Dee Rees is an alumna of New York University’s graduate film program. A writer-director whose feature film Pariah premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the film received the “John Cassavetes Award” at the Independent Spirit Awards (2011), the Gotham Award for “Best Breakthrough Director” (2011), “Outstanding Film –Limited Release” at the GLAAD Media Award (2012), and seven NAACP Image Award nominations. In 2015, Rees’ film Bessie premiered on HBO with wide critical acclaim including four Emmy Awards. Rees' feature film Mudbound, starring Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan, was released by Netflix in November 2017. The film was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for Blige, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Rees is the first Black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award in a writing category. Most recently, Rees directed The Last Thing He Wanted, starring Rosie Perez and Anne Hathaway. Dee was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in New York.
Ayana Mathis is the author of New York Times Bestseller and Oprah 2.0 Book Club pick, THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE, and the forthcoming A VIOLENT WOMAN. She was the first African- American woman to hold a permanent faculty position at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, RollingStone, Glamour, and the New Yorker among others. Media and speaking engagements include the Tavis Smiley Show, Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday, Up with Chris Hayes, as well as lectures and keynotes at MIT, Georgetown, and Fordham University and many others. For further information please visit Ayanamathis.com
Institute for Research in African American Studies