Brenda M. Greene, Executive Director
Brenda M. Greene, who has committed her life to teaching, learning and scholarship, is Chair of English Department and Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. Professor Greene’s research and scholarly work includes composition, African-American literature, and multicultural literature. She is editor of The African Presence and Influence on the Cultures of the Americas (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), a book of essays that focus on the impact of Africa in the Americas from the perspectives of literature, language, music, dance, and psychology. She is coeditor of Resistance and Transformation: Conversations with Black Writers (Morton Books, 2010), Meditations and Ascensions: Black Writers on Writing (Third World Press, 2008), co-editor of Redefining Ourselves, Black Writers in the Nineties (Peter Lang Publishers, 1999), and co-editor of Rethinking American Literature (National Council of Teachers of English, 1997). Greene contributes essays and book reviews to Neworld Review. She holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in education from New York University and has extensive essays, grants, book reviews and presentations in English Studies.
Greene has consistently received grants and funding to pursue her passion of expanding, broadening, and enriching the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of the literature produced by Black writers and to provide support for nurturing and cultivating the critical reading and writing habits of a cross-generation of readers and writers. These programs help to affirm students’ self-esteem, identity and cultural awareness, and help to improve students’ literacy. Her most recent grants were from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council for the Humanities for the National Black Writers Conference and from JPMorgan Chase, the New York City Council and Target for her literary arts programs.
Her belief in these programs is well exemplified in her role as a featured scholar on the award-winning Annenberg/PBS video production Teaching Multicultural Literature in the High Schools, where she discusses how literature can be used to engage students in the study of literature from critical perspectives.
In her role as executive director of the Center for Black Literature, Greene has continued the tradition of holding the National Black Writers Conferences (NBWCs) that have been given at Medgar Evers College since 1986. Since the Center’s inception in 2003, Greene has directed seven NBWC conferences: “Literature as Access”; A Tribute to and Symposium on John Oliver Killens”; “Black Literature: Expanding Conversations on Race, Identity, History and Genre”; and “Black Writers: Reading and Writing to Transform Their Lives and the World.” Toni Morrison was the Honorary Chair and was given the John Oliver Killens Lifetime Achievement Award for the Tenth Conference, “And Then We Heard the Thunder: Black Writers Reconstructing Memories and Lighting the Way,” which was held from March 25 to March 28, 2010. “The Impact of Migration, Popular Culture and the Natural Environment in the Literature of Black Writers” was the theme of the Eleventh National Black Writers Conference. Honorees were Ngugi wa Thiong ́o, Ishmael Reed, Nikki Giovanni, and Howard Dodson. “Reconstructing the Master Narrative.” Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott; best-selling author Walter Mosley; author and poet Quincy Troupe; French-Caribbean writer Maryse Conde; and posthumously to Margaret Burroughs, cofounder of the DuSable Museum of African American History were honored. Over the years, more than 90 writers and scholars have attended each National Black Writers Conferences at Medgar Evers College.
Currently, Greene, as the passionate and committed leader of the Center, directs several literary programs that provide hundreds of high school students with access to the Black literary arts. She is an active member and contributor to the Brooklyn educational community. She has received city and state legislative funding for literary arts programs for high school students and professional development for teachers. In addition, she has collaborated with various organizations including the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to produce literary and educational programs. She has worked with the North Country Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color, the Adelaide Sanford Educational Conference, the State of the Black World Conference, the Brother to Brother Literary Symposium; and produced symposia spotlighting Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavia Butler, Bob Marley, August Wilson, and Toni Cade Bambara.
Greene has received Faculty Scholar Awards from the City University of New York and has been inducted into the Gwendolyn Brooks Conference International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. Her awards include the Harriet Jacobs Award for Excellence in Literature, Greater Queens LINKS-Arts Facet, the Arts and Culture Award from the City College Celebration of Women in Arts and Culture, the Betty Smith Arts Award from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Spirit of Africa Award for Achievements in the Creative Arts and in Connecting the World to the Works of Emerging and Established Writers of Color, the Phenomenal Women in the Media Award sponsored by the Von King Cultural Park, the National Conference of Artists Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Black Literature among many.
Greene also hosts a weekly radio program, “Writers on Writing,” which features writers from the African Diaspora discussing their novels, poems, plays, nonfiction, and their lives. Literary professionals are also interviewed for the show that is broadcast in the studios of Medgar Evers College over the airwaves of WNYE, 91.5 F.M. An avid reader and writer, Greene leaves her audience at the end of each of her radio broadcasts with the words: “The Writer is Always Reading, the Reader is Always Writing, Keep Reading and Writing, Empower Yourselves as Readers and Writers.” These words embody the essence of Greene’s passion and drive as a woman who has dedicated her life to pursuing the work that supports the spirit and the life of the mind.
Greene is the proud mother of two sons, Talib Kweli Greene, an internationally known hip-hop artist, and Jamal K. Greene, professor of Constitutional Law at Columbia University, and the grandmother of Amani, Diani, Riya, and Ayan. She attributes the success of her sons to the importance that she and their father stressed about the value that the realization of one’s goal in life is linked to identifying and pursuing one’s passion.