Poet laureate among black writers honorees

U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove.
Associated Press

The Center for Black Literature at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College (CUNY) says former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove and literary pioneer Charles Johnson will be among honorees at the 13th National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) at the college.

The center said on Wednesday that the four-day event takes place from March 31–April 3 at the Bedford Avenue campus.

Since the first conference in 1986, the center said this public gathering of literary personalities and scholars “continues to recognize renowned authors and poets for their extraordinary achievements.”

“Black American literature is at its most exciting ever,” said Dove, this year’s honorary chair. “I had dreamed but never imagined it possible that in my lifetime I would be witness to such a glorious panoply of Black artistic expression.

“From lyric to polemic, confessional to experimental, page to stage and everything in between, Black American literature today celebrates the beautiful complexities of racial identity,” she added.

The center said that the honorees of the 13th National Black Writers Conference represent the spectrum of the energy and imagination that comprise the richness of Black literature.

Besides Dove and Johnson, whose momentous novel “Middle Passage” won the National Book Award in 1990, also comprise best-selling author Edwidge Danticat, writer and history scholar Michael Eric Dyson, and Woodie King Jr., founder of the New Federal Theatre.

“I remember the first National Black Writers Conference I attended as a young writer,” Danticat said. “I was so incredibly moved by the amount of talent and inspiration and fellowship there. I felt supported. I felt guided. I felt that I could possibly have a future as a writer.

“It’s hard to express what an incredible honor it is to be part of the conference again, this time as an honoree,” he added. “The National Black Writers Conference honors the past, present and future of Black writing. I am incredibly honored to be part of that legacy.”

The center said that the theme of the 13th National Black Writers Conference, “Writing Race: Embracing Difference,” places the issues of race and difference at the forefront of literature produced by Black writers.

Through dynamic and spirited panel discussions, roundtables, readings, films, workshops and performances, writers, scholars, literary professionals, students and the general public will gather over four days to examine Black literary texts, the center said.

It said they will discuss the state of Black literature and raise questions related to how and whether Black writers “write race”; that is, whether Black writers write texts with the acknowledgement that they are writing out of a space that is socially constructed by race.

Delegates and the public will also discuss ways in which Black writers embrace difference in aesthetics, thoughts, beliefs, politics, religions, among others, in the texts they compose, the center said.

“This year’s conference continues the tradition and legacy of ensuring that the texts produced by Black writers in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa are known and read by the general public and are represented in our schools and libraries,” said Dr. Brenda M. Greene, executive director at the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College.

“Today, we cannot ignore the fact that ‘race’ shapes the texts we produce, the themes we focus on and the conversations we have about literature,” she added.

She said several important issues pertinent to Black writers and their work will be addressed and discussed throughout the Conference: “Afrofuturism: Reimagining the Past, Present, and Future;” Decoded: Hip-Hop and Youth Culture;” Creating Dangerously: Courage and Resistance in the Literature of Black Writers;” “The Politics of Race and Gender in the Black Literature;” “Black Writers in the Digital Age”; “Shaping Memories: The Odyssey to Adulthood;” and “Creative Writing Programs and Writers of Color: Current and Future Trends.”

For more information about the 13th National Black Writers Conference and a full list of events and participants, visit the website www.centerforblackliterature.org, or call the center at 718-804-8883, the NBWC hotline at 718-270-4811, or email write[email protected]c.cuny.edu.

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