Myrna Colley-Lee, Founder & President
Myrna Colley-Lee has been a costume designer for Black Theatre since the 1960’s and champions the arts through roles such as: Chair of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Arts Commission; acquisitions committee of the Mississippi Museum of Art; Advisory Boards of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Art Department at Mississippi State University.
Ms. Colley-Lee’s designs have been featured by the Mississippi Museum of Art in 2006 (GladRags: Sketches, Swatches, and Costume Designs by Myrna Colley-Lee); by the McNay Museum in 2012 (Songs of Social Significance); and a major retrospective of Colley-Lee’s career (A Theatre of Color) is set to open in late 2013.
Works from Colley-Lee’s personal collection are currently touring museums across the country through 2015 in an exhibition titled Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection.
Ms. Colley-Lee has received numerous awards including: Honored Artist from the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Lifetime Achievement Award; the Exemplary Arts Service Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education; Outstanding Costume Design from the National Black Theatre Festival; the Wynona Lee Fletcher Award for Outstanding Achievement as a Designer from the Black Theatre Network; and the the Doctor of Creative Arts honoris causa from Mississippi State University.
She earned the M.F.A. in Scenic and Costume Design from Temple University, studied scene painting and properties at Brooklyn College, and completed her B.F.A. at the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Jon Parrish Peede is the Publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review at the University of Virginia. From 2007 to 2011, he served as a director of literature grants at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award. Peede oversaw $4 million in annual NEA grants to writers and literary organizations, and he led literary programs in Mexico, Northern Ireland, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and other nations. As director of the NEA’s Operation Homecoming program, he was interviewed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, NPR, and PBS regarding wartime writing. From 2003 to 2007, he served as counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. Previously, he was director of communications at Millsaps College; founding editor of the CASE Award-winning Millsaps Magazine; and an editor for literature and history at Mercer University Press. He co-edited an essay collection on Flannery O’Connor and interviewed numerous writers, including John Hope Franklin, Willie Morris, Shelby Foote, Will D. Campbell, Barry Hannah, and Julia Alvarez. He serves on the national council of the Margaret Walker Center Archive and Museum of the African-American Experience at Jackson State University and was appointed to the governor’s recommendation committee for the Poet Laureate of Mississippi (Natasha Trethewey). A native of Brandon, Mississippi, he holds a B.S. in English from Vanderbilt University and an M.A. in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. He lives in Virginia with his family.
Kathleen E. Bethel is the African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University Library, Evanston, IL, with responsibilities for Gender and Sexuality Studies, Caribbean Studies and is the interim librarian for Latin American Studies.
Early in her career, Bethel worked in Chicago at the Johnson Publishing Company Library, the Newberry, Maywood and Wilmette Libraries. Currently she serves on the Executive Council of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. She also serves on the advisory boards of the Project on the History of Black Writing; the Journal of Pan African Studies; Chicago’s Black Metropolis Research Consortium; the Center for Black Genealogy; and the Alumni Council of the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science. A Life Member of the Toni Morrison Society, she has chaired their Bibliography Committee. She served on Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History Board of Trustees. She was a recipient of the DEMCO/ALA Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship and the Irma Kingsley Johnson Distinguished Service Award from the Chicago Friends of the Amistad Research Center. As a Fulbright Library Fellow she was posted to the University of Durban-Westville, South Africa. She continues to work on projects exploring and documenting Black life and culture, including the Field Museum’s Africa Project and The HistoryMakers’ Institute of Museum & Library Services Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant. A member of the American Library Association and the Black Caucus of ALA, Kathleen is committed to library leadership, diversity, recruitment, and research.
Malaika Adero is Vice President and Senior Editor at Atria Books/ Simon and Schuster, and has worked in book publishing since the early 1980s. She's acquired and managed bestselling and award-winning books by authors of fiction and nonfiction, including Maryse Conde, Common, George Clinton, Tananarive Due, Reyna Grande, T.D. Jakes, Blair Underwood, Toure, Zane and many more.
She is a widely published writer and editor, including books such as Up South: Stories, Studies, and Letters of This Century's African American Migrations. She co-authored Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston with Dr. Lucy Hurston. And, has been anthologized in Mending the World edited by Rosemary Robotham and Black Southern Voice by John O. Killens and Jerry Ward.
Her passion for storytelling extends to all expressions of art and culture, evidenced by her founding and production of the Up South International Book Festival in New York City (2005 - 2008) and her work as a consultant to a wide range of cultural art institutions including the Kennedy Center (Washington DC), 651 Arts (Brooklyn, NY), Neighborhood Arts Center, MAPP International and more.
Her study of folklore traditions throughout the African diaspora have taken her across the country and the world--including West Africa and Cuba-- as a student and performer with leaders in the field including Michael Babatunde Olatunji, Babacar Mbaye/Sing Sing Rhythms, and Denys Perez aka La Mora.
Beverly Wade Hogan
Karen Allen Baxter - Managing Director, Rites and Reason Theatre, Africana Studies, Brown University
Ifa Bayeza - Playwright and Distinguished Lecturer, Africana Studies, Brown University
Betsy Bradley - Executive Director, Mississippi Museum of Art
Myrna Colley-Lee - SonEdna Founder, costume designer, arts patron
Ruby Dee - Actor of stage, screen and television
Benjamen Douglas - Founding Executive Director
Clyde Ford - Author and Director of International Justice and Public Safety for Advantage Factory
Edena Hines - Actor, poet, playwright
Alison Oliver Kelly - Assistant Public Defender for Violent Crimes in Hinds County
Hasna Muhammad - Poet and Assistant Superintendent at Poughkeepsie City School District
Roscoe Orman - Actor of stage, screen and television
Hattie Winston - Writer, director, producer, and actor on Broadway, television, and film
Dr. Ruth Goldberg
Ruth Goldberg, PhD is Assistant Professor of Cinema and Cultural Studies at SUNY Empire State College in New York City. Since 2001, she has also worked as a member of the visiting faculty of the International School of Film and Television in San Antonio de los Banos, Cuba where she teaches courses on film history, analysis and screenwriting twice a year. She lectures and publishes on the topics of Latin American cinema, race and representation, queer cinema, horror film, and grant writing for artists. In addition to her service to the SonEdna, Dr. Goldberg sits on the board of the Americas Media Initiative, and on the advisory board of the SUNY Black Male Initiative.
