Welcome to Art Sanctuary! 

In the Sanctuary: Author Series

In the Sanctuary is a series of interviews featuring emerging and established authors of color. In the Sanctuary recognizes the talents and contributions of our area’s diverse literary community. Through both on-site interviews and virtual recordings, artists are able to reach people well beyond Philadelphia’s borders. Authors are encouraged to share their gifts with the community, as well as the secrets and experiences that shaped their artistic journey. By making this personal connection to students and adults alike, In the Sanctuary aims to inspire the next generation of budding authors in and beyond the Delaware Valley.

Our partners include the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Chapter 29 - Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks

In this latest episode of "In the Sanctuary," our Executive Director, Valerie Gay, has an engaging conversation with author Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks whose passion for writing began as a child and won her a Martha Holden Jennings Essay Scholarship in high school and another essay scholarship from the National Black MBA Association. Cheryl wrote articles for The Weathervane, for Case Western Reserve University,which is her alma mater's school newspaper and has been a contributing writer for Bronze Magazine, a globally successful magazine for women. Additionally, Cheryl participated as a contributing writer in Dr. Simon Bronner’s American Studies column of the American Studies Journal, and The Hershey Story Museum writing articles for the museum’s Curator Column. Cheryl was featured in Currents magazine, which is a Penn State Magazine. Additionally, Cheryl has been involved in speaking engagements discussing the history of Chicken Bone Beach at Rowan University and Atlantic City Historical Museum & Delta Sigma Theta's Harrisburg Chapter. Cheryl served as a panelist with debut writers at the 2017 Hippocampus Writers Conference. Cheryl has been interviewed by several newspapers, radio broadcasts, podcasts and online radio stations, such as iTune's number one podcast show, Thank Me Later. Cheryl is also a professional vocalist, writing songs for her own music projects as well as other artists. Chicken Bone Beach has been nominated for a 2017 Literary Award with the Schomburg Center in New York City.

Chapter 28 - Dr. Marlene Archie

In this episode of "In The Sanctuary," we have a conversation with author and educator, Dr. Marlene Archie. She is a Philadelphia native and is the author of "Yearning," a book of short stories about the universal challenges of people of faith. Dr. Archie has taught at several universities including Cheyney, Drexel, Temple, and Arcadia Universities. She earned a Ph.D. in African American Studies at Temple with the desire to touch young minds, inspiring them to “know thy self.” She edifies human values with her heart’s desire to write literature that invokes, arouses, and celebrates the global African American presence. She has authored numerous articles on the African American experience, founded Charter Schools that embrace the culture, and remains a community activist and scholar in Philadelphia. 

For more information on Dr. Marlene Archie and to purchase her latest book "Yearning," please CLICK HERE!

Chapter 27 - Gwen Ragsdale

In this episode of "In the Sanctuary," we have a conversation with Gwen Ragsdale. Gwen is passionate about history, particularly history related to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. As Vice President of Operations and Co-Curator of Lest We Forget Slavery Museum located in Philadelphia, PA, she is surrounded by hundreds of authentic slavery artifacts; including numerous iron shackles and other forms of ironware used to restrain and confine enslaved Africans throughout decades of chattel slavery, here in America and beyond. Also included in the private collection are rare Bill of Sale documents that reveal how African human beings were bought and sold like personal property as well as Jim Crow objects that reflect negative images of African Americans and further fanned the fires of bigotry and racism. She coordinates guided museum tours, researches and writes the contextual panels that accompany the many exhibits and facilitates informative presentations. Her natural story-telling ability enables her to engage audiences large and small during book readings and film screenings.

Gwen also produced two award winning documentary films; “Lest We Forget” and “My Slave Sister Myself”. Both films have won numerous national and international “Best Documentary Awards” including Martha’s Vineyard/HBO and New York and Toronto Film Festivals. Several schools and universities have incorporated her films into their studies as a tried and proven teaching tool for diversity and Women's Studies. Gwen resides in Voorhees, NJ with her husband J. Justin Ragsdale, Founder and Master Curator of Lest We Forget Slavery Museum she is the mother of 3 accomplished adult children and the proud grandmother of boy and girl twins who are the love of her life.

For more information please visit www.lwfsm.com!

Messages from the Elders: Ms. Lucy



In this episode of "In the Sanctuary: Message from Our Elders," our special guest host Alaina talked with Ms. Lucy about her family life, upbringing her first experience with Racism and what that experience taught her about life, and why she regrets not being more active in the Civil Rights Movement!


Messages from the Elders: Ms. Louise



In this episode of "In the Sanctuary: Message from Elders," Emile chats with Philadelphia native, Ms. Louise for what was a very candid and open discussion on her childhood, experiences with racism, going to college as an adult and her thoughts on the Civil Rights Movement!


