Community Giant Ebony Payne-English Becomes First Black Executive Director

Ebony Payne-English

 The leading non-profit arts education organization The Performers Academy (TPA) will take a new direction in its next calendar year. Art Influencer, Poet and Educator Ebony Payne-English will assume the position of Executive Director as Founder Kathryn McAvoy steps down.

Payne-English, whose face scales city murals and voice carries weight in the arts community, will become the organization’s first black Executive Director.

McAvoy, a Community Activist and Philanthropist, established TPA in 2008 in the St. Nicholas area as a full-scale arts academy for historically underserved youth. A community of artists have come through the halls of the 10,000 square foot theatre space located at 3674 Beach Blvd. At a time where public funding for arts education is being diminished, TPA has stood strong as a trauma-informed safe space for self expression among at-hope youth.

Payne-English has served alongside McAvoy as Managing Director of the organization for five years. As the new Executive Director, she is excited to launch the Squad Goals Teen Studio After School Program, which begins January 4, 2021.

Squad Goals Teen Studio offers diverse programming proven to interrupt cycles of trauma through performance arts.  The programs are Monday – Friday from 2:30pm to 6:00pm for teens ages 14 through 19. Students will be exposed to seven artistic disciplines:

Lyricism (Rap, Poetry, Creative Storytelling)


Visual Arts (Drawing, Painting, Crafting)

Music (Vocal, Piano, Guitar)

Dance (Hip Hop & Ballet)

Songwriting (Creative Writing, Lyrical Storytelling)

Recording Arts (Music Production, Recording Engineering, Studio Mixing)

Enrollment is now open through December. Tuition is free. 30 spots are available.

CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 will be enforced.

Register now at


Ebony Payne-English is an author, performer, playwright, and educator from Duval County. She is the first woman to establish her own chapter of the international poetry organization, Black on Black Rhyme. Ebony is the 2017 Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s Emerging Artist and recipient of the Spoken Word Gala’s 2017 William Bell Humanitarian Award. Ebony is a founding member of the Board of Directors of Southern Fried Poetry, Inc. which produces the largest adult regional poetry slam in the nation.

As author of graphic novel, The Random Happenings, as well as award winning poetry collection, Secrets of Ma’at, currently available on Amazon, Ebony has been featured in esteemed publications as well as digital outlets such as The Florida Times Union, PBS’s Hometown, Derniere Vie Magazine, WJCT’s First Coast Connect, and My Black Matters. In her 17 years of professional experience, Ebony’s performance accolades include The New Orleans House of Blues; Essence Festival; Nuyorican Café; Crossroads Theatre, TEDx, Jax by Jax as well as countless other colleges, universities, and prestigious entertainment venues nationwide. Her discography includes 5  albums: Old Soul (2006), Struggle’s Embrace (2010), EbEnFlo (2012), School Beats (2013), Know Love (2015).

Ebony’s educational background features Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, New World Conservatory, Florida A & M University and Florida State University.  She has taught invitational workshops at venues such as the University of North Florida, the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, Morgan State University, HBO Brave New Voices, the National Afterschool Programming Conference and the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Ebony’s critically acclaimed play, On Purpose, produced by poet/philanthropist Heather Moore and directed by Julliard alumni and Artistic Director to Phase Eight Theatre Company JaMario Stills, was her debut as a playwright and opened with record breaking success.


The Performers Academy (TPA) is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization dedicated to sharing the power of the performing arts with the entire community. Through the use of creative partnerships, TPA is committed to making therapeutic arts accessible to communities that suffer from limited access, and in particular, historically underserved teens. Established in 2008, TPA is located at 3674 Beach Blvd in the St. Nicholas area of Jacksonville, Florida. The 10,000 square foot facility is a hub for the cultivation of instructors and artists within seven arts & cultural disciplines: Lyricism, Theatre, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Songwriting and Recording Arts. TPA cultivates the rich talents of artists from all geographic, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. TPA has launched successful student-centered curriculum such as Truth & Proof Youth Open Mic and Product Of My Environment (Project P.O.M.E). Its program Just Like Me Cultural Arts and Education Experience was recognized as an Exemplary Program by the Center for the Study of Social Policy for it’s transformational work with foster care youth. This camp was also featured by Mental Health America: MHA. For more information, please visit


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