Details

Biography
Topics
African Americans
Economy/Economic Visions
Education
Environment
Film & Video
Programs for High School Students
Racism/Racial Justice
Technology
U.S. History
Women & Feminism
Youth/Student Activism

She has been called “the voice that students around  the country need to hear.” Melly (aka Melissa Denizard) is a 23-year old cultural worker, activist, and organizer bridging public speaking, music, and visual art to illustrate Black Feminist Queer futures.

Centering Love, Care and Spirit, Melly is guided by her upbringing in Mirebalais, Ayiti (Haiti) and the revolutionary history of her birth country. Attendees leave Melly’s talks feeling moved by her years as a racial justice organizer and educator and inspired by her extraordinary presence. And more importantly, they become culturally aware of the Black Radical Tradition through which Melly creates educational experiences that expand our possibilities, bravely challenge the status quo, and speak to our deepest desires.

Recognized by Kerry Washington and Natalie Portman’s Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, Melly’s work expands our understanding of Black identity, history, and liberation all while centering the unique experiences of Black girls, women, and femmes.

In 2018, Melly’s YouTube video, "Unbraid with Me: Is Hair Political?" was featured on Brut Media and Refinery29. Later that year, her blog post, "Don't Tell Me to Smile: A Commentary on Harassment in the Service Industry" – a testimony of her time working at a fast food restaurant in Nanuet, NY -- was adapted into a TEDx talk for TEDxTarrytown.

Testimonials

“Melly gave a talk to our cohort of first-year students at Hollins University, a historical women's college. She was engaging, knowledgeable, insightful, approachable, and passionate and our students truly enjoyed interacting with her and answering questions during the presentation. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive, they felt inspired and empowered, and appreciated Melly’s use of popular culture in her presentation about the Black Diaspora. She created a safe and welcoming space for them to engage and think about various issues, she is a voice that students across the country need to hear.”
–  Jeanne Jégousso, Assistant Professor at Hollins University

“As our keynote speaker for our 11th Annual Women’s Conference at San Francisco State University, Melly went above and beyond our expectations. The topic of our conference was “Redefining Feminism” and Melly's speech perfectly tied into what our team was trying to share with students. As Melly broke down her seminal theory "Dirty Theory," our audience (18 to 30 year-olds) thought she was extremely relatable. During her talk, she contextualized the particular plight of Black women, girls, and Queer folks through the historical and cultural contributions of Haiti. Our guests relayed great feedback, naming that they left the conference feeling moved by her extraordinary organizing, inspired by her presence, and more culturally aware of the Black Radical Tradition. We feel so fortunate to have shared space with Melly—an innovative and insightful cultural worker bridging music and visual art to illustrate Black Queer futures."
— Haley Fonseca, Undergraduate at San Francisco State University

"I first was introduced to Melly and her work when I ran across a YouTube video of hers where she talked about racial battle fatigue, and I was immediately intrigued by her. Shortly after, I worked at Saginaw Valley State University to bring Melly virtually to campus as our keynote speaker for Women's History Month. Melly's contribution to Saginaw Valley's Women's History Month was immense and moving for all who were able to attend and hear from her!"
— Cherokee Johnson, Undergraduate at Saginaw State Valley University

“Melly delivered a powerful, timely, and cohesive lecture on the current state of affairs for Black students in higher education. She solidified her credibility from the beginning by grounding her perspective in Black feminist theory, and making explicit how these frameworks illuminate the challenges educators and staff must overcome to close opportunity and outcome gaps, and make the environment more nurturing. After her address, multiple employees asked me for the recording so they could share with their own children who are struggling with their college experiences, and could use Melly’s guidance on how to advocate for themselves as students of color. Melly’s impact definitely went beyond those who attended, and we deeply appreciated having her close out our inaugural Speaker Series.”
—Zachary Romo, Coordinator of the Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Gateway Community College

“We invited Melly to speak to a group of faculty after hearing her speak at another event earlier in the summer. This session was focused on teaching race in the classroom, a much needed conversation in higher education. As one faculty member noted, "Melly is a gifted speaker and leader – she was able to capture and hold our attention as she shared her experiences as a Black college student in an anti-Bblack context. She tied her story quite expertly back to theory and the scholars who have published in this area.” Melly offered a masterclass in storytelling that provided thoughtful insights and lessons that can be applied immediately into today's classroom. Even for faculty members where the conversation about anti-Blackness can be difficult to embrace, Melly created an energizing space where everyone was able to listen and leave with a more open heart and mind about what is needed to move forward.”
— Marie Angeles, Director of Student Affairs, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

“Melly first caught my attention when she was a panelist in a roundtable discussion for SpeakOut’s Summer Institute and I knew she would be an impactful guest speaker for our university community. Her presentation on the intricacies and history of the Black Identity invited everyone into the conversation to learn while centering the experiences of BIPOC students. Not only is Melly a dynamic panelist, she is also a powerful and engaging keynote speaker. Our university community was captivated by Melly’s presentation, which ignited crucial conversations on our campus.”
— Monique Dumaine, Assistant Director of Student Involvement & Leadership, Assistant Director of Student Involvement & Leadership, Johnson & Wales University

 

Speeches

Free the Girls! Black Feminist Maronage as Resistance
Often excluded from our worldbuilding efforts, Black girls and Queer folks lie on the fringes of our anti-Black patriarchal world. Sitting in what feels like systemic erasure and betrayal, what if we built a home at the end of the world? Taking inspiration from Haiti's Radical Tradition, Melly claims that the answer to our freedom dreams lies in Maronage: the acting of removing oneself from slavery. Attendeess will take a deep dive into the contemporary landscape of Black womanhood and queerness to illuminate new alternatives for experiencing Liberation in our lifetime.

Beyond DEI: Addressing Anti-Blackness in Higher Education
Mainstream approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) idealize democratized and multicultural campus environments that serve as a marketplace of ideas. However, while campuses may intend to implement the best DEI frameworks in programming and throughout the institution, a failure to address structural anti-Blackness places Black, Indigenous, and other students of color at risk for further marginalization and censorship. In this presentation, attendees will learn how college environments can constrict the imagination and learning potential of Black students through structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal Anti-Blackness.

The Party is a Protest: Building Political Power for a New Generation
Youth-led political resistance has always been central to our radical movements. In our modern Attention Economy, organizations and educational institutions may find it difficult to engage our new generation of worldbuilders. Cultural worker and political educator Melly argues that our new culture of learning requires that we adopt a popular education model that bridges pop culture and politics. In this presentation, attendees will learn new strategies they can implement in their programming to capture the attention of youth audiences.






 

Media
A Commentary on Sexual Harasment in the Service Industry
Defining Dirty Girl: Black Feminist Maronage as Resistance