Author Archives: Professor Thiaw

About Professor Thiaw

Maria Thiaw, penname Maria James-Thiaw, is a full time professor of humanities in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Central Penn College. Professor Thiaw is the author of 3 collections of poetry and 1 spoken word CD and has been published in several literary journals.

Global Arts Movement Comes to CPC

 yuli-16On Thursday, September 14th, 2017, the Knight Writers, Central Penn College’s creative writing club, will host its 2nd arts showcase, this time joining the massive global movement – 100 Thousand Poets for Change. The theme for this year’s event is “Resist Hate,” a timely call as the country finds itself in turmoil and political strife. The showcase will be held in the Capital BlueCross Theatre on the Summerdale campus from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

         “We wanted to pick something that embodied a message that is against discrimination of people, no matter who they are,” says Knight Writers president, Dani Payton, an actress and writer who’s performance poetry wowed audience members at the last Central Penn College poetry slam. “Our members are made up of people of different races, ethnicities, ages and backgrounds. But we share an art form (writing) that we can use to speak out against bigotry.”

Refreshments, poetry books and other items will be available for purchase, but the event is free and open to the public. Performers will be student, staff and faculty poets, story tellers, musicians and local author, Julia Mallory.BigRobSaidWhaaa

“Since her days hosting Poetry for the People in Harrisburg, Julia Mallory has proven herself a fierce voice for change,” says professor and poet Maria Thiaw. “Her work touches on issues of culture, society, mental health stigma and other concerns that effect people every day. She’s a great choice for this year’s event.”

Julia 100 Thousand Poets For Change ( describes itself as “a grassroots organization that brings communities together to call for environmental, social, and political change within the framework of peace and sustainability.” By affiliating with 100TPC the Knight Writers’ showcase will make history as part of the world’s largest poetry reading.  Stanford University will archive all video and photos from the event as part of their digital archiving program LOCKSS.

“Peace and sustainability are major concerns worldwide, and the guiding principles for this global event,” said Michael Rothenberg, Co-Founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. “We are in a world where it isn’t just one issue that needs to be addressed. A common ground is built through this global compilation of local stories, which is how we create a true narrative for discourse to inform the future.”

The Resist Hate: 100 Thousand Poets for Change event will feature performances from Knight Writers including Dani Peyton, Teta Gaye, Yuliani Sutedjo  and other student poets and story tellers. It’s not too late to sign up to read a poem, tell a story or display another talent at this event. To get involved contact professor Maria Thiaw by Monday, September 11th at



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Little Swahili Boy

by Emylee Ballo


For the first time, I saw someone

in two places at once.

His elementary legs four yards ahead of his mind

running away from the bullying stick-throwers

his brain longed to name friends.


The little boy didn’t resemble the others—

dirtier than the path he ran on

smaller than the single-portion meal he didn’t receive

But more joyful than the songs he clapped to

in the third-world classroom.


I didn’t know his name

but to him, I was “Teacher.”

I only wanted to help aide his time left on earth—

Just have him sit on the side a spare moment

and if he waited with his water

he would receive a double portion.

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One of those Days

a poem by Mary Weingartener


like the rolling clouds and ominous fog that surrounded

the old ramshackle barn as I walked to class and started my day.


A whole, well-maintained picture to an outsider, but slightly

amiss to those who are curious enough to dare take a second look.


as the old stone layered exterior

deterring others from getting too close.


like the stand-alone building,

not comparable to others, for I know my own worth.


Like the trees to the barn,

never a moment alone.


Much as the broken siding and crumbling foundation,

a small piece of me breaks a little more every day.


like the wind blowing swiftly around each new obstacle along its path

taking note of those who have walked the journey beside me, unforgivingly.


when the sun slowly rises, shedding light across the darkness of the woods

that tomorrow will not be

One of those days.

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Place and its Effect on the Poets’ Craft

By Maria James-Thiawauvillar-performance

I am a cliché.

