Celebrating Madison ‘Mocha’ Hunter: A Graduate Student Spotlight

Madison HunterMadison ‘Mocha’ Hunter, affectionately known as "Pro Mo" by her students, is a beacon of inspiration, confidence, and energy within the University of Memphis Graduate School community. ‘Mocha’ is from Detroit, MI, Madison, and currently calls Memphis, TN her home as she pursues her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, specializing in Poetry. However, her journey is not confined to academia alone – Madison is a multifaceted individual, serving as a Professor, TA, Consultant at the Center for Writing and Communication, Spoken Word Artist, Server, and Tutor.

Madison's educational trajectory began at the University of South Alabama, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration inMadison Hunter with friends Creative Writing and a minor in Communication. Now, at the University of Memphis, she is carving her path towards academic excellence, aiming to graduate in May 2024 and embark on a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies in Fall 2024.

Dive into her story! It’s witty, authentic, vulnerable, and inspiring!

A Serendipitous Journey to Memphis:

When asked what inspired her to pursue grad school at the UofM, she said: “Ironically, I initially was not going to complete and submit my application because trying to log back onto the website back then was not as user-friendly as it is now. A week or so before the application was due, I received an email from the man who is now my advisor, praising the writing samples I submitted, emphasizing that he thought I’d be a great addition to the writing community here at Memphis. I decided to navigate the impossible website and a month or so later, my advisor called with great news of being accepted into the program. I also found out that he was from my hometown. Though the first few years were rocky with me being out on my own for the first time, community on and off campus is what grounded me and has made me flourish as a creative, a scholar, and an individual all around.”

I am the “just thought you should know'' kind of writer

I am the “just thought you should know'' kind of writer. As a spoken word artist, researcher, and educator, my scholarship fuels my artistry and my artistry bleeds into my scholarship. Though I am currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, the certificate in African American literature has me interested in and writing about but not limited to the following:

Madison Hunter

  • Black girlhood
  • Black Masculinity and Femininity
  • 90s Black Cinema
  • Blaxploitation
  • Afrofuturism
  • Afropessimism
  • Hip Hop and The Literary
  • Womanism & Black Women’s Literary Renaissance
  • August Wilson’s Century Cycle

More than just a UofM Grad Student: Madison Hunter

Madison is one-eighth of Mobile, AL’s award-winning poetry troupe “Powerlines Poetry,” where she is  widely known as the spoken word artist “DictionKanari.” She has had the privilege of interviewing literary all-stars Dr. Roxane Gay, Adrian Matejka, Dan Hornsby, and Dr. Jericho Brown. Her work has appeared in Watershed Voice, You Might Need To Hear This, Torch Literary Arts, and Oracle Fine Arts Review. Mocha is pro canceled plans, sunsets, charcuterie boards, and keeping the Sabbath. When she isn’t creating, she’s collecting memories with friends, family, and even enemies as well as reading, roller skating (or some rhythmic attempt to stay in gravity’s good graces), traveling, vinyl record hunting, tasting culture and critiquing cuisine in the gritty and glorious city of Memphis.

How do you balance it all?... I DON’T

Madison HunterShe was 100% honest when asked this question. Bluntly put, she says: “I don’t. I am not an acrobat. Nor am I an octopus. I am literally feeling my way around in the dark just like the rest of the world. If I get frustrated, I give myself grace to feel that and move forward. If I am inspired, I hold on to it for dear life. The only thing I will not submit to is quitting. I am literally a blueprint for something that hasn’t been built within my family ever before. I am navigating spaces that I did not receive coaching on as others may have. I am strutting through academia off of my mother’s amens, the wings of my own imagination, and the thorn in my side to make room for women that look like me to keep creating and finding their voices even if it is simply a few more decibels above that of the women that came before them.  Each day is a non-refundable moment for me to explore what I didn’t know. If my ventures through today’s schedule were not fruitful, then I know tomorrow calls for a different dance through the noise, obligations, and opportunities.

Take Care of Yourself First:

Madison HunterHer advice to current and future grad students: “There is no mysterious shadow waking up from your bed every morning, getting dressed, going out into the world, completing all these tasks and racking in these accomplishments with your name tag on. It is you. YOU. You are no imposter. You were created for great things. Do not be surprised when you actually do them. 

Life is gonna life. It could care less about your degree. Take care of yourself first. Books, study guides, study groups, extended deadlines cannot replace prayer, meditation, mental health days, a walk in the park, or saying no. 

Surround yourself with individuals that will show up no matter what life has brewing in its pot to serve you. Find your people and cherish them because they are far and few but they are always looking for you.”

There are other people in the world who are just as in love with words as I am:Madison Hunter

Interviewing literary all-stars Adrian Matejka and Jericho Brown was affirmation that there are other people in the world that are just as in love with words as I am and that they are able to travel, eat, pay their bills, and do more than write poetry. Hearing their personal stories and feats made me realize that community is just as important as those moments of shutting ourselves out from the world to create, think, and reset.

