14th National Black Writers Conference

Gathering at the Waters:

Healing, Legacy, and Activism in Black Literature


Note: Program participants and schedule are subject to change.

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2018 National Black Writers Conference Schedule
Planned Programming (as of February 2018)


Day 3: Saturday, March 24th, 2018

EMCEES: Kel Spencer, Imhotep Gary Byrd

Writing Talkshops:

10:00 AM – 11:45 AM: Fiction with Donna Hill

10:00 AM – 11:45 AM: Book Proposals with Regina Brooks

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM: One-on-One Sessions with Literary Agents Regina Brooks and Jocquelle S. Caiby; and Editors Carol Taylor and Monique Patterson

To schedule a one-on-one session, you must sign up to attend the 2018 NBWC. You must submit your work online two weeks in advance to the meeting.
Please send your submissions to: nbwcsubmissions@gmail.com.

10:00 AM – 12:30 PM:  Film Screenings: “Living in a State of Grace: The Art of Healing”

The Center for Black Literature and African Voices magazine present “Living in a State of Grace: The Art of Healing,” a selection of films celebrating the magic of Blackness. The showcase includes a slice of award-winning films from Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series, the first Academy Qualifying Festival for Short Films devoted to women of color.  Clairesa Clay, the founder of Blerd City Con and founding member of Reel Sisters, will serve as the host for the film discussion. There will also be a directors’ Q & A. Founded in 1997 by African Voices/Reel Sisters will be held on October 20-12, 2018, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn. Info: www.reelsisters.org (https://reelsisters.com).

Featured Films:

Holding History: The Collections of Charles L. Blockson

Producer/Director/Writer: Cheraine Stanford; Co-Writer: Cole Cullen

Length: 16 min., Documentary

Holding History tells the story of Black studies scholar and author Charles L. Blockson’s lifelong journey to unearth and preserve the history, culture, and contributions of people of African descent.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VXcHJPbd00


Producer/Director: Francesca Andre

Charcoal is a story about redemption and overcoming pain. This film focuses on two Black women who have been victims of colorism. Although there are vast distances between each of them, their lives are parallel. They constantly face a barrage of social messages that erode their self-worth and self-esteem. Charcoal has won many awards including Reel Sisters Best Narrative Short Award 2017 and was featured in Essence (https://www.essence.com/entertainment/charcoal-short-film-interview). Trailer: https://vimeo.com/235683154

That’s Why They Call Us Colored

Director: Malika Franklin, Ashton Pina; Producer: Malika Franklin

A distant relative comes to a family reunion and comes to terms with his family history in this delightful short starring veteran actors Vinie Burrows and Rod “Barclay” Bladel. Colored is a recipient of the Reel Sisters Spirit Award 2017 and a crowd-pleaser.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/235682425

Black Enuf*

Director/Producer: Carrie Hawks

A queer oddball seeks approval from Black peers despite serious lack of hip-hop credentials and a family that “talks white.” The film interweaves stories from Hawks’s great-grandmother’s autobiography, interviews of family and friends and hand-drawn memories. Black enuf* has received many honors, including the Reel Sisters Best Animation Award 2017 and is distributed by Third World Newsreel. Trailer: https://vimeo.com/235685371

11:30 AM — 1:30 PM: Tales of Our Times/Elders Writing Workshop in Edison O. Jackson (EOJ) Auditorium @ 1638 Bedford Avenue

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM BREAK

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Roundtable Conversation, “Gathering at the Waters: A Call for Healing”

Literature and poetry have often served as a balm when we are faced with personal and societal challenges. Through their creative storytelling and prose, writers have expressed ways of overcoming obstacles, explored ideas for harnessing emotional strength, and have meditated on the elements that pertain to the well-being of families and communities, individually and collectively. During this discussion, panelists will examine the ways in which literary narratives convey messages of healing, nurturing, and reflection with regard to understanding cultural and sociopolitical themes represented in literature during turbulent times.

Moderator: Josef Sorett

Panelists: Desiree Cooper, Margo Jefferson, Andrea J. Ritchie, Tai Allen


Desiree Cooper is a 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, a former attorney, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, and Detroit community activist. She recently published a collection a short stories titled Know the Mother (Wayne State University Press, 2016). Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Callaloo, Detroit Noir, Best African American Fiction 2010, and Tidal Basin Review, among other online and print publications. Cooper was a founding board member of Cave Canem, a national residency for emerging black poets, and she is a Kimbilio fellow, a national residency for African American fiction writers.

