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Black Writers Conference Gives Writers Collective Voice

The 10th Annual National Black Writers Conference initiated on Thursday, March 25, 2010 and concluded Sunday, March 28, 2010 with author readings, workshops and panel discussions by prominent black writers. Major themes included reconstructing memory, environmentalism and ecology, and community restoration. Among those honored include Honorary Chair Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Kamau Brathwaite and Dr. Edison O. Jackson.

Dr. Brenda Greene of Medgar Evers College (second from left, at top) wrote history last weekend when she brought together the stars of the Black literary world for the 10th National Black Writer’s Conference. The writers include, from left to right: Kevin Powell, poet Sonia Sanchez, Cornell West (to Dr. Greene’s left), Toni Morrison, Susan Taylor, Kamau Brathwaite, Khephra Burns and Amiri Baraka.

Hosted by the Center of Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, City University of New York, Professor and Executive Director Dr. Brenda Greene details the importance of the Black Writers Conference, its impact on black writers and the community, and the message it sends to the mainstream publishing industry.
According to Dr. Brenda Greene there is a “need for people to have their stories documented and told.” The Black Writer’s Conference “allows the general public, as well as writers a chance to identify issues and challenges.” Black writers are fighting a battle on two fronts- against the publishing industry and within their own communities. Writers often have to travel difficult, unconventional roads. Author Terry McMillan is one of many examples of the barriers black writers face. She sold books from the trunk of her car.
 Another issue black writers face is with particular genres and the cultural bias and misconceptions within black communities. Speculative fiction writers L.A. Banks, Michael Boatman, Jewell Parker Rhodes and Cheo Tyehimba shared many moments of laughter when they revealed some of the comments and prejudices surrounding speculative fiction from the perspective of black writers. “Girl, I ain’t reading that, I’m a Christian,” Tyehimba mocked as she chuckled lightly. Each author shouted common responses such as “voodoo,” “demonic” or “devil” to describe the creative works they have written. Mainstream speculative fiction has not only excluded black writers, but has fostered an image that fantasy, magical creatures and supernatural elements are “white” and pure, while “voodoo” and “witch doctors” are “black” and satanic. It is issues such as these that Dr. Brenda Greene hopes to tackle and bring truth to.
The National Black Writers Conference is important because it shows “the status of black literature,” gives a “voice to black writers,” makes black writers accessible to the community, and dispels common myths and prejudices.   By Shamecca Long