June Jordan Fellowship Recipients

We are excited to announce this year’s inaugural cohort of June Jordan Fellows: Aracelis Girmay, Afika Nxumalo and Amanda Saviñón!  

Aracelis Girmay

(Photo credit: Sheila Griffin)

Aracelis Girmay is the author/illustrator of the collage-based picture book changing, changing. She has also written three books of poems: Teeth, Kingdom Animalia, and the black maria. For the past few years, she has studied texts and other materials that, through form, language(s), diction, and gesture, perform and think about place and loss of place (or displacement), and what this sometimes has to do with the sea. Current collaborations include a long form interview with Emmy Pérez and a poetry translation project with visual artist and writer Rosalba Campra.


Girmay received her B.A. in documentary studies from Connecticut College and an M.F.A. in poetry from New York University. For the last several years, Girmay was on the faculty of Hampshire College’s School for Interdisciplinary Arts and before that taught community writing workshops with young people in New York and California. She has received grants, training, and fellowships in support of her projects from the Community~Word Project, the Literacy Assistance Center, NEA, Civitella Ranieri, the Jerome Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the Cave Canem Foundation, among other programs. Girmay is on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund. 

Afika Nxumalo

Afika Nxumalo is a songwriter and artist who resides in Brooklyn, New York. Born to South African and Swazi immigrant parents in North Carolina, Afika administers his own songwriting school, hosts a travel series for Rolling Stone Magazine, and writes pop songs for major label acts.

As a teenager, Afika performed original pieces as an emcee and toured the world as a bassist in a hip-hop seven piece. The band earned the Best Unsigned Act award from Billboard Magazine, and Afika eventually moved to London where he was signed by a Universal Music subsidiary. He eventually returned to the US to sign with publisher BMG Chrysalis/Green & Bloom. His recent releases have earned praise from MTV, BBC, and charted on Spotify’s US Viral 50 Chart.

While touring and recording, Afika also enrolled in community college, earning his way to UNCG where he was a University Marshall– the top 1% of academic achievers– and eventually to UNC Chapel Hill where he was a finalist in the TEDxUNC student speaker competition. He is proud to join the inaugural cohort of June Jordan Teaching Artist Fellows at Columbia University, where he will lead a 14 week workshop on pop/social justice songwriting.

Amanda Saviñón

Amanda Saviñón (b.1989) is a Dominican- American self-portrait photographer and photo editor from New York City. Amanda graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from Lehman College of the City University of New York. Since graduating, Amanda has worked as Photo Editor and Photo Producer at publications including, Vogue, GQ, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Refinery29 and the New York Magazine. She has photographed influencers such as Diane von Furstenberg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama, Nicki Minaj and Common among others.

Amanda’s focus and passion on self-portraiture has led her to exhibit her work at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, the Bronx Art Space and Perth Amboy Gallery. After noticing a lack of diversity with both gender and race in the art world, Amanda decided to curate her 4th art exhibition around emerging female artists in New York City. In March of 2014, in honor or Woman’s History Month, Amanda curated Art Art Art: The Modern Woman in Harlem. This exhibition featured a group of ten diverse female artists in mediums such as painting, video, performance, mix-media and sound.

Currently, Amanda lives and works in The Bronx and is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Loyal Nana, a New York inspired,female-focused style blog.