Our Miss Brooks: A Centennial Celebration Press Release


Clarence V. Reynolds

718-804-8881 / creynolds@mec.cuny.edu

Felicia R. Lee

718-270-5046 / Flee@mec.cuny.edu

The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College Celebrates Gwendolyn Brooks and June Jordan

“Black Writers of Conscience”

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Feb. 6, 2017): The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, will host two programs that pay tribute to the legacies of two Black writers of conscience: Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) and literary activist June Jordan (1936–2002). Both writers had a major impact on the Black Arts Movement and Black Power Movement. Brooks and Jordan provided artistic and literary responses that spoke to the structural racism, social inequity and gender bias in our society. Their writing also documented the interior lives and cultural experiences of Blacks in urban America.

“Our Miss Brooks: A Centennial Celebration,” will be held as part of the 2017 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium. It will take place on Saturday, March 25, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, 1650 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn.

For National Poetry Month, “June Jordan: Reflections on Her Life and Activism” will be held on Thursday, April 20, 2017; 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238.

The year 2017 marks the centennial of the birth of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, an Illinois poet laureate, and the author of more than 20 books of poetry, including A Street in Bronzeville (1945); Annie Allen (1949); The Bean Eaters (1960); In the Mecca (1968); and the novel Maud Martha (1953).

During what promises to be an engaging celebration of Brooks’ life and work, the “Our Miss Brooks: A Centennial Celebration” program will include reflections on Brooks’ life, a discussion of the impact and significance of her literary works, and dramatic presentations both from her work and inspired by her passionate and vigorous works. Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti, author, poet and publisher of Third World Press, will be the keynote speaker. Poets and educators Cheryl Clarke, Angela Jackson, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Marilyn Nelson and Nicole Sealey are also featured on the program. The program will include:

●  A presentation of scholars’ papers coordinated by the College Language Association’s Black Studies Committee

●  Intergenerational poetic readings from the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and dramatic readings of her works

●  A performance featuring an original composition and poetry inspired by Brooks’ works.

“Gwendolyn Brooks was an extraordinary writer, educator and activist who wrote with fierce urgency about issues her community as well as society were dealing with; she captured in words what was happening at the moment,” said Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director of The Center for Black Literature and Chair of the English Department at Medgar Evers College.

In his book Honoring Genius, Gwendolyn Brooks: The Narrative of Craft, Art, Kindness and Justice, Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti writes: “Ms. Brooks was a woman who could not live without her art, but who had never put her art above or before the people she wrote about.”

June Jordan was a poet, essayist, activist, educator and the author of more than 25 books of poetry, essays and fiction. She was one of the most widely published and highly acclaimed African-American writers of her generation. Her works include Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (2007); Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991–1997 (1997); Haruko/Love Poems (1994); Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (1989); Things That I Do in the Dark (1977); and Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (1998).

The program “June Jordan: Reflections on Her Life and Activism,” presented in partnership with The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College and the Brooklyn Public Library, will focus on Jordan’s works, how she represents a life of activism, and the ways today’s artists continue the tradition of literary activism. Poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller and biographer and scholar Valerie Kinloch will participate in a conversation on Jordan’s work and life of activism. Social Justice activist and attorney Joan Gibbs will join the conversation as a respondent.

These programs are sponsored by a Humanities New York Action Grant.

The literary programs have also received contributions and funding from the Brooklyn Delegation of New York City Council; Con Edison; The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation; the New-York Historical Society; Beacon Press; and the Library of America. Harlem-based Sisters Uptown Bookstore will serve as official book vendor for the Symposium.

“Our Miss Brooks: A Centennial Celebration” will be live-streamed from Medgar Evers College.

General donation for “Our Miss Brooks” is $10 in advance; ($5 for students with ID, faculty, and seniors); and the price will go up on-site. To register and for ticket information, go to https://centerforblackliterature.com/2017-nbwc-our-miss-brooks-a-centennial/. “June Jordan: Reflections on Her Life and Activism” is free and open to the public.

About the Center for Black Literature

The mission of the Center for Black Literature is to expand, broaden and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature. Through a series of programs that build an audience for the reading, discussion and critical analysis of contemporary Black literature and that serve as a forum for the research and study of Black literature, the Center convenes and supports various literary programs and events such as author readings and book signings, writing workshops, panel discussions, conferences and symposia. It is the only center devoted to this in the country.

For more information about the Center for Black Literature and its programs, call the Center at 718-804-8883, or visit our website at www.centerforblackliterature.com.