WRBG

The Second Annual ‘Well Read Black Girl’ Festival: A Feast of Solidarity

Glory Edim, editor of the Well-Read Black Girl anthology, and founder of Well-Read Black Girl, which celebrated its second annual festival on Saturday, has been going from strength to strength over the past year.  

 

Image via Karen Sanovicz

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

 

Well-Read Black Girl began as a bookclub, and still is, in part, with monthly meeting averaging at about thirty participants. But now it is so much more than that. With upwards of 140,000 Instagram followers, the anthology Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, and over 300 people attending the second annual Well-Read Black Girl festival held in the beautiful Pioneer Works space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which featured appearances from some of the greatest living black female authors, such as Patricia Smith, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jacqueline Woodson. The festival also featured stalls from leading publishers such as Penguin Random House, literary journals such as A Public Space, food and drinks. 

 

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

 

The festival began at 12pm with an address from Edim, in which she quoted bell hooks:

 

Solidarity is not the same as support. To experience solidarity, we must have a community of interests, shared beliefs and goals around which to unite, to build Sisterhood.

 

After a moving musical performance from Candice Hoyes and a brief Intention Setting workshop presented by Blind Seed, who hosted a full-length workshop later in the day, keynote speaker, activist and poet Patricia Smith took the stage to read her incredibly moving, funny and evocative essay about her experiences of growing up as a black girl in Chicago. She explored how her refusal to make herself smaller, even under the ever-present threat of ending up “like Emmet Till,” was a refusal to bow to the fear that black children were and are raised with. The essay ended with commentary on the recent incident in which President Trump’s told a black female journalist to sit down. “Thank you, Mr. President, but we will stand,” cried Smith, to rapturous applause from the audience of hundreds. 

 

The day continued with three highly engaging panel discussions. The first, Creating the Well-Read Black Girl Anthology, was led by Glory Edim and featured contributors Mahogany Browne, Renee Watson, Veronica Chambers, Carla Bruce-Eddings and Bsrat Mezghebe, who each read an excerpt from their essays and discussed finding solace in literature at a young age. 

 

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

 

The YA panel featured authors Renee Watson, Ibi Zoboi, Rita Williamson-Garcia, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, who discussed their process, their aims and wishes while writing, and their impact on the future generations of Black readers and writers. The whole day was dotted with moving and memorable moments, but a particular tear-jerker occurred when the last audience question came from a little girl, whose small voice rang out as she said “Thank you for writing these books.”

 

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

Image Via Karen Sanovicz

 

Illuminating Herstory: Uncovering the Legacies of Black Women featured authors Blair Imani, Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and Bridgett M. Davis who discussed the importance of writing and celebrating the too often hidden narratives of Black women.

 

The final panel showed the trailer for the recent adaptation of James Baldwin’s acclaimed If Beale Street Could Talk, and featured star Ebony Obsidian, along with National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson, Dr. Imani Perry, and BlackStar Film Festival founder Maori Karmael Holmes. The panelists engaged in a lively discussion of the film, as well as Baldwin’s influence on them and on American literature. 

 

The atmosphere at the festival was electric, and the admiration and support of Glory Edim and her message palpable. Well-Read Black Girl is understandably becoming a phenomenon, with some of the biggest names in the business lending their support, and it will hopefully only continue to grow over the coming years. Check out the video below for more details on the festival and get excited for next year! 

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Karen Sanovicz