-Another moment that will remain with me through my journey of academia is attending Dr. R Nicole Smith’s job talk and teaching demo during the English Department. Listening to her present on topics that I didn’t even know was a field of study made me feel absolutely seen. As she was speaking on television shows, films, and literature that I identify with or find myself obsessed with, I envisioned myself going onto the market, seeking teaching and leadership opportunities inside and outside of academia. As she spoke on elements of afrofuturism that tie in with the possibilities that can come from black girls and women embracing rage not only as an emotion but as a tool, I teared up. My eyes were fish bowls and my heart was a fiesta as she said the following in response to a question asked from a faculty member: “Black girls cannot genuinely think of their futures until they feel safe in the present.” It is never lost on me that being a woman and being Black in academia as in any other field of study or career places me in a position where my power and abilities are always in question. Seeing Dr. Smith proudly and beautifully present on what she loves and is curious about, emboldened me to continue showing up, writing, performing, being who I am, as I am in every space I walk into.

Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr’s “The South and the Dramatic Literary Imagination: August Wilson’s American Century Cycle.”

One class I will never forget is Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr’s “The South and the Dramatic Literary Imagination: August Wilson’s American Century Cycle.” During this transformative course, we read all 10 of August Wilson’s Century Cycle plays. Though it was only four of us taking the course, we all brought a little something special to the material and Dr. Menson-Furr was sure to give us the space and the encouragement to be fully consumed by each play. One of us came from the blue tradition angle. Another from a religious background. Another from the dramatic arts background while I came from a womanist and poetics tip. Discussions were warm, fruitful, and always led to deeper research questions that I believe I have carried into the process of creating my thesis.

The conversations at our dinner tables won’t evolve if there is nothing new to discuss.

We like to ask our spotlight recipients why it was important for them to advance their education. Madison’s response was thought-provoking. She says, “the conversations at our dinner tables won’t evolve if there is nothing new to discuss. Thanksgivings and Christmases should not continue to be spent rebuking and dissecting what one another is lacking, but rather asking questions, offering encouragement, and planning different things to do together. Having the ability to become the first person in my family to receive a doctorate degree, I am always aware that my lifestyle is not always understood and at times, it is envied. I come from a woman who is the first and only of 10 children to earn a bachelor’s degree and she is never shy about sharing how her perspective alone on major issues versus her siblings can be a lonely place. I share this sentiment with her, frequently feeling estranged from my cousins and my siblings. Yet both of us have never viewed education as a pedestal or a marker that deems us as superior to the people we love. Rather, education is a way to pull them away from what is familiar into what is fruitful and usually uncomfortable. Whether my family ever comes around to understand the power of the career I’ve chosen, I will unceasingly push forward, being that quirky, poetic, and bold Black girl making curriculums, courses, and material for the marginalized and the privileged to meet on common ground, to explore the what-ifs, on the page and off it, in the classroom and outside of it.” 

If you had to pick 1 word that encapsulates my time at UofM it would be:  ENTERPRISING

Major kudos to her mom, best friend, & Dr. Tucker

I want to give a shoutout to one, my mother, Diane Hunter, for answering my multiple calls a day of listening to me cry, question, conquer, and repeat and always unselfishly imparting wisdom to me to get me to the places she’s always known I was capable of going and more. Your tales of surviving corporate America are helping me walk through the flames and politics of academia fiercely and confidently, trusting and believing that I belong in every room I walk into. To my classmate, brother, and best friend, Obri Richardson, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies, for seeing and pouring into me in the moments where I am hollow from pouring into those that surround me whether it is in my artistry or in commitments to community. I also want to thank Dr. Terrence Theodore Tucker, the first Black Chair of the English Department, for refusing to let me make the mistake of choosing to attend another PhD program when all the community, support, and guidance I have ever needed has been here since I started my MFA back in 2021.

Noteworthy Accomplishments:

Featured in University of Memphis Department of English Spring 2024 Newsletter for The Pinch Presents: Dan Hornsby

Original poem “5: A Ghazal” Oracle Fine Arts Review (April 2023)

Friday Feature and original poem “Live, My Dearest. Then Burn Em Alive. For Mia” Torch Literary Arts (January 2023)

Original poem “Fannie Lou Hamer: Appropriating Nikki Giovanni’s Rosa Parks” Watershed Voice Journal (February 2022)

Featured on Keep Your Voice Down podcast episode “Candied Yams” (February 2022)

Fellowships & Awards


English Department- Joe Orgill Fellowship (Spring 2023)

English Department- African American Literature Concentration Award (Spring 2022)


Oxford Consortium for Human Rights Workshop, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Fall 2019)

Pi Pi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society (2019)

Performed original poem “Toni” at Honors College Toni Morrison Celebration (2019)

Panelist for Diversity Day Panel Discussion “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline” ( 2019)

Moderator for the Black Lives Matter panel discussion at the University of South Alabama’s  World Democracy Day Teach-In (2018)

National Society of Collegiate Scholars, (2017-Present)

Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, (2017- Present)