By Marc W. Polite
Good evening, my readers. Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the 14th annual Langston Hughes Literary Arts Festival. Held at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, this was the first in-person festival hosted by the library since 2019. The theme of this year’s festival was “Tell The Stories, Teach The History” – and that is precisely what attendees heard. The event took place on Saturday, October 22nd, 2022.
The festival opened with an author talk from Prof. Lissette Acosta Corniel of BMCC discussing her research on the life experiences of those enslaved in Hispaniola. Moderated by Jhensen Ortiz, a librarian at the Dominican Studies Institute, attendees learned of how people hold on to their culture in the face of brutal exploitation. Those present were also informed of a site about the first Blacks in the Americas, a resource curated by DSI.
The second panel was an open mic presented by the Harlem Writers Guild. Keeping with the theme of “tell the stories, write the history”, panelists Judy C. Andrews, Marc Polite, and John Robinson read poems from their most recent books and projects.
After this panel, we heard from contemporary writers from the Caribbean. The panel featured Elizabeth Nunez, Cleyvis Natera, and Maisy Card, moderated by Regina Bernard-Carreno. There was an interesting discussion here about silencing and how that plays a role in the understanding of history.
To close out the informative Saturday afternoon, we saw a one-man act of excerpts from the Richard Wright novel Black Boy. Performed by Tarantino Smith, the issues wrestled with by the famed novelist were brought to today’s audience. Smith works with the Literature to Life program, whose purpose is to encourage young people to read. In an engaging question-and-answer session after the performance, Smith noted that there were occasions when viewers of his performance now wanted to read Black Boy. It likely resonated with their lives in some way. “Once you figure out what your hunger is, you can feed yourself”, said Smith.
Thank you to the courteous staff of the Langston Hughes Community Library, as well as the attendees who came out on a Saturday afternoon. It was a good event.