Diane tower-jones



Growing up in the UK, Diane’s first college experience was at Performing Arts school in London where she was a dance major who took every available class in video production, directing and vision mixing. Unexpectedly life events took her away from performance and visual art, and led her to the healing arts. After six years of extensive studying she began practicing Chinese medicine, a career that spanned the following 15 years. Eventually Diane rediscovered her passion for filmmaking, consequently training as a documentary filmmaker during which she integrated her experience as a clinical “listener”. Diane is in her element as a documentarian; she is ceaselessly curious about our beliefs and our perceptions, and how our identity informs the nature of our being. One of her greatest joys is to awaken someone to the value of their story. Seven years ago Diane relocated from the UK to the Asheville area. Over the last decade she has participated in a wide variety of independent film projects in the UK, India and the US. Currently Diane is the director of the feature length documentary Beneath the Veneer.

Sekou Coleman



Sekou Coleman is an artist, cultural activist and youth advocate who was raised in a culture of community and service. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in Music, and worked afterwards as a community organizer fostering collaboration in and between the city’s most marginalized neighborhoods.  His professional experience spans more than two decades and includes everything from songwriting and sound engineering to youth program development, website and interactive media creation, software training, film production, project management and more. Presently, in addition to being the producer for Beneath The Veneer, he is the project manager for the Southside Arts & Agricultural Center, a collaborative initiative dedicated to creating to a thriving space that cultivates and centers various forms of black culture, creativity, agriculture and arts in Asheville’s Southside community, a historically black neighborhood experiencing equally high levels of poverty and gentrification. Sekou also mentors youth and develops strategic partnerships for Word On The Street, a bilingual youth magazine run by teens of color, and is a core member of CoThinkk, an innovative giving circle dedicated to supporting leaders and communities of color in the Western NC.

Darin Waters



Dr. Waters has made regional African-American history a prime subject of his own research, and organized the African-Americans in WNC conference in order to share recent contributions to the historical record by area scholars, alongside the first-person stories of those involved in key events. In an effort to fill the gap in regional history — the missing story of African-Americans in Western North Carolina — the conference seeks to: dismantle the longstanding myth that there was no African-American presence in this region, provide educators with a way to integrate this work into the larger narrative of the region, the state and the nation, and demonstrate to a largely neglected group of the Asheville population that one of the leading institutes of higher education in this region, which UNCA is, takes their presence, their history and their contributions to this region very seriously. The title for Beneath the Veneer is taken from the Darin Waters, PhD’s doctoral thesis, “Life Beneath the Veneer: The Black Community in Asheville, North Carolina from 1793 to 1900,” which he is preparing to publish as a book. You can find out more about Dr. Waters and his work at

Dr. Mullen



As a Teaching Professor, Dr. Mullen is committed to both his students and to being professionally active. Specifically, he offers courses in Public Policy, American Politics, African and African-American politics. His scholarly activities include panels chaired and papers presented at meetings of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists; overseeing undergraduates’ research projects covering the State of Black Asheville; and serving in local, state, national and international capacities that aim to improve the delivery of public services to underserved populations.