Margo Jefferson is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism; she was for years a book and arts critic for Newsweek and The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in, among other publications, VogueNew York magazine, and The Nation, and Guernica. Her memoir, Negroland (Pantheon, 2015) received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. She is also the author of On Michael Jackson and is a professor of writing at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Andrea J. Ritchie, author of the critically acclaimed book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (Beacon, 2017,) is a Black lesbian immigrant, police-misconduct attorney, and a 2014 Senior Soros Justice Fellow, with more than two decades of experience advocating against police violence and the criminalization of women and LGBTQ people of color. She is currently Researcher-in-Residence on Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Criminalization at the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the coauthor of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women (AAPF, 2015) and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Beacon, 2011). She lives in Brooklyn, New York and Chicago, Illinois.

Josef Sorett is an associate professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University, where he also directs the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS). His first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016), illumines how religion has figured in debates about Black art and culture across the 20th century. Sorett’s second book, tentatively titled The Holy Holy Black: The Ironies of an African American Secular, will be out later this year. Additionally, Sorett is editing an anthology, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches.

3:00 PM –4:00 PM: John Oliver Killens Reading Series Presents Author Readings

Gregory Pardlo, Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America (Knopf, April 2018).

Rosamond S. King, Rock|Salt|Stone (Nightboatm 2017)

Desiree Cooper, Know the Mother (Wayne State University Press, 2016).

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: A Conversation with Bernice L. McFadden

Prize-winning author Bernice L. McFadden will be in conversation with writer Donna Hill.

McFadden’s latest novel, The Book of Harlan, received the 2017 American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction); it was also named a Washington Post Notable Book of 2016. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December. Her books Gathering of Waters was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine,  was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA).

5:15 PM – 7:00 PM: 2018 NBWC Tribute and Awards Program

Irene Aponte Scholarship Presentation

CBL/MEC English Dept. Student Fiction Writing Contest


Steven Barnes will be presented with the Octavia E. Butler Award. As an influential and pivotal writer in the genre of speculative fiction and the award-winning author of more than two dozen titles, including Zulu Heart, comic books, animation and television scripts, and as a major voice in the genre of imaginative literature for readers and writers from the African Diaspora, this special award is in recognition of Barnes’s dedication and commitment to creating a significant body of work in speculative literature.

Tananarive Due will be presented with the Octavia E. Butler Award. As an influential and pivotal writer in the genre of speculative fiction and the award-winning author of more than two dozen titles, including My Soul to Take and The Living Blood, and as an instructor and writer who is a major voice in expanding the importance of imaginative literature to readers and writers from the African Diaspora, this special award is in recognition of Due’s dedication to an exceptional body of work.

Kwame Dawes will be presented with the Gwendolyn Brooks Award. His work as a poet, novelist, editor, and scholar is outstanding and represents the heart and soul of people throughout the African Diaspora. Our presentation of this award following the centennial celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks is in the tradition of honoring writers who are committed to preserving the language and culture of Black people across the globe.

Dr. David Levering Lewis will be presented with the W. E. B. Du Bois Award. This special award is in recognition of his outstanding historical and biographical work in American letters. It is presented in recognition of a lifetime of an exceptional body of work and has been given to Charles Johnson, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kamau Brathwaite, and Randall Robinson. Lewis’s scholarship and award-winning books on W. E. B. Du Bois, historical works on civil rights and cultural politics, and his voice as an historical expert have made an indelible mark on the American canon.

Eugene B. Redmond will be awarded the inaugural Margaret T. Burroughs Cultural Historian Award for his commitment to celebrate and chronicle the achievements of writers and artists in Black literature and the literary arts; for being a passionate archivist and resourceful educator and writer who documents the academic, artistic, and literary milestones that highlight the significant contributions made to Black culture and history.

Susan L. Taylor will be honored with the Ida B. Wells Institution Building Award for her achievements and the important work she carries out as Founder & CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, the only organization dedicated to providing mentoring, healing, and wellness services on a national scale for Black children. Taylor is a best-selling author of inspirational books, including All About Love and In the Spirit, and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine.

Colson Whitehead will be honored with the Toni Morrison Award. His novels, including The Underground Railroad, for which he won the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; John Henry Days, and The Intuitionist; essays, reviews, and voice have made an indelible mark on the American literary canon. This special award is in recognition of a body of exceptional literary work.

7:30 PM – 9:15 PM:  2018 NBWC Benefit Reception: Host Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq.

The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Skylight Café
1638 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11225