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Charleston-based SonEdna Announces New Executive Director

SonEdna is proud to announce and welcome Banu Valladares as the new executive director. Valladares will be responsible for the overall operation of the organization, including programming, fundraising, public relations, and new strategic initiatives.

Banu Valladares

Based in Charleston, Miss., SonEdna was founded in 2006 by Myrna Colley-Lee to celebrate and support the literary arts and writers of all backgrounds. The organization presents readings by established and popular authors and provides space for writers to create new work. It also partners with schools and other organizations throughout the Delta to provide workshops that enrich the lives of the region’s youth. SonEdna believes that people empowered through the literary arts discern, decide, and design with greater authority, clarity, understanding, and compassion.
Banu Valladares comes to SonEdna with a wealth of experience in the literary field. As a writer, Valladares has published a bilingual book of poetry called Gypsy Child (CPCC Press, 2005) and is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Conference. She taught writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. For seven years, Valladares was a teaching artist, conducting local and international long-term residencies in public schools integrating creative writing into the curriculum. Later, she was literature director for the North Carolina Arts Council.
SonEdna Founder and President Myrna Colley-Lee said, “Banu will be an excellent addition to our community and state, having been deeply-involved with arts-based community development at the state and local levels in North Carolina.” After working at the Durham Arts Council as the director of arts in education and community partnerships, Valladares joined the North Carolina Arts Council in 2007, where her roles included outreach coordinator, arts in education director, and literature director. Through her fifteen-year career, Valladares managed budgets of up to $1M and grant award programs of $400K per year.
While literature director, Valladares managed all literary programs including grants, Poetry Out Loud, writer fellowships, and the poet laureate program. She worked closely with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) literature director to implement national best practices and participated as a panelist for NEA literature grants. She developed strong relationships with writers across the state, including Southern treasures Clyde Edgerton, Elizabeth Smith and Fred Chapel, and up-and-coming writers, like Belle Boggs and Ansel Elkins. “I am excited to start a new challenge at SonEdna,” Valladares said, “and look forward to developing their already extensive programs for writers.”
A native of Venezuela, Valladares moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1982 to pursue a degree in computer science. She took her first English class and fell in love with literature, changing her major to English. She later completed her master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, setting her life on the course of a career in literature and language.
“We are incredibly fortunate to find a professional of Banu’s caliber to fill this important, pivotal role, and carry our mission forward,” said Board Chair Karen Allen Baxter. Founding Director Benjamen Douglas added, “I’ve been working with SonEdna’s board to recruit Banu since January. During that time, she has consistently impressed me — not only with the depth of her knowledge and experience, but also with her warmth and charisma in every single interaction. I feel confident that Banu will be an excellent leader and SonEdna has a bright future in her very capable hands.”
The public is invited to meet Valladares at a reception at SonEdna’s office located at 308 South Market Street in Charleston, Miss. from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Thursday, July 31.
For more information, visit www.sonedna.org.
– Benjamen Douglas, benjamen@sonedna.org

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