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Pearls of Wisdom with Playwright Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage interviewed by Laysha Ward

This episode features a conversation with Pearl Cleage, an American playwright, novelist and poet, and Laysha Ward, the executive vice president and chief external engagement officer at Target.

Together they explore the power of truth, the responsibility of storytelling, and the praise poem, “We Speak Your Names,” which was commissioned by Oprah Winfrey in celebration of sisterhood and women.

Cleage offers wisdom, sage advice and insightful stories that will leave you energized and inspired!

Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage

Pearl Cleage is an Atlanta based writer who is currently Distinguished Artist in Residence at the Alliance Theatre. She also serves as Atlanta’s first Poet Laureate. She is the author of more than a dozen plays, including “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” and “Flyin’ West,” and was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dramatists Guild. Her most recent play, “Something Moving: A Meditation on Maynard” will open at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. in September 2023. The play will have an Atlanta production at the Alliance in 2024. She is the author of 8 novels, including the New York Times bestseller What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, which was also an Oprah Book Club selection. Cleage was recently honored with the Paul Robeson Award by Actors’ Equity Association and the Actors’ Equity Foundation. She is co-author with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., of the praise poem We Speak Your Names, and In My Granny’s Garden, a book for children. Cleage and Burnett also collaborated for ten years on the performance series “Live at Club Zebra!”

Laysha Ward

Laysha Ward

Laysha Ward is an accomplished C-suite executive with thirty years of leadership experience at Target. In 2017, Ward was named executive vice president, chief external engagement officer, overseeing Target’s enterprise-wide approach to engage and deepen relationships with cross-sector stakeholders to drive positive business and community impact. In 1991, Ward began her career with Target as a member of the store sales and management team of Marshall Fields in Chicago. In 2000, she was named director of community relations and promoted to vice president of community relations and Target Foundation in 2003. In 2008, President Bush nominated, and the U.S. Senate confirmed Ward would serve on the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the nation’s largest grantmaker for volunteering and service, which she continued to serve as board chair under the Obama Administration. Later that year, she was promoted to president of community relations and the Target Foundation. She serves on the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Advisory Board and the Stanford Center for Longevity Advisory Council, is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the Economic Clubs of New York and Chicago, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Links, and serves on the boards of Greater MSP, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Northside Achievement Zone, as well as United Airlines and Denny’s Corporation for-profit board of directors. She received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, master’s degree from the University of Chicago, and an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She and her husband, Bill, reside in Minneapolis, MN.

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