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Torch Literary Arts Announces Transitions to 2024 Board of Directors

Brittany Heckard

Jan 16, 2024

This year’s board transition includes the retirement of former board chair, Florinda Bryant, and elections of new board chair, Dr. Sequoia Maner, new secretary, Stephanie Lang, and new board member, Shannon Johnson

AUSTIN, Tex., January 16, 2024 – Torch Literary Arts (Torch), a nonprofit organization dedicated to amplifying Black women writers, is welcoming 2024 with a new board chair, Dr. Sequoia Maner, new secretary, Stephanie Lang, and new board member, Shannon Johnson, while also bidding a sweet farewell to longtime Torch friend and former board chair, Florinda Bryant.

“To serve as a chair to the executive board of Torch Literary Arts is an honor. Our goals to continue to uplift Black women writers are tremendous and it brings me great joy to work behind the scenes to execute this vision. To 2024 and beyond,” said board chair, Dr. Sequoia Maner.

Torch’s new board chair is Dr. Sequoia Maner, who is an assistant professor of English at Spelman College where she teaches 20-21st century African American literature and culture. She is the author of the prize-winning poetry chapbook Little Girl Blue (2021, Host Publications) and co-editor of the book Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (2020, Routledge). Her poem “upon reading the autopsy of Sandra Bland” was a finalist for the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize and her essays, poems, and reviews can be found in venues such as Meridians, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, The Feminist Wire, Auburn Avenue, and elsewhere.

Our new secretary, Stephanie Lang, is a published writer and community curator who uses the power of storytelling to explore concepts of home and resistance. She is the Director of Community-Driven Initiatives at the Office of the Vice President for Campus and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2018, after the success of multiple community curatorial projects, Ms. Lang founded RECLAIM, an organization working to discover, recover, and ultimately showcase the narratives and histories of black people throughout the diaspora, and present these findings through an artistic and thought-provoking lens.

Torch welcomes our newest board member, Shannon Johnson, who has over 20 years of technology experience in Fortune 100 companies, start-ups, and management consulting. She has led technology teams at Merck, Ernst & Young, Dell, and BigCommerce. In addition, Shannon was recognized as Central Texas Black Business Journal’s Most Influential Technologist for 2021 and 2022. Shannon is passionate about empowering women and mentoring the next generation of young leaders. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for VentureLab and previously served on Girlstart’s Central Texas Council and UT Austin’s WIELD board. 

“It is exciting to experience the amount of growth and support we have from our intentional and dedicated board of directors,” said Amanda Johnston, executive director of Torch. “Since launching Torch in 2006, we’ve grown from a family of supporters to a nonprofit with a board of writers, scholars, and lovers of all things literature. I look forward to working with the board to nurture and sustain Torch Literary Arts for years to come.”

Retiring from Torch’s board after more than a decade of unwavering support is former board chair, the incomparable, Florinda Bryant. Florinda is an interdisciplinary artist and arts educator who calls Austin home. As a performer and director, she is no stranger to many stages in Austin, having worked with Salvage Vanguard Theater, the Rude Mechs, the Vortex, Paper Chairs, and Teatro Vivo. She currently leads community engagement as the Program Coordinator at the African American Cultural & Heritage Facility. 

For more information about Torch Literary Arts, please visit or follow @torchliteraryarts on Instagram.



About Torch Literary Arts

Torch Literary Arts (TORCH) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established with love and intention in 2006 to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Toi Derricotte, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.

Help TORCH continue to publish and promote Black women writers by donating today.


Media Contact Information:

Brittany Heckard

Communications Associate 

(512) 641-9251

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