Messages from the Elders: Ms. Maxine

In this very special episode of "In the Sanctuary: Message from Our Elders," interviewer Emile speaks with Ms. Maxine about growing up in South Philly, her school life, the community she was raised in and why Angela Davis had such an impact on her life!

Messages from the Elders: Ms. Deloris

In this episode of "In the Sanctuary: Message from the Elders," our guest host Alaina talks with Ms. Deloris about her upbringing, growing up as an only child in a single parent household, and why the Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panther Movement had a deep impact on her life!

Messages from the Elders: Joan Sadoff & Linda Needleman

In this episode of "In the Sanctuary: Messages from the Elders," our special interviewer Kamryn chats with Joan Sadoff and Linda Needleman, two incredibly, brilliant women who, together wrote a masterful book celebrating some of the Heroic Women who shared in the fight for equal rights during the Civil Rights Movement.

Joan H. Sadoff, M.Ed, MSW is the producer of “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders” and the editor of the companion book, “Pieces From the Past: Voices of Heroic Women in Civil Rights.” She has spent her professional career as a clinical social worker and has lectured to academic, professional and community organizations on the subject of societal change in the family. Ms. Sadoff has been listed in Who’s Who in Mental Health, Who’s Who in America and has appeared on NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations discussing marital and family issues. She has devoted over 50 years of service through board affiliations focusing on issues of education, women and children. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Temple University, School of Social Administration, Alumni Fellow Award and recognized in the university’s Gallery of Success. She was named Social Worker of the year by the NASW/PA, 2005 and most recently the recipient of the Annual Award for “Civil Rights and Social Justice” at the National Conference on Civil Rights. Ms. Sadoff has presented “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders” in over 200 venues; Pieces From the Past is now included in the programs. She and her husband Robert have 4 children and 10 grandchildren.

Linda Needleman, M.Ed., Co-Editor of “Pieces From the Past: Voices of Heroic Women in Civil Rights”, worked as a teacher of gifted children in the Philadelphia PublicSchool System for nearly30 years. She developed and taught the curriculum “From the Cold War to the Cola Wars,” an elective in post World War 11 historywith a focus on civil rights. Since retiring from full time teaching she has worked as a freelance editor and works as an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill College.


To Purchase your copy of “Pieces From the Past: Voices of Heroic Women in Civil Rights,” CLICK HERE!

Messages from the Elders: Christeen Rogers Johnson



In this episode of "In this Sanctuary," we chat with one of our favorite elders, Ms. Christeen Rogers Johnson. Hailing from Alabama, she talked to our guest interviewer, Tyese, about growing up in Alabama, her community life and why her mother's involvement in the Voting Rights had a major impact on her life.



Messages from the Elders: Sarah Allen



In this Episode of "In the Sanctuary: Messages from the Elders," guest interviewer Kamryn has a talk with Ms. Sarah Allen as she breaks down some of the most groundbreaking moments in Philadelphia History, including the desegregation of Girard College and she also shares on own personal experience with racism.



Messages from the Elders: Shirley Ann Barnes



In this Episode of "In the Sanctuary: Messages from the Elders," our guest interviewer, Tyese, talks with the very witty and wise Ms. Shirley Ann Barnes. She shares about her family life, having a child as a teenager, her education, growing up in the Philadelphia community prior to moving to Mississippi, and why Fannie Lou Hamer had such a large impact on her.

Messages from the Elders: Veronica Potter



In this episode of "In the Sanctuary," our special guest interviewer, Kamryn, has  a candid conversation with Philadelphia native Veronica Potter. She shares on her experience with the Civil Rights Movement, how the 1955 murder of Emmett Till affected her, and her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Chapter 26 - Diane McKinney-Whetstone

"...My sanctuary is wherever I am in the moment, where I feel safe and just surrounded by God..."

Diane McKinney-Whetstone is the author of six novels. The latest—Lazaretto—was published April 12, 2016, as her first novel, the critically-acclaimed Tumbling celebrated twenty years. She mines the city of Philadelphia for her material. The blocks and neighborhoods themselves become characters as she tells stories of everyday people existing in families and communities; characters faltering, yielding to their desires, falling, fighting, climbing, reaching for their better selves. Twice awarded the American Library Association Black Caucus Literary Award for Fiction, she is also a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. She is a past lecturer in the writing program at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives with her husband Greg in Philadelphia.

To support Diane and her work, visit her website today! 



Chapter 25 - Benny Golson

"...My sanctuary is my music and all of the opportunities that afford me to engage in it..."

Multitalented and internationally famous jazz legend, - a composer, arranger, lyricist, producer - and tenor saxophonist of world note, Benny Golson was born in Philadelphia, PA on January 25, 1929. Raised with an impeccable musical pedigree, Golson has played in the bands of world famous Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Earl Bostic and Art Blakey. Benny Golson is the only living jazz artist to have written 8 standards for jazz repertoire. 

