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Panel Discussion on African-American Literature Highlights QCC Professor

February, 2017
  • From left to right: Danielle Legros Georges, Poet Laureate if Cambridge and moderator l; Nikol Payen, Professor of English (QCC); Nicole Terri Dutton , Poet Laureate of Somerville; Robert Bellinger, professor of English at Suffolk University (organizer); Enzo Silon Surin, Poet, Professor of English (Bunker Hill Community College)
  • Speakers at panel

QCC Professor and author Nicole Payen was invited to be part of a panel discussion to explore the significance of African-American literature.

Organized by Danielle Legros Georges, Boston poet laureate and Lesley University professor, the panel included five black writers and teachers from Massachusetts. “Blackness in the 21st Century” focused on black identity and featured Ifeanyi Menkiti, Wellesley professor and Grolier Poetry Book Shop owner; Nicole Terez Dutton, former Somerville poet laureate and an editor at The Baffler and Transition Magazine; Barbara Lewis, director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture at UMass Boston; Nikòl Payen, writer and Quinsigamond Community College professor; and Enzo Silon Surin, Central Square Press publisher and Bunker Hill Community College professor.

“The panels are meant to underscore how African-American literature has been and continues to be a source of celebration of black lives, sustenance in struggle, and site of resistance,” said Legros Georges.

The first panel was held February 23, at the Rabb Lecture Hall of the Boston Public Library. The second panel, “Black Style, Black Language,” is slated for April 3.

Ms. Payen is a Haitian American who was born in Port-au-Prince and migrated to the United States as a child. She is a former assistant editor at Essence magazine, where her work has been published. Her other writings have appeared in The Legislative Gazette, Point of View, Callaloo, and Crab Orchard Review. She is the author of “The Birthing,” a full-length play. Ms. Payen holds a master’s degree in Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College and has taught literature and writing at The College of New Rochelle and Mount Holyoke College. She is a former assistant professor of English at Westfield University and is currently assistant professor of English at QCC.

She has written a series of autobiographical essays. She worked as a translator at Guantanamo Bay with Haitian refugees in the early 1990s. Her work was examined by April Shemak, an English professor and author, in the book “Asylum Speakers.”

“Her stories are about her experience working for the government, and more than that, the experience of being in between (as an American citizen of Haitian descent),” Ms. Shemak said, according to an article on Sam Houston State University website. “She is feeling a certain level of complicity and uncertainty of her role as a translator, and whether she is helping them or not. It is an interesting take on testimony because she’s not telling her story to gain asylum but more looking at her experience as a translator and working with refugees.”

Ms. Payen also contributed to the anthology “The Butterfly’s Way: Voices From the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States,” edited by Edwidge Danticat.

She is a social activist who lives in Cambridge.