What I love about attending conferences and writing festivals is the opportunity to meet other writers whose works I have enjoyed.
What is most gratifying is meeting those writers whose work I love and discovering that they are such easy doing, lovable people, who don’t mind posing with you to take a photograph, as if you are old friends, and will spend time talking with you.
In March I attended the 11th National Black Writers Conference @ Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York and many of the writers whose works I have admired and even taught were there.
Four writers whose works have had profound impact on me, were also in attendance, in fact were honorees, Sonia Sanchez, whose stature and stance allowed space for my own voice as a poet to emerge, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, whose work served as the catalyst for me to go to Africa, Kenya specifically, Keorapetse Kgositsile, the current Poet Laureate of South African, whom I had first met in New York in the mid 70s when I was in college there, and Woodie King, Jr the African American director/playwright. I not only had the opportunity to hear them read, but I also got the chance to talk with each of them, we were photographed together.
Most thrilling was listening to them, and realizing that they have not given up or turned back, that the passion and revolution that I found in their respective works many years ago still exist today, thirty years later.
While I do not perceive myself as a groupie, and would not clamor to have my picture taken with some of the most celebrated movie stars, being in the room with these writers and others including Haiki Madhubuti and Ishmael Reed, together, at one time was analogous to a rock concert.
There is something electrifying that happens to a room when a group of powerful writers, whose politics and art chase justices and truth and always, always make sure to stare injustice and deceit down.
There is something analogous to riding through acres and acres of sunflowers in bloom shimming under the afternoon sun, when a group of such writers meet to converse, to share ideas, to just celebrate each other.
There is something transcendental that occurs when you sit in a room with astute and brilliant writers who laugh over simple things, and look you in the eye when you talk, but in a split second will say something so profound, so judicious about the current state of affairs in the world, that you wished you had thought of it from that angle, that you had been able to articulate it with such depth and ease.
There is indeed something that gives you pause, when you are one of these writes, and to others, younger, emerging writers you are the inspiration, the model on which they are measuring themselves.
There is this person called a writer who captures others through words, catch them like one lassos a horse and leads them through their language and trickery with words to drink from their cup; and this writer person does it so well, that others come and keep drinking from her cup, the new and the old ones, and when they encounter her, they tell her how filled they are from her cups of potion that they call books.
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