Announcing the inaugural Emory University Arts and Social Justice Fellows

August 18, 2020

The Ethics & the Arts Program of the Emory University Center for Ethics and the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts announce the inaugural cohort of the Emory Arts & Social Justice Fellows program. Launching this fall, the program partners six Emory faculty with six Atlanta artists – Arts & Social Justice (ASJ) Fellows – whose work advances racial and social justice.

The fall 2020 cohort of ASJ Fellows were selected from a pool of more than 70 applicants. They are actor Olivia Dawson, visual artist Shanequa Gay, cellist and composer Okorie "OkCello" Johnson, arts administrator Ash Nash, visual artist and Emory alum Fahamu Pecou, and actor and Emory alum Garrett Turner.

“This inaugural cohort centers the voices of Atlanta’s Black creatives and highlights the spectrum of offerings of this vital network to the national movement for social justice and racial equity,” says Carlton Mackey, director of the Emory Ethics & the Arts Program. “We are so fortunate to welcome such a premiere cross section of the Atlanta art scene and for our cohort to include not only visual and performing artists whose art serves as a vehicle for their activism, but also a highly effective arts administrator with a reputation for connecting artists and organizations to affect positive social change.” 

Participating faculty members will work alongside their partnered ASJ Fellow to design a creative project that reflects on racial or other inequities. The project will be embedded into an existing course taught by the faculty member and brought to fruition by students within the framework of their class.

Each month throughout the semester, the full cohort of six faculty, six ASJ Fellows, and their students will gather to learn about each other’s work, and to exchange ideas across the university about the arts and social justice. The semester will conclude with a public unveiling and citywide conversation to consider collectively the completed projects and the questions they raise. 

“Bringing these ASJ Fellows together with a group of scholars representing the undergraduate and professional schools whose courses challenge traditional thinking about the intersection of race and public health, will advance and offer critical nuance to the public dialogue about these issues as well as prepare college students to face these issues with courage and compassion as they encounter them in the real world,” explains Mackey.

Visit the Arts at Emory calendar for an updated list of public events as they are announced throughout the fall. More information on this and other Emory University Ethics Center initiatives can be found at the Ethics Center website.

Courses & Faculty Pairings

  • Social Justice: Zoning, Contracts, and Environmental Racism
    Allison Burdette, professor of practice, Business Law, Goizueta Business School, with Olivia Dawson, actor and playwright

  • Epigenetics and the Human Condition
    Arri Eisen, professor of practice, Biology, Emory College, with Fahamu Pecou, visual artist

  • Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases
    Hank Klibanoff, professor of practice, Creative Writing Program, Emory College, with Garrett Turner, actor

  • Film, Media, and the Art of Social Change
    Carlton Mackey, director, Ethics & the Arts Program, Emory Center for Ethics and Edward Queen, director, Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Emory Center for Ethics, with Ash Nash, Founder/CEO, Power Haus Creative

  • Feminist Art(s) of Activism
    Alix Olson, assistant professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), Oxford College, with Shanequa Gay, visual artist

  • Prevention of Mental and Behavioral Disorders
    Elizabeth Walker, Research assistant professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education (BSHE), Rollins School of Public Health, with Okorie “OkCello” Johnson, composer and cellist


Olivia D. Dawson is an actor, a writer, a producer and an AOC (Artist of Color).  Dawson’s  work focuses not on expanding what it means to be Black in America, but continuing to expand the visibility of it.  The former is an explanation of her humanity.  The latter, simply because of her existence, states that She is.  Being an Artist of Color is to risk.  Being Black in America is to be at risk. Dawson has performed onstage with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Horizon Theatre, Aurora Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theater (Chicago), among others. Dawson’s film and TV credits include Greenleaf (OWN), The Resident (FOX), Chicago Med (NBC), and Empire (FOX). 

