Power Writers Founders

Roland Legiardi-LauraRoland Legiardi-Laura
Program Director, Power Writers Program
Artist, writer-in-residence at University Heights High School, is a poet, filmmaker, and long-time director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, where the slam poetry phenomenon originated. At the Nuyorican, he was also founder and director of the highly successful Fifth Night Screenplay Reading and Short Film Series. In 2010 Roland Co-Directed/Produced TO BE HEARD, an award-winning documentary for PBS. His documentary film, Azul, a study of Nicaragua’s people and history through their poetry, won nine international film awards and three ACE nominations. His poetry has been widely published and anthologized. He founded Words to Go and P.O.E.T., America’s first traveling troupes of performance poets. He has been a nominator for the Rockefeller Media Arts Program and has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Foundation for the Arts. His current documentary film project is a three part series, entitled The Fourth Purpose: The Enigma of Public School. Roland, with Joe Ubiles and Amy Sultan, co-created the model for the Power Writers Program.
Amy SultanAmy Sultan
Director, Power Writers Program
Amy Sultan is the Director of the Power Writers Program, the program she co-founded in 2001 with Roland Legiardi-Laura and Joe Ubiles. Amy is also a Co-Producer/Director of the award-winning documentary TO BE HEARD for PBS. From 1997 through 2008 Amy was a Co-Executive Director of the Early Stages Program, an arts education organization. In 1997, as Executive Producer of the Nantucket Film Festival, Amy steered the fledging festival through its crucial second year. From 1990-1994, she was Director for Film in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting. Amy is a former business agent for theatrical unions in New York City, where she represented designers and performers in the entertainment industry. In 1987 she created a technical training program in film and theater arts for minority young adults. Over the past thirty years, Amy has served as a community advocate for children’s arts programs and as a lobbyist for performing arts and visual arts organizations.
Joe UbilesJoe Ubiles
Education Director, Power Writers Program
Has been a poet and writer for over thirty years, has served as writer-in-residence at both Cell Block Theatre and the National Black Theater, and as poetry and music editor for Black Creations magazine. Joe had a twenty-year career as a celebrated classroom teacher in several New York City public high schools teaching a wide range of material from literature to astronomy. His poetry and jazz criticism has appeared in many journals and publications. His essay, An Afersata, the Judgment of Rhythm and Blues,is often cited in jazz music scholarly journals. Most recently Joe has been a New York City Social Justice Fellow of the Open Society and a frequent guest lecturer at Teachers College and Emory University Dept. Of Education. Joe is a co-founder of the Power Writers Program.
Dr. Maisha T WinnDr. Maisha T. Winn
Education Advisor
Dr. Winn is a former public elementary and high school teacher from Sacramento, California. She has worked extensively with youth in urban schools and in out-of-school contexts. After completing her graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, Maisha moved to New York City where she met and fell in love with the Power Writers. Her ethnography, Writing in Rhythm: Spoken Word Poetry in Urban Classrooms (published under Maisha T. Fisher by Teachers College Press), follows the lives of student poets and their teachers from the Power Writers collective. Under the guidance of Joseph Ubiles, affectionately known as “Poppa Joe,” Amy Sultan, Roland Legardi-Lara, and last but not least the young men and women from the Power Writers, Maisha embarked on a journey of written and spoken words that urged student poets to define themselves on their own terms. Maisha is also the author of an ethno-history of Black readers, writers, and speakers of the Black Arts Movement entitled Black Literate Lives: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (published under Maisha T. Fisher by Routledge), Her forthcoming ethnography, Girl Time: Literacy, social justice, and the school-to-prison pipeline (Teachers College Press), examines the lives of formerly incarcerated girls who participate in a playwriting and performance program. Maisha’s research has been published in numerous journals including: Harvard Educational Review; Race, Ethnicity, and Education; Anthropology and Education Quarterly; Research in the Teaching of English, Written Communication, and English Education. She is currently an associate professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University.