As part of Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing, the organization hosted the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony at The Historic Church of the Advocate.
With the yearlong theme of “Growing from Good to Great,” the organization honored JET and Ebony magazines, with JET’s Editor-in-Chief Mitzi Miller accepting on behalf of both, and Marita Golden of the Hurston/Wright Foundation — all institutions that have taken writers from around the globe from good to great.
“Ebony and JET are just part of our cultural conversation,” Miller said. “They are a part of our lives. Since their inception, their sole purpose has been making sure that our opinions and our voices are heard; making sure that our news is shared and that what we have to say matters.”
For almost three decades, the “Celebration of Black Writing” has sought to deepen Philadelphia's literary life and polish its tourist shine with a rich infusion of African-American writers and artists in all genres.
A one-of- a-kind literary feast, the “Celebration” provides writers and artists an opportunity to discuss their work with up to 1,500–2,000 students, and another 2,000–3,000 people participate in panels, workshops, teachers' symposium, Family Pavilion, main stage, and other events.
The Celebration features up to 75 professional and aspiring writers, editors, publishers, scholars, spoken-word artists, performance artists, playwrights, and filmmakers.
Some of the country’s most innovative culture leaders and thinkers have been lauded over the years including renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator Nikki Giovanni, poet Sonia Sanchez and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Charles Fuller. Supermodel Beverly Johnson, who is also star of the new reality show, ‘Beverly’s Full House’ on OWN, served as event emcee on Friday evening.
“Writers write—they don’t talk about writing,” said author Bernice McFadden as she introduced Golden. “But then I read 'Migrations of the Heart ' and something in me began to shift. I felt a sense of hope return. Here was a woman, a Black woman, writing her own story, doing exactly what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. She had not allowed anyone, or anything, to stand in the way...why couldn't I do the same? With each book I read, I became inspired as a woman and as an inspiring writer.”
Golden said writing is a calling and a mission: “Each life contains the seeds of other lives—and 22 years of working in the Hurston/Wright Foundation to create this organization has taught me that this work that the Arts Sanctuary does, that Lorene Cary has done, that I've done, is not just cultural work; it's not just political work; it is deeply, deeply spiritual work because it has such a profound impact on the minds, the hearts and the souls of people.”
The Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing is the nation’s only literary festival of its kind, offering 13 days of literary discussions and workshops, music showcases and film screenings. Writers and artists will discuss their work with up to 2,000 students, and another 3,000 people will participate in panels, workshops and other events. The celebration features 75 professional and aspiring writers, editors, publishers, scholars, spoken-word artists, performance artists, playwrights and filmmakers. This year, selected panels and workshops will be streamed live for the first time online, and will also be archived so that new and enthusiastic readers and writers can access them anytime.
The Celebration of Black Writing brings acclaimed authors, scholars and performance artists from across the U.S. to meet, teach and interact with festival attendees through lectures, readings, workshops, panel discussions, family activities and performances. It connects established authors, emerging talent, novice writers and performance artists, with avid readers and local audiences spanning race, gender and background. The festival offers family-friendly events as well. Independence Blue Cross (IBC) and the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies are the presenting sponsors for the program which runs from May 21 to June 2.
“We take great pride in our support of the Celebration of Black Writing festival, and in partnering with Art Sanctuary,” said Daniel Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC. “This exceptional and innovative organization educates and nurtures so many aspiring writers and other artists, and it improves the lives of thousands through promoting the arts.”
One of the major highlights of the festival is the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony to be held Friday, June 1. With Art Sanctuary’s year-long theme of “Growing from Good to Great,” the organization will honor JET and Ebony magazines, with JET’s editor-in-chief Mitzi Miller accepting on behalf of both, and Marita Golden of the Hurston/Wright Foundation.
“We’ve got to hold (Black writers) in the light,” noted Lorene Carey, executive director, Art Sanctuary. “There is great value in holding the critical mass of African-American creative talent in the light — to use that Quaker phrase ‘to hold it in the light’ — there is great value in that. It’s valued for our own community. These are our griots. These people are telling a narrative about the Black experience — and the white experience, by the way — and they are narratives that are nourishing, necessary and sometimes very challenging for the growth of the African-American community. They are telling narratives that are necessary and nourishing to our larger community. ... They are some of the strongest explorers of questions that America needs to learn and to pose and challenge it and argue about. These people are doing it, and we have them here year after year. To keep it going year after year means that we relieve the pressure that’s on African-American artists, or the Black creative, to represent our amazing diversity in one shot.”
The Art Sanctuary’s 28th Annual Celebration of Black Writing takes place at several locations around the city, including Art Sanctuary, the Historic Church of the Advocate, the Kimmel Center and Temple University. The all-day festival taking place at Temple University on June 2 is free. Some events taking place during the 13-day festival, May 21 to June 2, are offered at a low ticket price. For more information and to get a full listing of the festival’s line-up, visit www.artsanctuary.org or call (215) 232-4485.