Growing up in the Deep South prior to the Civil Rights Movement, Hoy Kersh devoured books and learning, and despite being an African-American girl in 1950s Alabama, she was never afraid to speak her mind. At the tender age of 16, Kersh left behind her family and the South for Chicago, where she struck out to pursue equality, truth and opportunity.
"I wanted to leave hot, ignorant, snuff-dipping, tobacco-chewing Alabama. Hell, everybody seemed to move in slow motion to me, slow, scared. There were too many killings and beatings. The law was definitely not on our side. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, new leaders, countless voices were rising, and I was stuck in the quicksand of the South," writes Kersh in her memoir, Suitcase Full of Dreams, which released in February to coincide with Black History Month. "The train at night wailed in the distance, promising faraway lands, sweet streets paved with gold, and kind faces not prejudiced against you at every step. Me, the naïve dreamer, head full of hopes and visions, I was leaving."
Years after fleeing the turmoil of Civil Rights-era Alabama, Kersh became a songwriter and music performer, eventually producing two albums and touring the country with reggae artists such as Yellow Man and Everton Blender. She has also emceed Reggae on the River, an annual reggae festival in California.
Inspired by Bob Marley nearly forty years ago, Kersh moved to Jamaica where she built an organic farm and taught reading and writing to adults at the local night school. Kersh has lived there on and off ever since.
Now living in the woods of Northern California, Kersh works with students at a rural Pacific Northwest school on a video documentary about logging and the regional water crisis, issues close to her heart. Her writing has inspired the students to positive action in local environmental matters.