I admit it. The hours upon hours I would sit in cushy café chairs staring at Van Gogh prints or absorbing bebop, acoustic guitar or neo-soul over the sound of espresso beans in the grinder makes me that writer – the one feverishly finishing a manuscript in the corner of the neighborhood coffeehouse, imagining themselves the next JK Rowling.

It’s been done. The evenings wasted away talking with hipsters about all that’s hip, or snapping fingers to a favorite local wordsmith’s latest poetic rant are the moments I live for. They are a major source of inspiration, and yet, while hot mochas are indeed my muse, I still find that being a regular at the local coffee spot can get old after a while. The time comes when a poet needs to find inspiration elsewhere.

For me, that elsewhere has been France, where I took a VCCA poetry workshop in a beautiful and ancient town where you could touch, taste, and feel history everywhere.  The place was poetry, from every curved cobblestone to the floating cottonwood, the thick-hipped maternal sculptures, and the mix of smells emerging from the soap maker’s shop.  In 2015, after my second trip,  I wrote that place – its scent, its people, its food, and its influence on me, a mere visitor.

The experience moved me to ask other writers, contemporary American authors well known for their work, “In what ways does travel impact your writing?”

Here is what they said:

“I use traveling as a kind of self-exile. I’m never able to fully write about the place I live until I am away from it, trmarilyn-nelsonaveling to a place that’s new and unknown. Only then, with distance and even that little ache of homesickness in the heart, does a kind a clarity come to me. Only then do I permit myself the freedom to see what I could not see about my home/community/family, etc when I was in it. . .just one of the ways that traveling impacts my writing.” ~ Marilyn Nelson, award winning poet, translator and children’s book author.

carla-christopher-photo-credit-kate-penn-york-daily-record“Familiarity breeds apathy. Even something as simple as watching a couple walk down the street or having a cup of coffee watching the rain fall becomes a new experience when my surroundings change. Travel keeps me alive to the tiny miracles and the epic beauty of even small and simple things.” Carla Christopher, author, publisher and community activist; Former Poet Laureate of York, PA.

“I do not write overtly about the places I physically visit. And I rarely write about the places where I live. But I do know that when I am actually moving through space on a tetherless voyage, writing moves with me and in me and is touched of course by the whole of those places.” ~ Lucy Anderton, published author and spoken word artist living in France.

 “When I write on the road, I rarely write about my location. Most of my book YOU DON’T MISS YOUR WATER was written on the road, CA, Mexico and Italy, but the poems are grounded in my hometown of Rochester, NY, which is never mentioned.” ~ Cornelius Eady, prize winning poet, co-founder of Cave Canem Foundation.

marilynkallet“Travel is movement, and poetry is all about movement. I take dictation from the road, from the Garonne and the gulls. I listen for every new sound and transcribe new tastes. Travel is often lonely. My poetry is an ally and a friend, constant and porous. I’m in Paris now, alone with my notebook. It’s a consolation. My book, The Love That Moves Me, is all about being on the road, in the air.” ~ Marilyn Kallet, award winning poet, Director of Creative Writing at University of TN-Knoxville.



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Art and Activism Collide – a submission from Kellyn Ishman

Corporate Communication major, Kellyn Ishman, expresses her culture and values with images of freedom fighters in this original drawing she created in 2016. It is very timely considering today’s political climate and the tremendous success of the Women’s Marches earlier this month. The word “coexist” is spelled out in religious symbols, reminding us of our oneness, regardless of differences. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem and Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. are also celebrated in this drawing, which empowers us to speak our minds. Thank you for this timely and powerful submission, Kellyn!

American Culture Sketch_Ishman_Week 2

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Art & Activism: An Interview with Romeo Azondekon

By Daouda Bambaromeo-closeup

For IDS400 Topics in Multiculturalism,  I had the opportunity to interview an artist about art and social movements. You may know Romeo Azondekon as a college administrator, an advisor or the first director of Central Penn College’s Center for Cultural Diversity, but did you know that he is also a multi-talented artist?

