The Schomburg Center’s Literary festival made its live return to the streets of Harlem this weekend after being hosted online for two years during the height of the pandemic. The fourth annual celebration of Black joy, culture and writers was held at the famous research institute, with both indoor and outdoor access for visitors.
It’s not by coincidence either that the festival is being hosted during Juneteenth weekend, a holiday that celebrates the day the last enslaved population of Galveston, Texas learned of the emancipation of all enslaved people on June 19th, 1865. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.
“On a weekend where Black communities around this country mark the anniversary of Juneteenth, I can’t help remembering that reading was a revolutionary act every time a person of African descent defied society’s relegation of what enslaved persons should know about the world around them,” Novella Ford, Associate Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions at the Schomburg Center told CBS News. “The opportunity to gather book lovers in Harlem to interact with bold writers who imagine new worlds and help us make sense of our past and present is just one way we continue Arturo Schomburg’s legacy and honor the rebellious, joyful- privilege and necessity of reading.”
This year, the festival’s visual identity and aesthetic took its direction from Jennifer Mack-Watkins, printmaker and arts educator. Her work, “Take A Look…The Universe is Yours,” is featured on all promotional materials, and throughout the scene of the celebration.
From the early morning until dusk, storytelling workshops were held, public readings were taking place, and of course, hundreds of books were available for purchase. Many authors arrived in person to read their work, or to simply take part in the festivities.
Among the writers in attendance were Jason Reynolds (Stunt Boy, Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Patina, Ghost), Roxane Gay (Hunger, Bad Feminist, Difficult Women), journalist Linda Villarosa (Under the Skin: Racism, Inequality and the Health of a Nation) and Mateo Askaripour (Black Buck) and others.
Author and poet Mahogany L. Browne (Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, and Black Girl Magic) opened the event with the Woke Baby Children’s Festival featuring readings, crafts, and dancing that the little ones loved.
Author Jaqueline Woodson could also be seen reading her books to a small group of young children.
If you missed this year’s festival, don’t fret! Planning for 2023 begins now, and in the meantime, you can still support the Schomburg and The New York Public Library system at nypl.org/support.