Helping Residents Connect with a Neighborhood

An Ursinus English faculty member mentored her urban neighbors as they searched for the soul of their Philadelphia neighborhood.

M. Nzadi Keita, associate professor of English and Creative Writing, ran a memoir-writing workshop this past summer. The Toni Cade Bambara Germantown Stories Project gave form, she said, to the strong connection she has always felt with her neighborhood. 

The results were recently celebrated at the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. 

The stories project served adults and youth with ties to Germantown, an area of Philadelphia where Keita is a native and resident. Keita’s workshop, named for the late fiction-writer-screenwriter-essayist-activist who spent her last years in Germantown before her death in 1995, also honors Bambara because her writing focused on the voices, lives, and struggles of urban people, Keita said. 

The project was supported by the Germantown Arts Roundtable and the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grant.

At Ursinus, Keita is coordinator of African American/Africana Studies. Her most recent collection of poetry, Brief Evidence of Heaven, was published by Whirlwind Press this fall, and follows the life of abolitionist Anna Murray Douglass. 

Read more about Keita in the upcoming winter Ursinus Magazine.