These jazz standards have found their way into countless recordings internationally over the years and are still being recorded. This humble musical giant continues to impress critics, fans and fellow musicians with his prodigious contributions to the world of jazz.

To support Benny and his work, visit his website today!! 








Chapter 24 - Darryl Pinckney

"...My sanctuary is my love..." 

Darryl Pinckney is a novelist, playwright and essayist from Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Columbia University in New York City and published his first novel,"High Cotton" in 1992.Since then, he has published several works including two collections of essays on African American Literature and his latest work "Black Deutschland" published in 2016.

To support Darryl and his work, click here! 






Chapter 23 - Danny Simmons

"My sanctuary is wherever I go..."

During the 2016 Celebration of Black Arts Festival we'll host weekly events in our gallery - In the Sanctuary: Messages from the Elders, sponsored by PECO. On Tuesday, May 10th, we welcomed Daniel “Danny” Simmons, Jr. a noted abstract-expressionist painter. The older brother of hip-hop impressario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons (“Rev. Run” of Run DMC), he is the founder and Vice Chairman of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and Rush Arts Gallery. In addition, Simmons converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long- running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As The Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980’s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn’t Find My Way Home.

Simmons is the son of Daniel Simmons, Sr., a truant officer and black history professor who also wrote poetry, and Evelyn Simmons, a teacher who painted as a hobby. He earned a degree in social work from New York University and a master’s in public finance from Long Island University. He began painting after he realized how much he hated his job with the Bureau of Child Support.

Simmons, an abstract-expressionist painter, has had his work shown nationally. Chase Manhattan Bank, the United Nations, and the Schomburg Center for Black Culture all show his work as part of their collections. He is also an avid collector of African art and comic books.

Support Danny and his work by visiting his website. 

Chapter 22 - Kimberla Lawson Roby

"...My sanctuary is my home..."

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Kimberla Lawson Roby has published 23 novels including her debut title, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, which was originally self-published through her own company, Lenox Press. She has sold more than 2.7 Million copies of her novels, and they have frequented numerous bestseller lists, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Essence Magazine, Upscale Magazine, AALBC.com, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, The Dallas Morning News, and The Austin Chronicle to name a few, and both BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and CASTING THE FIRST STONE were #1 Blackboard bestsellers for four consecutive months in both 1997 and 2000. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS was the #1 Blackboard Best-selling book for paperback fiction in 1997.

Kimberla is the 2013 NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction, the recipient of the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013 Author of the Year – Female award presented by the African-American Literary Award Show in New York, the recipient of the 2014 AAMBC Award for Female Author of the Year, the recipient of the Blackboard Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2001 for CASTING THE FIRST STONE, the recipient of the 1998 First-Time Author Award from Chicago’s Black History Month Book Fair and Conference, and in 2001, Kimberla was inducted into the Rock Valley College Alumni Hall of Fame (Rockford, IL).

Kimberla’s novels deal with very real issues, including corruption within the church, drug addiction, gambling addiction, infidelity, social status, single motherhood, breast cancer, infertility, sibling rivalry and jealousy, domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental illness, care-giving of a parent, racial and gender discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment, and overweight issues to name a few.

Visit www.kimroby.com for more information on her novels and speaking engagements!

Chapter 21 - Al Hunter Jr.

"...My sanctuary is in God..."

This year, the Celebration of Black Writing continued it’s mission of highlighting authors of diverse backgrounds, and Al Hunter Jr. is no exception. The award winning journalist and former professor is the co-author of “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” the story of Bill “Ready” Cash, a powerhouse catcher who played for the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro Leagues, from 1943 to 1950.  Although his conversation was short and sweet, he shared poignant words of knowledge that are sure to resonate with listeners.

To support Al and purchase his work, click here! 





Chapter 20 - Satya Nelms

"...The only requirement for being a writer is to write..."

Author Satya Nelms starts every day off with morning rituals, beginning at 6:30am. She centers her day on how it starts and that is one crucial element to “Creating with Confidence,” the title of her latest book. With one of her favorite authors being, the late, Octavia Butler, Satya continues to inspire readers and creative’s alike and shares several inspiration moments in this episode of In the Sanctuary.

Stay connected to Satya Nelms and out more information about her writing at www.satyanelms.com!










Chapter 19 - Rayna Gray

"...My sanctuary is empowering women to better themselves and be who they want to be..." 

With a passion for empowering women who have suffered domestic violence, author and activist, Rayna Gray chats with guest curator Monique Eady about everything from her new book “7:17” to what ignites her passion for writing.

To support Rayna by purchasing her work, click here! 








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