Ella Turenne

compiled by Judy Pryor-Ramirez

"Remembering Ella Turenne." UCI School of Humanities.


July 5, 1974


December 25, 2021

Ella Turenne was an artist, activist, educator, scholar, and entrepreneur. Turenne described herself as a “one-woman army of culture” and “champion for freedom, justice, and expression. Her body of work was expansive for someone of her age, spanning projects and works in the realms of cultural arts organizing, performing arts, literary arts, film, and voice acting organizing. 

Personal Information


Emanuella “Ella” Florence Turenne

Date and place of birth

 July 5, 1974, in Manhattan, New York

Date and place of death

December 25, 2021, Palm Bay, Florida


Mother: Marie Jocelyne Turenne

Father: Mathieu Turenne

Marriage and Family Life

Unmarried; No children; Sibling: Edwidge Turenne

Education (short version)

Ph.D. Candidate in Visual Studies at the University of California Irvine; Graduated from The New School with an M.A. in Media Studies; Graduated from Boston University with a Masters in Social Work; Graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.A. in Psychology. 

Education (longer version)

Turenne graduated from high school in 1992 at The Mary Louis Academy, a Catholic college preparatory school for girls in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens, New York (USA). She went on to pursue a B.A. in psychology with minors in theater and visual arts from Stony Brook University where she was a contributing staff writer for Black World, a student-run bi-weekly newspaper, and engaged in the performing arts. She completed a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in community organizing from Boston University. While a doctoral student at UC Irvine, she was a host of film screenings, an organizer for the 2021 Visual Studies Graduate Student Conference, and a mentor to budding entrepreneurs. A lifelong learner, Turenne was an alumna of leadership development programs, Coro Southern California’s Lead LA program, and Arts for LA’s ACTIVATE Fellowship.




Being a first-generation Haitian-American was a crucial identity marker for Turenne. She was informed deeply by her parent's immigration to the United States and their efforts to give her and her brother a better life. She described herself as a shy child who was often bullied. In high school, she joined speech and debate and in college, she minored in theater and visual studies, which began to foment the artist-activist standpoint from which she operated in her adult life. 

Much of her organizing and activist work was based on her status as a Black woman of Haitian descent in the U.S. Turenne used her gift as a storyteller to act as a vehicle for social change. Her first published book was an edited volume for Haiti’s bicentennial, in which she featured the works of various Haitian and Haitian-American artists. Her creative and pedagogical work was created in an effort to dismantle systemic oppressions like mass incarceration and anti-Blackness. This is evident in her affiliation with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, through which she launched a prison education project with The New School’s Eugene Lang College at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island; this project drew on her experience teaching at Rikers Island jail while an adjunct faculty member at The Gallatin School at New York University. In an effort to address anti-Blackness, Turenne wrote and performed a one-woman show called Love, Locs and Liberation, which won two awards from the Hollywood Fringe–the Fringe Scholarship Award and the Encore! Producers Award. 

Turenne was a multi-hyphenate. She was a visual artist, performing artist, filmmaker, author, and voice actor. In her short lifetime, she sought to bridge the gap between the arts and community organization. To her, the arts were a tool for social justice. She also deeply believed in Black people’s agency to be the creators, which is evident in the numerous projects Turenne was a part of. The entrepreneurial spark in Turenne demonstrated her belief in “reflecting our stories and telling our truths. 

Contemporaneous Network(s)

Turenne was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the second Black sorority founded at Howard University in 1913. In the spring of 2013, she became a member of this historic Black Greek-letter organization through the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter, of which she was an active member until her passing. 

In addition, she was a long-time affiliate of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program based at Temple University in Philadelphia. Turenne was trained in their methodology, and she became a facilitator and member of the organization’s Executive Committee. Relatedly, she launched and taught the “Lyrics on Lockdown” course at The Gallatin School at New York University, which was a prison exchange program between NYU students and teenagers in custody at the Rikers Island jail. As a member of the Blackout Arts Collective, Turenne participated in Lyrics on Lockdown, a national tour where she performed and facilitated workshops educating communities about the prison-industrial complex. 

As a higher education administrator, Turenne was also involved in academic networks like Project Pericles and Imagining America, presenting at annual conferences. 

Another critical network for Turenne was the broader Haitian-American diaspora. Whether in her native New York or in Southern California, where she made home for over a decade before her passing, Turenne was active in many efforts to share the history, culture, and arts of Haiti. 



Turenne described herself as a “one-woman army of culture” and “champion for freedom, justice, and expression. Her body of work was expansive for someone of her age, spanning projects and works in the cultural arts organizing, performing arts, literary arts, film, and voice acting organizing. 

