Ella Turenne is an artist, activist and educator. Currently, she is Assistant Dean for Community Engagement at Occidental College. At Occidental, she works with students, faculty, staff and community partners to engage in social justice projects in Los Angeles. Ella’s work has been published in various anthologies including Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out, Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees (nominated for a 2007 NAACP Image Award), Woman’s Work: The Short Stories, and most recently in Turning Teaching Inside Out. She is the editor of a volume of visual art and poetry commemorating the Haitian revolution entitled revolution|revolisyon|révolution 1804-2004: An Artistic Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution. Ella is also a filmmaker whose work has been an official selection of various national film festivals including the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the Montréal International Haitian Film Festival, where her short film woodshed was nominated for Best Short Film. In response to the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ella co-edited a volume of poetry on Haiti called For the Crowns of Your Heads; the funds raised were used to aid a library that was destroyed in Port-au-Prince. As an activist, she is on the Executive Steering Committee of the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was also a member of the BLACKOUT Arts Collective where she participated in Lyrics on Lockdown, a national tour where she performed and facilitated workshops educating communities about the prison-industrial complex. She was also co-founder of SistaPAC Productions, whose mission is to develop original creative works from women of color.
Ella has been acting since the age of 5. She has performed in an array of theatrical works including On Striver’s Row, Raft of the Medusa, Blood Wedding, Africa Atunbi!, Shades of Blue, Love Child and most recently Come Back to Me, featured in New York’s Fresh Fruit Play Festival. She was also seen in the Downtown Urban Theatre Festival in the play Working Things Out. Ella’s credits also extend to the small and large screen. One of her first projects was her own television talk show, The Ella Show, which at the age of 19, she starred in, directed and produced. Later she took that experience and became the host and producer of a live talk show called Not for Nothin’ at Cambridge Community Television. Some of her film credits include Arrangements, woodshed, The Viagra Dialogues, One More Try and recently Big, Dark, Scary Girl, which won an experimental film award at the Reel Sister’s Film Festival. In 2000, she was selected as an Actor-in-Residence at the acclaimed International Film and Video Workshops. Ella co-founded the SOULFINITE Entertainment Group, an organization dedicated to creating independent art and SistaPAC Productions, a group dedicated to creative work showcasing the lives of Black women.
As a filmmaker, her work has been showcased in numerous national and international venues. Her film woodshed was an official selection of various national film festivals including the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the Montréal International Haitian Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Short Film. In collaboration with Brown Medius Productions, she co-produced the short film Freedom in 2012, a docupoem of her poem by the same name.
Ella’s words have also been widely received. She was an Arts and Culture Journalist with the Haitian Times for four years and currently blogs for them. As a poet, her work has been showcased in various publications including Tanbou Magazine, The Anthology of Haitian Poets in Massachusetts, The Nubian Chronicles, i got somethin’ to say and most recently Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees (nominated for a 2007 NAACP Image Award). In 2006, she was selected to participate in the prestigious Cave Canem poetry workshop led by acclaimed poet, Willie Perdomo. She has performed her poetry nationally at venues such as The Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center Hip Hop Planet 2 Series and the Da’ Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles. She was featured on the Black Family Channel show Spoken, hosted by renowned poet jessica Care moore.
Ella’s first book, revolution|revolisyon|révolution 1804 – 2004: An Artistic Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution was published in January 2004 (Liv Lakay Publications). Her creative work was also featured in Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out (Nation Books), Woman’s Work (Girlchild Press) and MaComère, a publication of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars. Her academic essays have been published in Searching for America: Essays on Art and Architecture (Cambridge Scholars Press) and most recently Turning Teaching Inside Out (Palgrave Macmillan).
Ella is a visual artist and curator whose work seeks to represent the Black experience. Her work has been displayed at the Boston Center for the Arts, the Long Island African-American Museum, the Jose Vera Gallery in Los Angeles and the Salmagundi Art House in New York. She has co-curated exhibits such as Exposed, Echoes of our Ancestors, and Remember Amadou.
Never losing sight of the struggle for social justice, equality and positive social change, especially through the arts, Ella was a member and advisory board member of the BLACKOUT Arts Collective, a grassroots organization whose mission is to empower communities of color through arts, education and activism. With Blackout, Ella toured with Lyrics on Lockdown, a national tour where she performed and facilitated workshops educating communities about the prison industrial complex. She then went on to create Lyrics on Lockdown at NYU, a course which brings college students together with incarcerated high school students to explore the prison industrial complex through the arts. She went on to teach Lyrics on Lockdown at Occidental College in Los Angeles in partnership with Inside Out Writers, an organization whose mission is to reduce the juvenile recidivism rate by providing a range of services that evolves to meet the needs of currently and formerly incarcerated youth and young adults. She currently teaches in the Master’s in Applied Theatre Arts Program at the University of Southern California and is Assistant Dean for Community Engagement at Occidental College. At Occidental, she works with students, faculty, staff and community partners to engage in social justice projects in Los Angeles. In response to the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ella co-edited a volume of poetry on Haiti called For the Crowns of Your Heads; the funds raised were used to aid a library that was destroyed in Port-au-Prince. As an activist, she is on the Executive Steering Committee of the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and a proud and active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where is Co-Chair of the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter’s Political Awareness and Involvement Committee as well as a member of the Arts and Letters Committee. She continues to work on expanding higher education for incarcerated people.
Ella received her BA from Stony Brook University, majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art. She also minored in theatre arts (acting), studying with Deborah Mayo, Thomas Neumiller and John Cameron. Ella was awarded honors in studio art and theatre at Stony Brook. She holds an MSW from Boston University and in 2004 was given the “Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Social Work” Award. She is a trained singer and dancer, having studied tap with the likes of Savion Glover and Adele Weisntein, African Dance with Robin Gee and voice with Efrem Chanel. She also studied acting at the Harlem Theatre Company with the great James Pringle, the Robey Theatre with Ben Guillory and Voice Over technique with Samantha Robson at Kalemnson and Kalmenson Studios. Ella is currently working on a one woman show about the Haitian Revolution.