In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection ‘Annie Allen’. This year’s National Black Writers Conference in New York aims to shed light on Brooks, whose work is much deeper than what’s found in your average poetry anthology.
“We are doing this not to only remember her and her legacy but to spread the word about the kind of writing she did, and to help expand the canon so that we begin to teach more of Gwendolyn Brooks’ works in high schools and in colleges,” said Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. “We don’t have to only study her when Women’s History or Black History Month comes about.”
Center for Black Literature Director Clarence Reynolds says everyone is invited to the day-long conference on Saturday.
“We have a lot of people who are going to attend that are fans of Gwendolyn Brooks’ work, who are also fans of some of the other writers that are on the panel or during the discussion. Also people who want to support black literature,” said Reynolds.
Nicholas Nichols, a Brooklyn based poet, is a National Black Writers Conference committee member. He says Brooks' work has been a tremendous influence.
“If we don’t know the people who had pushed for us, if we don’t know the people who made the sacrifices in their own careers and lives with their very breath they made the steps that we can stand on,” Nichols said. “We’re legitimately standing on their shoulders, so if we don’t know our foundation, then how are we going to move further?”
You can see the full program schedule at centerforblackliterature.org.