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When The New York Times set out to survey the number of current authors who are people of color, there was no data to be found.

So they created a list of English fiction books published by the five major publishing houses between 1950 and 2018 and three research assistants combed through dozens of interviews, biographies and social media posts. to determine race. Of the more than 7,000 books in which they were able to confirm the race of the author, black authors made up only 5% of the total.

In an effort to help get more books by black authors into the hands of Richmond readers, the Downtown Library is hosting Richmond’s first annual African American Book Festival this weekend, so people can connect with professionals in the literary field. According to festival organizer Roy Wyatt, race continues to play a major role in American democracy, affecting just about every facet of society and culture. “Without connecting with other races to better understand each other’s life experiences, we will continue to see the effect of racism and its impact on national politics, public schools, the criminal justice system, and so much more. “, he says.

The festival specifically aims to address the imbalance of books published by black authors and marketed to the public. More than forty authors will be on hand to sell their work, along with Books and Crannies, a black-owned bookstore in Martinsville, and several publishers. The theme of the festival is promoting financial, emotional, mental and physical well-being throughout the black community, with Dr. Ophera Davis, disaster expert and author of “Hurricane Katrina: Black Women Survivors Resiliency and Recovery,” delivering the opening speech. Other featured authors include Amanda Lynch, James Harris and Kerwyn Phillip, with authors Dr. Courtney Davis, Victoria Phoenix and Angel Reynolds participating in discussions and workshops.

Because the voices of black writers and storytellers have historically been excluded from mainstream publishing, an event such as the Richmond African American Book Festival serves as a reminder and an opportunity. “The festival is an opportunity for individuals to connect with black professionals in the literary field,” says Wyatt. “In celebrating the contributions of African Americans to literary culture, we make a conscious decision to see the colors fade to discover the humanity, drive, intellect, passion, diversity, and depth of their experiences of writing. ‘writer.”

One of the aims of the festival is to attract all ages and professions, not just collectors and book lovers. Aimed at authors, teachers and parents, three workshops will be held, including Publishing a Children’s Book for the First Time, Succeeding in Adversity: Helping Students Achieve Educational Excellence, and Fueling the Enthusiasm of black children for reading and writing. Meanwhile, kids can take part in a live version of Candy Land, the classic children’s game, by playing as game pieces in a giant version.

Dr. Ophera Davis, author of

  • Dr. Ophera Davis, author of “Hurricane Katrina: Black Women Survivors Resiliency and Recovery”.

Several factors were considered when creating the Book Festival, from raising public awareness of the importance of Black contributions to American literature, to introducing attendees to locally available resources and literature to enhance the literacy in homes, personal lives and classrooms. It is primarily an opportunity for individuals to connect with people they would not normally have the opportunity to speak with within their community in order to better understand the life experiences of others and to question their own assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes. “We are pleased to provide a venue for the African American Book Festival at the Main Library, as it will bring together readers and writers of all ages and provide a platform for local authors, two essential parts of our mission to inform, enrich and empower,” notes Ben Himmelfarb, Acting Manager of Community Services at the library.

Novelist Toni Morrison claimed that if there’s a book you really want to read that hasn’t been written yet, you should write it. The Richmond African American Book Festival promises to be full of books from black authors who set out to write the books they couldn’t find in the white-dominated publishing industry.

“There’s so much we don’t know about people, especially the opposite race, and a lot of our beliefs are based on misconceptions without really knowing the person,” Wyatt adds. “With more interaction, we get to know someone on another level. A deeper connection with someone bridges the gap of misconceptions that often leads to prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping.

Richmond’s first annual African American Book Festival will be held Saturday, April 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Main Library, 101 E. Franklin St., rvalibrary.org






About Stuart M. McFarland

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