Shanequa Gay, an Atlanta native, received her AA in Graphic Design and Fashion Marketing from the Art Institute of Atlanta (1999), a BA in Painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), summa cum laude (2015), and an MFA at Georgia State University. Gay was one of ten selected artists for OFF THE WALL a city-wide Mural initiative led by WonderRoot and the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee (2018). In 2013, Gay was chosen by The Congressional Club to be the illustrator for the First Lady's Luncheon hostess gift for First Lady Michelle Obama. Gay's work includes features in the Lions Gate film Addicted, the BET television series Being Mary Jane and Zoe Ever After, and the OWN series Greenleaf. Solo exhibitions include the Hammonds House Museum, Atlanta, GA (2015); Anne O Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA (2016); Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC (2017); Mary S. Byrd Gallery, Augusta University, Augusta, GA (2018); Sumter Gallery of Art, Sumter, SC (2018); and Milliken Gallery, Converse College, Spartanburg, SC (2018). Group exhibitions include Xhibiting Blackness, Evolve the Gallery, Sacramento, CA (2014); WonderRoot CSA: Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA (2015); Personal Politics: Artist as Witness, Memory Keepers, & Social Conscience, Hudgens Center for the Arts, Duluth, GA (2016); New Painting, The Southern Gallery, Charleston, SC (2016); 5 Perspectives, Steffen Thomas Museum, Buckhead, GA (2018). Residencies include Independent Study, Iwakuni, Japan (2014); The Creatives Project Artist-in-Studio Program, The Goat Farm Arts Center, Atlanta, GA (2015-2017); and Baldwin's Room Artist in Residence, Johannesburg, South Africa (2017). Public Collections include The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong; The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, Augusta, GA; The Chattanooga African American Museum, Chattanooga, TN; and Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Atlanta, GA; and Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. 

Okorie “OkCello” Johnson’s new album Resolve proffers a healing balm of hope. He invites listeners to move through and beyond their pain into a new perspective. The American cellist-songwriter’s sophomore album marks his evolution as a communicator and a storyteller who reveals personal truths: of time travel, of the African Diaspora, of a deep love for women and of unspoken prayers. Though dealing with grave matters, Resolve is an uplifting album which builds on the musical rebirth that began with OkCello’s debut album, 2015’s Liminal, which established him as a pioneer of electronic and experimental string music in the United States. OkCello has balanced musical pursuits – which include performing and recording with major label artists such as De La Soul, India.Arie and Big Boi - with a career as an educator. In 2015, he launched “Epi.phony,” a multi-city, 12-show, concert series which produced the track list for Liminal. He is a recipient of the Alliance Theatre’s 2018 Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab grant.  

Ash Nash is more than just the founder and CEO of Power Haus Creative, she is a community leader who mentors local artists, and helps them to develop sustainable careers. She has immersed herself in the local arts economy, and empowers visual artists to utilize their influence for change in underserved communities, and to build capital for the creative class. Recognized for her impassioned work ethic, Ash has led several highly successful campaigns for a multitude of global brands such as Papa John's, Coca-Cola, and Nike. She gained international attention in 2019 for her strategic work coordinating #Kaeperbowl, a public art/activism initiative centered around muralist Fabian Williams and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Her work has been recognized by Creative Loafing, and she has been featured in Visionary Artistry Magazine, The Atlanta Podcast, and the Our Voices. Our Lives. docu-series. In her partnership with Remerge Community Museum, Ash serves as a Creative Community & Cultural Strategist. Ash is also an active board member for MINT Art Gallery, and W.A.G.E Certified Gallery in Historic Southwest Atlanta. In her role as principle of Power Haus Creative, Ash serves as a liaison and accountability partner to both visual artists and the brands that hire them.

Fahamu Pecou is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar whose works combine observations on hip-hop, fine art and popular culture. Pecou’s paintings, performance art, and academic work addresses concerns around contemporary representations of Black masculinity and how these images impact both the reading and performance of Black masculinity. Fahamu received his BFA at the Atlanta College of Art in 1997 and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 2018. Dr. Pecou exhibits his art worldwide in addition to lectures and speaking engagements at colleges and universities. As an educator, Dr. Pecou has developed (ad)Vantage Point, a narrative-based arts curriculum focused on Black male youth. Pecou's work is featured in noted private and public national and international collections including; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Societe Generale (Paris), Nasher Museum at Duke University, The High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Paul R. Jones Collection, Clark Atlanta University Art Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia. Pecou was recently named the inaugural Artist-in-Residence for the Atlanta Beltline. In 2017 he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition "Miroirs de l'Homme" in Paris, France. His work also appears in several films and television shows including; Black-ish, The Chi, and Lifetime's The 10th Date. 

Garrett Turner is a native of Florence, Alabama and a proud member of Actors’ Equity. NYC: Bayano (National Black Theatre), The Dove (York Theatre Company), Acappella the Musical (NYMF). Regional: Thoughts of a Colored Man (Syracuse Stage/Baltimore Center Stage), Half Time (Jerry Mitchell; Paper Mill Playhouse), Holler If Ya Hear Me (Kenny Leon; True Colors Theatre), The Royale (Theatrical Outfit), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Asolo Rep), Lookingglass Alice (Baltimore Center Stage), Memphis (Mason Street Warehouse), In The Heights (Aurora Theatre), Dreamgirls (Atlanta Lyric Theatre). TV: “Law & Order: SVU,” “Madam Secretary.” Emory Grad (Woodruff Scholar and Bobby Jones Scholar). CSSD Alum. Marshall Scholar. @garrettmturner