Dr. Zelda Lockhart has served as an arts-based professional development facilitator for agencies and organizations since 1997. As the Director of The Multicultural Resource Center at Cornell University, from 1997 – 1998, Lockhart facilitated workshops on diversity and inclusion on Cornell's campus, and after the agency became a Tompkins County affiliate from 1998 – 2000, Lockhart continued to facilitate diversity and inclusion workshops for community organizations in Ithaca, NY. From 1997 – 2002. Lockhart owned a private consulting agency, Diversity & Empowerment Workshops while living in Ithaca, and for three years 1999 – 2001 she held a contract as Human Resources Consultant for the City of Ithaca's Police Department. In this work, her main objective was to build bridges between the police and the community they served as a way of healing the tensions after an officer was shot by a civilian. Lockhart first worked to strengthen and build trust internally between union officers and their non-union administrators. Over the course of this work, trainings were moved from the police department annex where the officers and staff were most comfortable working inside of a closed non-civilian environment, to The Foundation of Light, an interfaith spiritual center for meditation, healing, study and self-expression. At the end of her three-year contract the Police Department housed satellite offices in local community centers and used writing and art to connect with the common goals of the community by co-producing a monthly neighborhood newsletter.
Lockhart’s contracts extended to interdepartmental work with all City departments, City Council and the Tompkins County Fire Department. It was her innovative use of the literary arts as personal exploration that made her methods unique and in high demand.
In 2002, Lockhart moved to North Carolina where she continued to facilitate workshops that were creative writing based, and serve as visiting writer at universities like, Duke University, UNC Wilmington, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, and many other colleges and universities on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Mid-West. In 2010, her appointment as Piedmont Laureate in North Carolina broadened the opportunity to share with rural and urban communities a belief that writing one's story is transformative and empowering.
In 2011 Lockhart worked individually with three human resource consultants at the Charlotte based firm Dorrier Underwood. Through this work, she assisted their facilitation staff in becoming more effective in their consulting by becoming more familiar with their own inner workings via their personal stories. The result was the first draft of a book-length work that juxtaposed their personal life experiences with their professional strengths and areas of potential growth. One year later, Lockhart worked with the national staff of human resource consultants for Dorrier Underwood in a three-day retreat on authenticating their work through infusing self-identity in their methods of facilitation.
For the twenty years that Lockhart has lived in North Carolina, she has utilized the studio spaces in her home, LaVenson Press and Her Story Garden Studios, to facilitate writing workshops specifically for women. The focus has recently shifted to serving Black women and girls and women and girls of color. The objective is to inspire participants to self-define, heal, and liberate through their stories and through experiences in nature. In all of her workshops with people of all ages and from different professions, Lockhart utilizes the same method of personal plot, outlined in her research, and in her book The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript: Turning Life’s Wounds into the Gift of Literary Fiction, Memoir, or Poetry. The book takes its readers on a journey through several tributaries of their lives in order to turn those experiences into the gift of literary art that can then become the food, medicine, or kinship needed in someone else's journey.
Her research explores creating and consuming personal experience based literature for emotional, psychological, and social transformation. Populations of interest include people of color, LGBT populations, and financially disenfranchised people. She is award-winning author of three novels. Fifth Born, which was a Barnes & Nobel Discovery Selection, and finalist for a Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright Award. Her novel Cold Running Creek, is a work of historical fiction that won an award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and her third novel, Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle won an award from the Lambda Literary Foundation. Recently Dr. Lockhart has sought to bring Black women's untold stories forward by co-authoring two memoirs published by HaperCollins, Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s Most Notorious Jewel Thief by Doris Payne with Zelda Lockhart, and, Mama Bear: One Black Mother's Fight for Her Child's Life and Her Own by Shirley Smith with Zelda Lockhart.
Dr. Lockhart is currently Endowed Associate Professor of Creative Writing & African American Literature at North Carolina Central University.
Her other works of fiction, poetry and essays can be found in numerous anthologies, journals and magazines. Organizations, universities, schools and libraries throughout the United States have experienced Dr. Lockhart’s talent as a teacher, writer and public speaker.