Who We Are

Archives as Muse: a Harlem Storytelling Project was initiated by the CCNY MFA Program in Creative Writing located in Harlem. In 2019 we received a grant from the LUCE Foundation to fund our project that mobilizes compilists – creative writers and storytellers to inform public discourse. While we dig for treasures, uncover facts and histories, the archives serve as inspiration for our own stories. As an MFA Program dedicated to inclusion, excellence, and diversity, we recognize that contemporary writers of all genres engage the archives to research, challenge, and inform their work.

What we do

This project reflects CCNY’s commitment to connect with, serve, understand, and celebrate the Harlem community while enhancing the community’s own tools for memory, research, and creativity.  

The CCNY MFA Program of Creative Writing recognizes that we are located at the site of the Harlem Renaissance, the literary, social, and cultural explosion of creative and intellectual work by Black artists, poets, novelists, philosophers, activists, and musicians in the 1920s. We want to dive into that rich literary history and acknowledge our link to this history.  We also want to recognize the original peoples who lived in Manhatta (Manhattan) the home of the Lenape tribe.

Our hope is that this website serves as a portal regardless of where you are in your storytelling journey.  Whether or not you are a writer, researcher, student or resident of Harlem, the archives belong to you, the community.  It is our belief that everyone should have equal access. 

How We Do It

We do it through a series of graduate and undergrad archival classes.  Our program will train students to:

  • collect stories from its Harlem neighbors and local archives and community organizations
  • work with librarians and archivists to study and archive these materials; and
  • share findings—via gallery exhibits, digital programs, and symposia–with CCNY students and faculty, scholars from around the country and all over the world, and local residents of the Harlem community.

We created a three-year project that will include symposia, interviews, online workshops, and exhibits as well as a resource section that will include links to public archives.  We hope to explore Harlem stories and neighborhoods and the dimensions of their changing histories, cultures, and demographics.  In doing so we are collaborating with:

We are also collaborating with brilliant archivists, librarians, professors, writers, and artists who are dedicated to bringing the archives alive. In particular, we are indebted to conversations and meetings with the following individuals about archives, access, and the Harlem community: Mary Yearwood, former Director of Collections and Information, Schomburg Center, Cheryl Beredo, Curator, Schomburg Center, Emily Raboteau, Katz Professor in the Humanities and Arts, CCNY, Retha Powell, Associate Director, Publishing Program, CCNY, Gordon Thompson, Professor, English, CCNY, Cheryl Sterling, Professor and Director of Black Studies, Penn State University, Jodi Ann Francis, Associate Director of Black Studies, CCNY and Herb Boyd, Journalist and Professor. Other individuals who contributed are listed below as Contributors. Without their wisdom and recommendations, we would not have gotten this far.

Meet our team

Portrait of Michelle Valladeras
Michelle Valladares

Project Director
Lecturer & Director of MFA in Creative Writing

portrait of Elizabeth Mazzola
Elizabeth Mazzola

Professor of English and Department Chair

Profile of Sydney Vallerio
Sydney Valerio

Project Manager


Nelly Rosario Portrait
Nelly Rosario


Portrait of Lewis Watts
Lewis Watts


portrait of Mikhal Dekel
Mikhal Dekel


portrait of william gibbons
William Gibbons


Portrait of Vanessa K. Valdés
Vanessa K. Valdés

Director of the Black Studies Program at The City College of New York

Portrait of Herb Boyd
Herb Boyd

Author, Journalist, Professor

Gordon Thompson Portrait
Gordon Thompson


Emily Raboteau portrait
Emily Raboteau