His career at Central Penn College began six years ago and he has promoted diversity and inclusion through his many efforts and initiatives.  Romeo is the founder and advisor of the International Society Club, which is a diverse club with members from different countries such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Jamaica, Guinea, South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Romeo is also an artist who paints, makes collages, does mixed media, and uses oils. Most of his art work focuses on texture.

He says,  “Art is like a signature to a social movement because it helps the movement leave a legacy behind for the next generation to view and reflect on the struggles their ancestors went through.”

He started painting in his early twenties. Romeo says that art in a social movement is very important because it is a way of expression. It is a powerful way to motivate people to join a movement because it unifies people and creates one unique voice. Almost every movement used art in some shape or form. Art can play a big role in a movement. Art can be in the form of music, poetry, painting, or even attire.

“I have always been passionate about art,” he says. For Romeo, like other activists, art is both identity and self-expression.

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The ADHD Brain and Listening Skills

By Jadon Buser

Reading or reciting your own creative work in public can be a daunting task when you first start out, especially if you’re audience doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to you. Adding vocal variety, keeping it brief and finding other ways to engage your audience can change your poetry reading into a powerful poetic performance. In this essay, Allied Health major Jadon Buser explains the art of listening with ADHD. ~ Prof. Maria Thiaw

jadon1-2Reflecting on my own listening skills, I like to think I do better than the average ADHD student. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. While everyone with ADHD is different, three major areas can be affected: Impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention. These definitely get in the way when trying to be a good listener, however, I believe that my ADHD has actually assisted my information processing skills. Since I am unable to hold constant attention or retain much information, I have adapted certain coping mechanisms to compensate and my skills in organizing and filtering relevant information have improved.

With greater awareness of my “listener’s curve” during a presentation, I have conditioned myself to perk at attention to the subtler pauses and tonality changes that indicate that a person is moving on to the next point of their presentation. After I feel that I have processed the necessary information for that point, and the speaker begins to add a story of their own to demonstrate their point or give other supplemental information, I’ll typically “clock out” for the remainder of that point discussion, in order to conserve enough “attentive energy” – so to speak – to fully process the next point made.

This method is not as effective, however, when instructions are being given or when a long list of important details are being explained. That is when I have the most trouble retaining information, and effective note-taking becomes an absolute must.

Our culture seems to be built to exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, and I can immediately think of 3 ways that it does so:

  • Interruptive dialogue,
  • televised media, and
  • social media.

Interruptive dialogue is the norm of socializing in the United States. More often than not, socializing (not public speaking) typically can be broken down to one person making a statement, then the rest of the members of that conversation race to see who can give their response first or start a new topic first. This reduces listening ability because, in order to be the fastest, one must stop listening and be prepared to interject at a moment’s pause. Waiting till a person finishes their subject completely not only shows respect, but you may learn something from them that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

Televised media also discourages listening ability through its ADHD-like speed and rate of subject changes. If you ever pay close attention to the shows and commercials you watch, the speed at which they speak and introduce new ideas is faster and more intense than what the average person CAN speak, which turns your brain onto overdrive in order to keep up with it all. (Ever notice how you typically feel revved up rather than relaxed after watching TV, and that it can be harder to fall asleep right after a show?) The only solution to this that I know of is simply to reduce the amount of television that you watch, so that you can save your mental energy for more important things.

Social media is the last culprit that I’ll mention, and it may not be in the way that you think. While social media has done a great job of ruining dinner conversations and making speakers feel irrelevant, the core issue is the exacerbation of ADHD-like symptoms through overstimulation of the brain. If you look at social media – let’s say Facebook – you scroll through a wall of short, provocative statements that are all made to grab your attention. It’s no wonder that we subconsciously go to social media on our phones whenever we’re not being stimulated by our surroundings. The simple solution here – give Facebook a rest, because in reality you know that, in the last 30 seconds, you really haven’t missed anything.

Hope my spiel on listening skills from the mind of an ADHD college student gave you some food for thought!