Roscoe Orman is instantly recognizable to kids young and old as Gordon Robinson, from the PBS television show Sesame Street - having played the role for nearly 40 years. He was a member of SonEdna’s initial Board of Directors and has since been involved with multiple SonEdna programs.
Orman first came to the Mississippi Delta as member of the Free Southern Theater in the mid-1960s. He was later a founding member of the New Lafayette Theatre. His many other stage appearances have included roles in Julius Caesar and Coriolanus at Joseph Papp's Public Theater; the Broadway production of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences, and Matt Robison's one-man play The Confessions of Stepin Fetchit at the American Place Theatre.
He made his feature film debut in the title role of Universal Studios' 1974 drama, Willie Dynamite and has since appeared in numerous other films. In addition to his work on Sesame Street, other television appearances include All My Children, Kojak, Sanford and Son, Cosby, Sex and the City, The Wire, and Law & Order.
Orman is the author of a memoir, Sesame Street Dad: Evolution of An Actor, and a children’s book, Ricky and Mobo.
Mr. Orman is Chief Storyteller for AudibleKids.com. In this role, he narrates audiobooks and communicates with children, parents and teachers to encourage the use of audiobooks to help build an interest in reading and develop literacy skills. When this was announced, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg commended Orman’s life work by naming October 8, 2008 AudibleKids Day.
Victoria Rowell is a best-selling author, actress, international speaker and advocate for foster children. She attended the Cambridge School of Ballet with a full scholarship at the age of eight. Then, she won a scholarship with the American Ballet Theatre School. After dancing professionally with companies including American Ballet Theatre II, Rowell returned to New England to teach ballet to inner city youth.
Rowell was discovered by Bill Cosby and co-starred with Dick van Dyke for eight seasons of Diagnosis Murder, and 14 years as Drucilla Winters on The Young and the Restless, for which she was nominated for an Emmy, and won 11 NAACP Image Awards. Other appearances include Cosby; Law and Order; Eve’s Bayou; and Dumb and Dumber. Victoria has also been featured on Dr. Phil and Oprah.
Rowell’s NYT Bestselling memoir, The Women Who Raised Me won the African American Literary Award, the NAACP Literary Award for a Debut Author, and was included in Oprah Magazine’s Reading Room. Her debut novel Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva won the Walter Mosley Versatile Author Award and was an Essence Magazine Book Club Pick. Rowell’s newest book, The Young and the Ruthless is being released by Atria in 2013.
Victoria served as spokesperson for Casey Family Services for 13 years and remains passionate about awareness for foster and adopted children. She has received numerous commendations including awards from the United Nations Association and United States Congress; as well as Honorary Doctorates from the University of Southern Maine and Wheelock College.
Gordon Thompson is a Managing Director of CBIZ MHM Thompson Dunavant and a shareholder in Mayer Hoffman McCann. Together, CBIZ and MHM are one of the top ten accounting providers in the United States. He served as Managing Member of Memphis-based accounting firm Thompson Dunavant PLC from 1991 through 2009.
Gordon specializes in tax and financial planning solutions, multi-generational and estate planning as well as organization structure consulting for individuals, their families and their businesses.
Thompson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants; the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts; is an AICPA/Personal Financial Specialist, and a Certified Valuation Analyst.Gordon serves on the Board of Directors for the American Health Centers; the Evolve Financial Group; Memphis Leadership Foundation; the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, and Advisory Board for the University of Mississippi Patterson School of Accountancy.
Ruby Dee was a founding force for SonEdna, serving on the first Board of Directors and helping shape early organizational vision which continues to guide SonEdna. Read SonEdna's proclamation remembering Ruby Dee.
Edena Hines, a founding board member of SonEdna, was an actor, poet and playwright. Her most recent work will be released in the 2016 independent filmLanding Up. She also appeared in the 2014 feature film 5 Flights Up and as a rude barista in the ABC show What Would You Do?.
Hines graduated from Drew University in 2007. During her time there she was an assistant art teacher at Hand On Art Studios in Madison, New Jersey. While taking a year off after her sophomore year, she worked for Venice Magazine in Venice, CA and co-founded an acting camp called Discover Drama in Memphis, TN.
Upon returning to Drew, Edena found a new talent for creative writing which produced several plays, short stories and a collection of poems. After a semester abroad in London, she attended New York University’s Graduate Acting Program, the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where she earned her MFA in 2011. Since then, she has gone on to appear in All’s Well that Ends Well (2011) directed by Daniel Sullivan, Shipwrecked (2011) directed by Tom Caruso, RACE (2012) directed by Kristen Coury, A Raisin in The Sun (2012) directed by Phylicia Rashad and Welcome To Wandaland (2013) directed by Carl Hancock Rux. Her other credits include performer in SonEdna's Harlem Renaissance program in Charleston, MS and Ping Chong's Delta Rising Project in Brooklyn, NY which featured other Mississippi artists.Read SonEdna's tribute to Edena