She published her first book in 2004, a co-edited volume called Revolution: Revolisyon = Revolution: 1804-2004, an Artistic Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution with Guichard Cadet, and published by Liv Lakay Publications. This was a trilingual anthology commemorating Haiti’s independence and featured works in English, Kreyòl, and French. As a poet, her work has been showcased in various publications, including The Anthology of Haitian Poets in Massachusetts, i got somethin’ to say and Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees (nominated for a 2007 NAACP Image Award). In response to the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti, Ella co-edited a volume of poetry called For the Crowns of Your Heads; the funds raised were used to support Haiti Soliel, a library that was destroyed in Port-au-Prince. Turenne’s other published works can be found in various anthologies such as Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out, Woman’s Work: The Short Stories and Turning Teaching Inside Out.

Turenne not only performed her one-woman show, Love, Locs and Liberation, but also co-founded and co-hosted a podcast called Fanm on Films (famn is the Kreyòl word for woman). This podcast was dedicated to highlighting the works of Haitian creatives in the film and TV industry. Her impressive list of theatrical performances included On Striver's Row, Shades of Blue, Love Child, and Come Back to Me, which was featured in the renowned Fresh Fruit Play Festival in New York. She also made a name for herself in the film industry with notable credits such as Arrangements, One More Try, and Big, Dark, Scary Girl, which won an experimental film award at the Reel Sisters Film Festival. 

Turenne’s talents extended beyond acting. She co-produced and starred in the short film Freedom, a docupoem based on her poem about the Haitian Revolution, which was showcased at the BlackStar Film Festival. Her filmmaking skills have been recognized nationally and internationally and her work featured in prestigious venues. For instance, her film woodshed was selected for participation in several national film festivals, including the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the Montréal International Haitian Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Short Film.

Ever the entrepreneur, Turenne founded BlacWomyn Beautiful, a platform that celebrates the beauty and power of Black women. She was also co-founder of SistaPAC Productions, whose mission is to develop original creative works from women of color. 


Turrenne was inducted into the 1804 List of Haitian Americans Changemakers and Ones to Watch in 2019. 

In 2014, she gave a TEDX talk about access and the right to education for incarcerated people. 

She won fellowships and awards for Love, Locs and Liberation, the one-woman show. It was also an official selection of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival and the United Solo Festival in New York.

Legacy and Influence

The Hollywood Fringe Access Advisory Board named an award in her honor, the Ella Turenne Award.


No information found

Clusters & Search Terms

Current Identification(s)

Academia; Performing Arts; Visual and Cultural Studies; Film; Poetry; Voice Acting; Mass Incarceration; Higher Education Access


Haitian-American Diaspora; Women Performing Artists of the African Diaspora; Women Filmmakers of the African Diaspora; Haitian Film; Black Women Podcasters; Independent Filmmaking; Prison Abolitionists; Haitian-American New Yorkers 

Search Terms

Black Women in Podcasting; Black Women Voice Actors; UC Irvine PhD in Visual and Cultural Studies; Haitian-American Podcast for Women; The Politics of Black Women’s Hair


Web Resources (selected):

“2019 Inductees.” The Haitian Roundtable, thehaitianroundtable.org/the-1804-list/2019-inductees/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“About.” BLACKWOMYN BEAUTIFUL, blackwomynbeautiful.com/about/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

Gallatin, NYU. “Students Become Teachers in Lyrics on Lockdown.” Students Become Teachers in Lyrics on Lockdown > News > NYU Gallatin, gallatin.nyu.edu/news/2013/07/LyricsonLockdown.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“Hiff- Tribute to Ella Turenne.” YouTube, YouTube, 26 Dec. 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iLewtNm43Y.

“Higher Education: Privilege or Right?: Ella Turenne at Tedxoccidentalcollege.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Apr. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTxdsDQZGP4.

“Hollywood Fringe - Ella Turenne Award.” The Hollywood Fringe Festival - Ella Turenne Award, www.hollywoodfringe.org/promote/award/162. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“In Memoriam.” The Inside-Out Center | In Memory of Ella Turenne, www.insideoutcenter.org/memoriam-Ella-Turenne.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“The Mary Louis Academy.” Facebook, www.facebook.com/TheMaryLouisAcademy/posts/10158234592404403. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“Remembering Ella Turenne.” UCI School of Humanities, www.humanities.uci.edu/news/remembering-ella-turenne. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

The Stony Brook Press, ir.stonybrook.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/11401/60546/Stony Brook Press V. 09, N. 01.PDF?sequence=1. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

SUNY, dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/25f41c75-18a5-4d9f-be52-6aa1fb68a1d2/content. Accessed 19 Mar. 2024.

“The Welcome Table: Ella Turenne.” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Sept. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtbpFy636yg.