caption: Josephus Nelson, one of the event’s featured readers

The program for the Art & Spirit Coffeehouse at St. Augustine’s on Wednesday, March 12th, will feature readings from African American poets by black history and culture enthusiasts and long-time parishioners Thelma D. Jones and Josephus Nelson. “Select Readings of African American Poets” will begin at 7 p.m. at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 600 M St SW. The free program includes coffee and desserts served throughout the evening, followed by questions and answers.

According to Nelson, readings will be from such celebrated African American poets as Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Arna Bontemps, Maya Angelou, James Weldon Johnson, and others.

Thelma D. Jones is a trained storyteller who has been inspired to do various readings since childhood in her hometown of Snow Hill, NC. There, she was regularly invited by her elders to read, recite, or dramatize a passage, or assume a lead role in a play during Sunday School. During her early adulthood in Washington, DC she often found relaxation from a stressful day while visiting poetry slams, enjoying the spoken words and “dreaming of being at the mic.”

A long-time southwest resident and community activist, she holds leadership positions on the board of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly. Retired from the World Bank Group as a community outreach coordinator, she currently serves as President Emeritus of the World Bank Group-IMF Staff African American Association, which she founded in May 1999 on the 45th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. Jones holds a Certificate in Executive Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University and also holds several certifications from other venues. She maintains a traveling exhibit of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and has planned and led numerous programs to honor Marshall at the World Bank Group, Thurgood Marshall Center, Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, in the Southwest neighborhood and other cities, and at St. Augustine’s church, which the Justice and his family attended.

At St. Augustine’s, where Jones has been a member for over 15 years, she actively serves as a lay reader, member of the altar guild, coordinator of the food drive, and helps to plan and coordinate events commemorating Thurgood Marshall. In addition, she occasionally assists with Church School and provides updates and information for The Crier, the church’s newsletter.

Josephus Nelson, a Library of Congress employee for more than 40 years, is currently the Special Assistant to the Associate Librarian for Library Services.

Preferring to think of himself as a “reference librarian of more than 40 years,” Nelson, an English major, collects books on literature and history, including African American literature and history. He earned a masters in Library Science at the University of Michigan and a masters in British History from the University of Oxford in England. Currently, he’s working on his family history and hopes to turn it into a novel.

Nelson has attended St. Augustine’s since 1977 where he is a Lay Eucharist Minister and participates on the Worship Committee. He helps coordinate the biennial Thurgood Marshall commemorative dinner.

The Southwest Episcopal Church’s Art & Spirit Coffeehouse series opens on the first Wednesday of each month to showcase local artists in their various media as they perform and share how their faith, art, and social worldview intersect, according to the Rev. Martha Clark, Rector at St. Augustine’s.

Donations will be accepted to help provide honoraria for the guest artists. Contact, 202-554-3222 or visit for further information.

By: Elaine Graves

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