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Yin Yang

A poem by Christine Fusselman, Class of 2016


Colorful leaves

radiate like fire’s glow.

As embers rise into the dark,

flaming foliage twists, turns,

descends from lofty limbs.

Tugged from their summer home

by autumn’s whistling winds.

Beautiful turns ugly,

falling to the ground.

Withering, rotting, burying itself

within an earthy mound.


Yet, death nurtures life

in the calm, still winter.

Cold turns to warm.

Old becomes new.

Brilliant blooms spring from below

displacing winter’s hue.

Tender stems become strong trees

wrapping themselves in jackets of leaves –

bright, beautiful, colorful leaves.

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Professor Gadsden’s African American Storytellers Fest Brings History and Culture to the City of Harrisburg

By Norman Geary

On Sunday, October 16, the Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers’ Wordshop had an African American Storytellers Festival at the State Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  This event was co-sponsored by Jump Street, Life Esteem Inc., Community Art Publishers, PA Council of the Arts, and Imani African Christian Church.

Nathaniel Gadsden's Writers Wordshop is the longest running poetry venue in Harrisburg. It meets on Fridays at 7 at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.

Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop is the longest running poetry venue in Harrisburg. It meets on Fridays at 7 at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.

Dr. Nathaniel Gadsden, a professor of African American History at Central Penn College and the founder of the Writer’s Wordshop, hosted the event which featured many prominent artists and speakers including:  professional storyteller Denise Valentine, actress and author Lynn Blackston, professor and writer Ron Kipling, and performance poets Terri A. Durden and Carla Christopher.

The main focus of Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop is to provide a platform for poets and spoken word artists to perform and to get published.   The festival is just one of the many cultural family events held by Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers’ Wordshop at the State Museum throughout the year.  The Writers’ Wordshop gets creative individuals involved by giving them exposure while educating the audience about African American history, which includes a number of social topics affecting the African American culture as a whole.

The Wordshop helps performers, writers and poets find their voice and gain confidence to promote publication of their works.  Students of the Wordshop have become known for their works and are often looked upon and asked to perform and participate in events throughout the region.

Terri A. Durden, Founder/CEO of Community-4-Change, Inc. says, “I’ve been writing since 8th grade.  I started writing little love letters to my boyfriend…  I would take songs and blend them together and make a poem until I learned to create my own poetry. “  Now Terri is an award winning poet with a book published, I Will Remember You and one coming out –  Words, Sounds, Echoing.

The Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop meets at The Midtown Scholar Book Store, 3rd & Verbeke Street, Harrisburg, PA 1st , 2nd and 4th Fridays from 7-9 p.m.  Each meeting features a performer and an open reading. They are free to the public.  Everyone is welcome to join the Writers Wordshop.

For more information contact: Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Gadsden at or 717-608-2312.

Norman Geary is a Corporate Communications major at Central Penn College, a member of the Media Club, and a regular contributor to The Knightly News.


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Knight Writers and Library Staff Bring Hogwartz to Central Penn College

On Saturday, October 22nd from 10 AM to 2 PM, join the Knight Writers Creative Writing Club and the library staff for a magical day of Harry Potter themed games and activities. Visitors of all ages can climb through a giant spider web, meet a fortune teller or get “beanboozled” by some “every flavor” jelly beans. There will be fun activities for all ages in the library, which will be transformed into Hogwartz School of Wizardry for Fall Harvest.

“I thought Harry Potter was a fun literary way to celebrate the season with students, alumni and families that visit for Fall Harvest,” says Maria Thiaw, advisor of the Knight Writers Creative Writing Club.

Knight Writers helped decorate, make invitations and even created a game similar to PokemonGo for guests that arrive prepared with a smartphone. Expect a magical time! The event will be held from 10AM to 2PM in the Charles T. Jones Library at Central Penn College on Saturday, October 22nd. It is free and open to the public. You are encouraged to bring your Smartphone but remember – first years are not allowed to bring their own broom!  See you at Fall Harvest!

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