I’m already more than a week removed from early November’s Well Read Black Girl Festival in Brooklyn, New York but I’m quite positive that the energy will take me well into the new year. How would I describe it?
Nah, these aren’t good enough. This is the great value version of the real words this experience deserves. Since I’m already a week behind I won’t search for fancier adjectives but I think you get it – the whole experience was AMAZING for me. In short, it was a chance to meet my rock stars up close and personal – to be directly inspired while listening to them talk about their craft, why they do what they do and how they do it. Because they were all sparked, moved and motivated by love no one was too big or too busy or too cool not to move about the room as we all had – taking photos against the step-and-repeat crowning us: WELL READ BLACK GIRLs; buying books and tees; meeting cool new people for the first time on both sides of the table; and just revelling in the great energy of the space.
– The St. Francis College auditorium in a sunny yet brisk Brooklyn was the setting for the event. As festival volunteers prepared, an eager early crowd of black women gathered in the cafeteria. With some time to spare new connections were made, coffee orders were rounded up and excited chatter filled the room.
– Well Read Black Girl Founder Glory Edim welcomed us all and introduced the NY Youth Poet Laureate who blessed us with a poem about her Tobagian roots letting us all know how important our differing voices and tongues are.
– Staceyann Chin stirred our souls -invoking memory, love, laughter and POWER with two poems from her book of poetry.
– Then we enjoyed Glory Edim in conversation with Erica Armstrong Dunbar who discussed the life of Araminta “Moses” Ross, and told us all why we should all get to know Harriet as the woman, via her book, She Came to Slay – and then see the movie for ourselves to decide how it fits in – but also why we should never let a cowardly man stop our stride through history.
– On the activism front, Mo Browne author of Woke Baby moderated the panel with DaMaris Hill, Josie Duffy, Aja Monet, and Kalisha Buckhanon about how writers are confronting mass incarceration on the page, in the podcast over airwaves, and in any way they can. Some revelations were made – from how we must break from our love affair with capitalism to how we must re-think about how people are punished for bad decisions. One of the most moving quotes for me, “Incomplete stories lead to incomplete solutions.”
– Next up was the Radical Reading panel with Maya Millett, Charlene Caruthers, Imani Perry, Ramunda Young and April Pugh. Changemakers in all forms including authors, an activist, a tee shop owner and a bookstore owner shared stories of what inspired them to make moves. This panel reminded us all that nothing should keep us from our mission. One of the most moving quotes for me, “Writing endures.” and “It’s okay to be tough and soft simultaneously.”
– YA is LIT and Ebony LaDelle (Host of Why Not YA?) led listeners on a journey. We all got schooled as Jacqueline Woodson, Dhonielle Clayton, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Nic Stone talked about why they began, a bit about their process, who they looked up to, and what motivated them to continue. My favorite quote, and I apologize I don’t remember who said it, I was captivated, “Sometimes the stories know more about you do, about what it’s trying to say.”
– The last conversation was with Sadiya Hartman and Alexis Okeowo. In Hartman’s book, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, she digs into the untold stories about black women behaving well outside the social norms of the time period. Hartman and Okeowo talked in depth about Hartman’s magical way of teaching us deeper richer lessons about ourselves through the context of complex histories. Of the many things she said I appreciated most, “Although conformity won’t save you, the price for resistance is often great.”
I’m not doing it justice. Next time I’ll write sooner.
Because by the end of the day, I was blown away; and I’m not sure that I’m delivering that here…
At any rate, the festival gave me so many new writers to discover, so many references to check into, so many more BOOKS to read, so much inspiration to act on, so much work to do.
I should do this once a quarter, just as a reminder.
What I walk away with and what is probably the most difficult feeling to interpret was just how humble all the presenters were yet while also unknowingly simultaneously mystically magical, with work so significant, and world-changing that it certainly would not evolve without them.