. On the web at vivian-gibson.com
Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud is a curator, arts advocate, and historian of art and performance. In 2020, she curated Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis at Hedeeen Gallery (Seattle) centering works by five Black artists. Her essay Sighting Segregation: Black aesthetics and the materiality of art in Ferguson/St. Louis appears in a dedicated volume of The Common Reader published this year by Washington University in St. Louis. An essayist, scholar, and arts journalist, her writing also appears in Modern Drama, Performance Research, TDR: The Drama Review, Women & Performance, and in the edited volumes Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World and Postdramatic Theatre and Form, as well as in Art Forum, Hyperallergic, and other publications. For the South Seattle Emerald, she writes a monthly column centering BIPOC artists. She is Assistant Professor of Arts Leadership in the Department of Performing Arts and Arts Leadership at Seattle University.
Treasure Shields Redmond, a Mississippi native, is a published poet, master educator, community arts organizer, and successful entrepreneur. She was raised in the federal housing projects, and went on to be signed to M.C. Hammer’s label as a hip hop artist, and writer. The author of chop: a collection of kwansabas for fannie lou hamer (2015), Dr. Redmond co-founded Fannie Lou Hamer House, a retreat space for Black artists, and is the founder of Feminine Pronoun Consultants, LLC, and Get The Acceptance Letter Academy. Dr. Redmond was recently named a post-doctoral fellow of literary executorship for the estate of Dr. Eugene B. Redmond and the late Henry Dumas.