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Our columnists, from left: Cheryl Durgans, Bill Felker, Mandy Knaul, Dawn Knickerbocker, Bomani Moyenda and Harold Wright.

Who’s the News, pt. III: the columnists

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When we ask our readers what their favorite page of the paper is, we are not surprised to hear that it’s our letters page — page 4. The Community Forum is the one part of the paper reserved for opinions, and we in this community have a lot of them.

In addition to printing your letters, the News has long sought to share the voices of a few local writers in a more regular way. Two of our current columnists have been writing for the local paper for more than 30 years, while four are relative newcomers. Their thoughtful columns all contribute to an important local dialogue about what it means to live in this village in these times.

Bill Felker started writing the Yellow Springs Almanac in February 1984. When he proposed the almanac idea to then-Editor Don Wallis, Wallis replied, “Well, if you do a weekly almanac, you know you’ve got to do it every week.” And so it was.

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Born in 1940, Bill grew up in Marshfield, Wisc. After college and post-graduate work at the University of Minnesota and the University of Tennessee, he took R.O.T.C. and served as a U.S. Army infantry officer in the 1960s in the Panama Canal Zone. He taught at the college level for four decades and has two grown daughters, the oldest a psychologist in Portland, Ore., the youngest a photographer in Spoleto, Italy.

Bill began to watch weather and to take notes on nature after he quit smoking, replacing his nicotine addiction with obsessively walking and making observations about what was taking place in the natural world around him. In the process, he found out how the first European almanackers tracked the weather. He found an outlet for his interests first with the YS News column and then through a number of farm journals, including the national Countryside and Small Stock Journal. In 2017, he published a collection of columns and essays, “Home is the Prime Meridian: Essays in Search of Time and Place and Spirit.”

Harold Wright was born and raised in the Dayton area and educated at the University of Hawaii, Columbia University and Keio University in Tokyo. He taught Japanese language, literature and culture at The Ohio State University and Antioch College for over 40 years.

Harold isn’t sure of the exact year he started writing his News column, Tanka, but it was over 30 years ago, and happened this way:

Harold’s relationship with the News began when he took a selection of tanka translations over to Don Wallis and said, “Perhaps you can use them as filler.” Wallis read them and after making a few punctuation changes said, “Harold we are a community newspaper, and if you could find a way to combine these poems with community news, we can probably use them.” So Harold worked hard at trying to find ways that he could combine events in Yellow Springs with topics he found in ancient Japanese poems. Sometimes a topic going on would remind him of a poem. Sometimes a poem he read would suggest something going on in town.

Bomani Moyenda has been a columnist for the News for the last several years. His column, “Sankofa Talk,” seeks to link local history and cultural issues to contemporary Yellow Springs. It won second place at the 2020 Ohio News Media Association convention in the category of Original Columns. Previously he contributed many thought-provoking letters to the editor.

Bomani has lived the majority of his life in Yellow Springs and is a graduate of Yellow Springs Schools, as are his four children. He holds a B.S degree in Business Administration from Kettering University in Flint, Mich. His volunteer activities include AACW, The Human Relations Commission, The 365 Project and the Martin Luther King Day Planning Committee.

Bomani was the winner of the 1997 Paul Laurence Dunbar Poetry Prize at Sinclair Community College, and has participated in many local and area poetry readings and has also had poetry published in African Voices Magazine (New York). In 2015 he created a writers’ group, Writers Eclectic (WE), which currently meets at the Senior Center. Bomani has led several “Poetry Jams” locally and also contributes to the blog “Writing While Black.”

In 2014, he became active in the Justice for John Crawford movement, an effort to bring justice to Crawford’s family, including his two young sons. Crawford was a 22-year-old African American man killed by Beavercreek Police in the Beavercreek Walmart.

Born and raised in Yellow Springs, Cheryl Durgans attended Spelman College in Atlanta. After college, she lived in Philadelphia with a brief run through Brooklyn for more than a dozen years before returning to caregive for her ailing mom, in partnership with her siblings. The experience was exquisitely painful and exhausting, but was also a joy and lesson-filled, gratifying life altering journey. Cheryl is an arts administrator and mixed-media artist with a passion for screen printing and filmmaking. She is also a licensed massage therapist and herbalist in training. Cheryl loves plants, history, technology, books, hiking and learning new things. She is a critter mama of two cats and one doggie.

Mandy Knaul has been a villager for eight years this time around, but attended and graduated from Antioch College in 2000. In between Antioch and moving back to the village, Mandy began her renaissance life by working in tree care and with homeless youth, after which she moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies (focus on sociology) and attended Professional Horticulture School at NY Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Since relocating back to Ohio, she’s been a farmer, owning a cut flower business in both rural and urban areas. Mandy has also taught as an adjunct professor at her alma mater in the anthropology department. Also an artist, Mandy was commissioned to create a mural which is displayed in downtown Yellow Springs above Dark Star Books.

Dawn Knickerbocker is launching a new column for the News this year — “Little Thunders: an Ojibwe woman’s perspective.” Dawn belongs to the Anishinaabe people from White Earth Ojibwe Nation and is an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe from the Ottertail Pillager band. She is an environmentalist, activist and indigi-feminist working on culturally based sustainable development issues and decolonization in her community in Yellow Springs, and her White Earth Indian Reservation.

Dawn is the former director of foundation and corporate relations at Antioch College. She is also the former chair of the Advisory Commission on Diversity for the most diverse city in the state of Washington. She is currently an active member of Mothers Out Front and board member of the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition (GCNAC), and a published nonfiction writer.

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