Affrilachian Poet Selected for 2024 Writer-in-Residence Program

Shanita Jackson looks forward to returning to Asheville.

Shanita “NitaJade” Jackson
Shanita “NitaJade” Jackson

UNC Asheville and the Wilma Dykeman Legacy are proud to welcome Shanita “NitaJade” Jackson as the next Wilma Dykeman Writer-in-Residence in Spring 2024.

This residency honors author Wilma Dykeman, a trailblazing advocate for social justice who promoted women’s rights, gender and class equity, and racial justice before these endeavors became widely embraced.

Jackson, who will be returning to their hometown during the residency, said they are honored and looking forward to returning to where their journey began.

“I was born in Hillcrest, and my passion for poetry solidified with Asheville’s youth poetry slam scene. Countless poets and artists in Asheville have helped me become the poet and creative I am today,” they said.

“Though my academic and career paths have taken me to Kentucky and Virginia, my heart rests in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I am called home again and again.”

An Affrilachian poet, Jackson is published in Inverted Syntax, Auburn Avenue, and the Zora’s Den: The Fire Inside Volume II anthology, among others. Recently, they accepted the role of assistant professor of English at Emory and Henry College in Virginia.

Jackson earned their BA in African and African American Studies from Berea College in 2019, where Dykeman served as the first woman on the Board of Trustees and championed Berea’s policy to maintain affordable tuition. In 2022, Jackson earned their MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Kentucky.

“The Wilma Dykeman residency gifts me the opportunity to honor The Transcended, breathe new life into my writing, and practice Sankofa,” Jackson said. Sankofa, a word from the Akan tribe in Ghana, means “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” It indicates the quest for knowledge by searching the past, and knowing the past shapes the present.

“It is a full circle and a dream come true to return to my stomping grounds with the soul purpose of creating, writing, and pouring into the community that first fostered my creative liberation,” Jackson said.

Jackson will utilize this time to further develop their poetry manuscript FleshCrawl and pursue publishing opportunities.

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