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Black writers celebrate the legacy of the storyteller in Akron Oct. 4 & 5
By Aja Hannah
Hundreds of years ago around campfires on the African plains, storytellers wove verbal yarns of heroes and tragedies; cautionary morals and mischievous antics changing with each retelling, birthing modern day stories. Black stories have been told and shared despite slavery, share cropping, and the large migrations which led our ancestors to industry cities like Cleveland. This weekend is a pseudo-culmination, a celebration of black literature and black leadership from the Great Lakes. We will gather together around our proverbial campfires, e.g. conference rooms and convention centers, to celebrate the roots of storytelling at the Great Lakes Black Authors Expo & Writers Conference.
Robyn Hill, the founder and codirector of the conference, said this year’s theme — Legacy of the Storyteller — came from the roots of African stories. “The oral tradition is where storytelling began in Africa. It was a way of educating, passing down history, and influencing culture and politics. It continues to influence our writing and music and culture today,” she said.
On the conference’s opening evening, several authors will be awarded for literary achievement and storytelling in all its mediums, including poet laureate of Detroit and senior editor of Lotus Press Naomi Long Madgett, Cleveland’s own mental health poet and founder of The Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word Honey Bell Bey, and accomplished quilter and Kent State lecturer Denise Harrison.
Although she isn’t being awarded, the keynote speaker should not be overlooked. This woman is, arguably, carrying the most BDE in the literary world in Cleveland right now. Margaret Bernstein, an Emmy Award winning journalist who started the #WeReadHere campaign, will be speaking at the conference. Berstein is also the Director of Advocacy and Community Initiatives at WKYC-TV and was honored at Rainey Institute’s annual GLISAANDO benefit this year.
On Saturday, you can attend three panels; the headlining panel explores the legacy of storytelling with Mwatabu Okantah of Kent State and Juluis Bailey of Wittenberg University, a plenary session on book clubs will suggested reading and highlighted topics with media personalities Shana Black and Hebrina Shepherd, and a literacy initiative will discuss the region’s needs with a real-time e-survey.
Books on books on books. All day the expo, black authors from all over the Great Lakes area will be selling their books. There are still tables available for any area authors to sell their stories.