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Featured Playwrights

Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Erika Dickerson is a Blk feminist Pushcart Prize nominated poet-turned-playwright, educator and grassroots organizer from Chicago, Illinois. Using a jook-joint literary aesthetic, her work examines the intersections of race, gender, sex(uality), imperialism, and spirituality, offering a kaleidoscope of Blk womanhood. She is the author of the chapbook This Side of Mourning (New School Poetics, 2010). Selected stage plays include: Cult of Blk Bodies (Overture Center, directed by Christopher Walker) blk, somewhere else (Victory Gardens, directed by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway) and cullud wattah.

Erika holds a Bachelor of Science in English Secondary Education with a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, she founded the For Colored Girls Project, Madison’s first and only women of color theater company, for which she served as Artistic Director from 2010–2013. While pursuing her Master of Arts in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary, she founded The Love Well Series, a citywide monthly teach-in for Christian leaders designed to foster education about social injustice in an American context.

As a former classroom teacher, Erika is intentional about disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. She has implemented culturally savvy pedagogical practices in metropolitan area schools and community centers across the nation and in Cape Town, South Africa. She has also designed theater-based creative action curricula for various arts organizations, including People’s Theatre Project.

Erika is an associate organizer with the #LetUsBreatheCollective, a Chicago-based alliance of artists and activists. In 2016, she co-organized and launched Freedom Square—a 41-day occupation of a Chicago police torture site that became a nationally recognized community laboratory for police abolition and divestment. She is also an artistic associate of Black Lives, Black Words International Project. Currently, Erika resides in Brooklyn where she serves as the Assistant Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint, a civil and human rights organization that works to develop a culture where women and girls of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race, and other disparities are erased.

Erika’s life mission is to practice sci-fi living. As an interdisciplinary theatermaker and cultural worker, she hopes to use world travel as a gateway for transnational coalition building, and playwriting as a mirror and place of possibility for Black women’s liberation. At the moment, she is crafting a host of new plays, including took/tied hung/split, an afro-futuristic re/visioning of the 1918 Mary Turner lynching, and a water trilogy that examines water as a reflection of Blk women’s bodies as sites of consciousness development and exile during the Middle Passage (ocean’s lip/ heaven’s shore), Hurricane Katrina, and Flint Water Crisis (cullud wattah), respectively.

Facebook: Erika Dickerson-Despenza | IG: @erikajanea