Demerrius Whitsell
Pronouns
He/ Him/His
Year
2020
Chapter
Position
Poet Mentor, Southern Word, Inc.

Shawn Whitsell is an actor, activist, poet, journalist and teaching artist. Shawn founded the Destiny Theatre Experience in 2007 and has written, produced and directed a number of theatrical works that address a plethora of social issues. As an actor, Shawn has graced the stages of many local and regional theatre companies, including Dream 7 Theatre Productions, SistaStyle Productions, Nashville Repertory Theatre, Nashville Children's Theatre, Actor's Bridge Ensemble, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre and Kennie's Playhouse Theatre. Shawn is a founder and organizer of the Shades of Black Theatre Festival, which has been in existence since 2006. He serves on the Board of Directors for Street Theatre Company and the Humanity Project, and works closely with the nonprofit organization Light of Chance, Inc. Shawn visits schools, prisons, libraries, juvenile detention centers and community spaces, teaching poetry/spoken word and drama for organizations such as Southern Word, Inc. and Tennessee Women's Theatre Project. Shawn also volunteers at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, where he serves on the teaching team for the School for Alternative Learning and Transformation (SALT). Shawn was recently acknowledged in the Nashville Scene's "Best Of..." edition with "Best Blend of Theater and Activism" for his one-man show "23/1," which follows a man's struggle for humanity and redemption in solitary confinement. He has plans to tour the show in the near future. Shawn is passionate about issues surrounding criminal justice, mass incarceration, homelessness and mental health. When he's not working, Shawn enjoys reading, watching documentaries, curating cultural experiences and spending quality time with family and friends. Shawn is honored, humbled and excited to be an NLC Fellow.