Diane tower-jones



Growing up in the UK, Diane’s first college experience was at Performing Arts school in London where she was a dance major who took every available class in video production, directing and vision mixing. Unexpectedly life events took her away from performance and visual art, and led her to the healing arts. After six years of extensive studying she began practicing Chinese medicine, a career that spanned the following 15 years. Eventually Diane rediscovered her passion for filmmaking, consequently training as a documentary filmmaker during which she integrated her experience as a clinical “listener”. Diane is in her element as a documentarian; she is ceaselessly curious about our beliefs and our perceptions, and how our identity informs the nature of our being. One of her greatest joys is to awaken someone to the value of their story. Seven years ago Diane relocated from the UK to the Asheville area. Over the last decade she has participated in a wide variety of independent film projects in the UK, India and the US. Currently Diane is the director of the feature length documentary Beneath the Veneer.

Sekou Coleman



Born in North Carolina, raised in Washington, DC and educated at the University of Pittsburgh, Sekou Coleman’s organizational and management skills have been sharpened through his work as an entrepreneur, consultant and employee with major corporations, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. Sekou relocated to Asheville in 2011 and has since become active in the southeast region’s burgeoning film and television production industry, which has provided numerous opportunities in independent filmmaking and commercial video production. During that time, he has served as writer, producer and co-director for a series of documentary-style videos commissioned by the largest Porsche dealership in Western North Carolina and as editor for everything from music videos to documentary films. Sekou is currently producing the independent documentary film Beneath the Veneer.

Darin Waters



Dr. Waters has made regional African-American history a prime subject of his own research, and organized the African-Americans in WNC conference in order to share recent contributions to the historical record by area scholars, alongside the first-person stories of those involved in key events. In an effort to fill the gap in regional history — the missing story of African-Americans in Western North Carolina — the conference seeks to: dismantle the longstanding myth that there was no African-American presence in this region, provide educators with a way to integrate this work into the larger narrative of the region, the state and the nation, and demonstrate to a largely neglected group of the Asheville population that one of the leading institutes of higher education in this region, which UNCA is, takes their presence, their history and their contributions to this region very seriously.

Dr. Mullen



As a Teaching Professor, Dr. Mullen is committed to both his students and to being professionally active. Specifically, he offers courses in Public Policy, American Politics, African and African-American politics. His scholarly activities include panels chaired and papers presented at meetings of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists; overseeing undergraduates’ research projects covering the State of Black Asheville; and serving in local, state, national and international capacities that aim to improve the delivery of public services to underserved populations.

Kate Walton



Kate Walton is a writer, blogger, and activist from Asheville, NC. Since studying political science and Africana studies at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, she has immersed herself in social justice work. Her efforts have included racial justice, education, homelessness, poverty, and LGBTQ rights. She spends much of her time combing through the knots of myth and history that story her homeland in order to promote an understanding of the South that is more than just straight, cis, and white.

As a descendant of slave owners and a member of the LGBTQ community, she also seeks to understand her own place as both an ally and an advocate. This undertaking being a personal one, it is also the most challenging and the most enlightening. She endeavors always to learn with an open heart and an open mind, as a result her worldview is constantly being revolutionized.

Micah Mackenzie



Micah Mackenzie is a professional photographer from Sumter, SC, although his heart is firmly based in Asheville, NC where he has lived for most of the past 25 years.

As a child, Micah was intrigued and inspired by his mother’s photography of the natural environment. Later as a self-taught artist, Micah explored composition, color, layering and textures through drawing, painting and wood burning. With photography, he continues to creatively manipulate his chosen medium using a rich, multi-layered approach with a focus on portraiture and people. He is equally comfortable taking photos in the studio or out in the real world.

Micah has always felt a strong, intuitive affinity with the visual world and his drive as an artist comes from a desire to explore and communicate with others creatively, sharing with them the unique lights inside his head. He looks beyond the surface of his subjects, seeing inside to what is intrinsically beautiful and empowering – this is what shines out from his photos.