*A Biographical Sketch (12/2005)
Collective Voices, a sisterhood of African-American poets that came together in 1996, addresses socially relevant issues and challenges of today with messages of love and inspiration. The Washington, D.C-based poetry group is composed of founder J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford, S. Dianne “Lady Di” Beverly-Patterson, and Billye Okera. Former members of Collective Voices include Carolyn Cooley-Joyner, Angela Boykin-Turnbull and the now deceased, Margie Jones. In June 2002, Joy Alford, as founder of Collective Voices, was presented the 2002 Special Poet Laureate’s Award for her group’s contributions to poetry in the City of Washington, DC.
The group made its debut performance at a celebration of Women's History Month in Washington, D.C., at The House of Ruth, a shelter for abused and homeless women; and made its international debut in London, England in 1998. Since then Collective Voices has presented its original works at poetry readings and other literary events at bookstores, libraries, schools, colleges and universities, churches, art galleries, radio stations, and local cable television stations.
In January 1997, Collective Voices presented "Poetry Extravaganza 97," its first annual free-to-the-community literary tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. The group is scheduled to present its 10 th and final tribute, Poetry Extravaganza 2006, on Saturday, January 2006. Since her appointment as Washington, DC Poet Laureate, Ms. Dolores Kendrick has supported and attended the annual celebration. The printed program has, for the past 5 years, included a copy of the mayoral proclamation issued by Washington, DC mayor Anthony Williams proclaiming the day as Poetry Extravaganza Day. To date, Collective Voices has featured over 100 poets and performers presenting contemporary and original works of poetry, music, and dance in celebration of Dr. King's birthday. In addition to local poets, the group has featured nationally renowned poets such as Sonia Sanchez, Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Kwame Alexander, E. Ethelbert Miller and Washington, DC Poet Laureate Dolores Kendrick. The Poetry Extravaganzas have been filmed by cable television companies and have been aired as Black History Month (BHM) celebrations and cultural arts programs that have aired year-round throughout the Washington metropolitan area.
In addition to numerous public readings as indicated above, significant performances by Collective Voices include readings at The Annual Black Family Reunion on The (Washington) Mall, sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women; Sister to Sister, a Women's History Month celebration in London, England (March, 1998); The Embassy of South Africa (November, 1998 – solo performance by Sistah Joy). "In the Spirit," Smithsonian, (August, 1999), International Café in San Francisco (January, 2000 – solo performance by Sistah Joy), and “Evening Exchange” WHUT Television Program – February, 2001, *Collective Voices’ February performance was selected and re-aired in WHUT’s 2001 “Best Of” Evening Exchange annual production, and the Smithsonian Hirshorn Museum (October, 2003), and CAAPA’s (Coalition of African-Americans in the Performing Arts) pre-Congressional Black Caucus annual gala (2002-2005).
Collective Voices strives to establish dialogue and work in areas of social activism and humanitarian efforts, and align itself with others whose energies are similarly focused. The group sponsors and accepts invitations to participate in programs that support its mission, with an emphasis on aiding women's support groups and shelters. The group also sponsors readings, exhibits, and workshops.
Collective Voices has published Experience, Expression, Expansion, and Poetry and Prose for a New Millennium, chapbooks that feature a sampling of the works of past and present members of the group. Publications by individual members of Collective Voices include, “Lord I’m Dancin’…As Fast As I Can” by Sistah Joy (available at Amazon.com) and “The Mourner’s Bench, and Other Stations of Weeping and Joy” by Billye Okera, and Forever In Your Eyes by Ladi Di.
Additional information about Collective Voices is available upon request from Collective Voices at P. O. Box 44353, Washington, DC 20026.