Special Guest Poets for the 2023 Anthology

Special Guest Poets for the 2023 Anthology

Here are the judges and guest poets who have planned to include a poem or poem-letter with our 2023 anthology. Each writer has his own strength and style. At some point, they have shown that they want to share information with others (as instructors, teaching artists, etc.), are compassionate, and have a heart for youth to see them grow. We appreciate the time they've taken to contribute to the anthology. Please feel free to take a moment to learn more about them and their individuals projects.


Taylor Mali
(finalist judge)

See extended bio, interview link, and videos on this page.  








Douglas Powell aka Roscoe Burnems

(guest poet)

Douglas Powell/Roscoe Burnems is an educator, author, spoken-word artist, poetry slam champion, and the inaugural poet laureate of Richmond, VA. He has dedicated his craft to educating and entertaining and using his art to create challenging conversations, empower underserved communities, and increase dialog around mental health awareness. 

"Traumedy" is available on Amazon Prime. You can follow him on social media platforms @roscoeburnems.






 Joe Davis
(guest poet)

Joe Davis is a poet, author, and artist living in North Minneapolis; using art, spoken word, and poetry as an opportunity to create space for folks to find healing, their own inner voice, and one another.

In addition to his solo projects, Joe is also the frontman of his band, The Poetic Diaspora and the CEO & Creative Director of The New Renaissance, a multi-media production company established to facilitate the business & technical aspects of Joe's artistic endeavors.

You can find his books on Amazon, and you can follow him across social media platforms @joedavispoetry.





(guest poet)

Najashi, lead vocalist of the L.A.-based reggae band, Dread Daze believes in intellectual creativity, striving for self-improvement, and enhancing this crazy world we live in today. He was born in New York City but grew up in both Kingston, Jamaica and Los Angeles, CA. He comes from a musical family – cousin Donna Reid (of Debbie and Donna) and cousin Chris Reid (“Play” of Kid-N-Play).

Najashi conveys real life events and stories by using thought-provoking lyrics and an array of musical beats, ranging from live instrumentation to drum machine loops. In addition to writing with his group, he also writes for some online sites. His artistic ability has opened doors to acting, and he has started gaining critical accolades for portraying his sinister character in the independent film, “Waiting for Tomorrow.” Najashi’s personal podcast airs on Zion Highness internet radio on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 PST. Including all platforms, he has 100,000+ subscribers, listeners, and followers. Najashi’s ultimate dream is to reach out and touch the world through his vision of music, art, and excellence.


Stay up-to-date on what's happening with Dread Daze by checking out their website at https://dreaddaze.com/ or by following them across social media platforms @dreaddaze.





Dr. Leonard A. Slade, Jr.
(guest poet)


Leonard A. Slade, Jr. is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Albany.  He earned the Ph.D. degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studied poetry with Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Dunn (Bennington College) and Donald Justice (The Bread Loaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College, Vermont). He is a SUNY Citizen Academic Laureate, Collins Fellow, President's Excellence in Teaching Awardee, Lifetime Poet Fellow of the Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, and Poet Laureate of the Southern Conference on African American Studies.

The author of twenty-two books of poetry, Slade has published his works in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. His poetry has been praised by Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni.  In April 2023, he was named an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa Society.


You can purchase his books from Amazon.

 "My belief is that poetry can help change the world." - Dr. Slade





Inside Nianda Speaks

(preliminary judge)

Inside Nianda Speaks is a spoken word poet from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has published 4 books: Until Next Time...The Evolution of a Broken Heart, Persuaded Until Tomorrow: A Message to the Negropean, and The Epistemology Series 1& 2. He also co-owns and operates Sweet Royale Hotdogs & Poetry in Portsmouth, VA, a restaurant and entertainment venue which showcases Hampton Roads and surrounding talent of all forms.

Find food and poetry by following on Instagram @sweetroyale757 or on FB: Sweet Royale Hotdogs & Poetry.


 "Inside Nianda Speaks to Nay Sayers at the Throne Room" - https://youtu.be/ATvgUfr3sOQ - video






Obelia Akanke
(preliminary judge)

Obelia Akanke is a “true life poet.” She received a Leonard A. Slade, Jr. Poetry Fellowship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, earned awards in writing contests, and has been included in several anthologies/series, including the centennial anthology from The Poetry Society of Virginia (2023) and novella collections of Authors of Main Street (2019 and 2020) and "Christmas on the Side" (2021). Obelia has written and published several short stories, novellas, and novels. Most are new adult women’s fiction that tend to sweet romance. Drawing from her education and experience in social services, she often includes messages or lessons to bring awareness to a situation and to help the reader grow in compassion and understanding for others.

You can find her books in our online store (signed copies available) or in retailers and libraries worldwide. 

Collaboration ft. Kween Yakini (poet), Crystal Alexis (book cover model), and several models who shared their photos to create this video.


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