The 10th Black Pack Party, like all the others, was a wonderful celebration. Hosted during Book Expo America each year, the Black Party Party is an annual celebration where Black book publishing professionals, writers, and avid readers come together to celebrate each other and have a good time.
This year’s party was held in Chicago, IL and is only the 2nd time it was held outside of Harlem, NY (the 3rd anniversary celebration was held in Los Angeles, CA). The following are just a few highlights from the evening from my perspective.
I’ve moderated discussion forums on AALBC.com for almost 18 years. About 12 years ago a writer using the alias “Cynique” began contributing. She is a brilliant commentator, with a sharp wit and and insight informed by both great-grandmotherly wisdom and a new age sensibility. She is cynical, a contrarian, and never backs down from a debate. She is one reason I enjoy the forums. Given the stiff competition put up by social media “Cynique” is one reason the discussion forums are still alive. Several years ago, I renamed one of our discussion forums after her, “Cynique’s Corner.” Well after more than 12 years of a cyber-relationship I had the pleasure of finally meeting Connie Bradley a.k.a “Cynique” for the first time! It was like meeting a super star.
Here I’m with Kai EL’Zabar who is the Executive Editor of The Chicago Defender. Kai, teamed up with us to co-host this year’s party she selected the venue, Norman’s Bistro on Chicago’s South Side and helped promote the event. As executive editor of one of the most important Black owned newspapers in the country, Kai is a powerful women. I’m looking forward to working with her more closely. She recognizes the importance of ensuring we own platforms and continue to tell our own stories. Kai recently published an article on The Defender’s website, “Blacks Showcase at Book Expo 2016 In Chicago.” Her coverage of our participation at book expo is so important because it tells the world we were there, we had an impact, and what we did mattered.
In this shot from left to right is the author Q.B. Wells; me; award winning playwright, Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert; playwright, Ilesa Duncan; and Kevin Roberts owner of Azizi Bookstore (the physical store is now closed).
This was a fun table. I already knew Kevin and Q.B., but this was the first time I met Tsehaye and Ilesa. They were both very interesting women. Ilesa is the Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s artistic director and is adapting Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. As mentioned Tsehaye is an award winning playwright and serves a playwright-in-residence at Chicago State University. She is also the recipient of the New Voices and Visions Award (Louisiana State University) among others. Prestige and accomplishments aside these were just some really cool people.
I had the pleasure of meeting author J. Marcellus Burke (pictured) and his publisher Bennett Johnson of Path Press. Bennnet who was previously Vice President at Third World Press, recently published Marcellus’ historical novel, The Black Knights. The novel is a fact based story about four fighter pilots who served in the German Luftwaffe (Air Force). I’m reading Burke’s novel now.
Here, in the white framed spectacles, is Kwame Alexander, who is the author of The Crossover, which was awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal for Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children, has done more for Black books than I can relate in a single blog post. In fact, in 1998 he hosted an historic event called 360º A Revolution of Black Poets. He put me on my first panel discussion. Kwame has always helped elevate AALBC.com from the very beginning.
On Kwame’s left is the the writer Earl Sewell. Earl has published about 20 books, but more importantly he constantly supports other writers. On Sewell’s left is Earl Cox. I first met Earl in the late 90s, when AALBC.com was in its infacncy. As an industry professional Earl taught me a lot about the publishing industry and introduced me to several key publishing professionals. As an entrepreneur he and I have worked on a number of projects and continue to do so to this day. Crouching up from is Dr. Obari Cartman. I met Obari at the party and will definitely follow his work. His first book, Lady’s Man: Conversations for Young Black Men about Relationships and Manhood has been praised by Na’im Akbar and Jawanza Kunjufu.
Here are two ladies, Maya Smart and Tiki Massie, from one of my favorite book clubs, Go On Girl! Book Club, Inc. The clubs boasts hundreds of members in chapters across the country. The club is hosting their 25th Annual Awards in New Orleans this week (June 2 – 5, 2016). I also work with Go On Girl! Book Club, Inc. in variety of ways. Currently, I donate all profits from books sold on Go On Girl! Book Club’s reading list to charities support by the book club.
Go On Girl! was not the only book club present; Sistahs On The Reading Edge from Antioch, CA was there as well. The general public may know this club as the group who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit for damages as a result of an August 2015 incident in which the women were accused, of being too loud and removed from the train. But I know this group as a cohesive group of women who can be found at literary events across the country. The club’s president and co-founder, Lisa Renee Johnson (pictured) is also a published author whose debut novel Dangerous Consequences was published in 2011. Lisa also actively works to help writers and entrepreneurs succeed.
Of course there were many more terrific book people at the event. For example, author Asadah Kirkland, who runs The Soulful Chicago Book Fair (coming July 16, 2016), danced as if no one was watching. Author and publisher Ivy Valentine Pate was there with her mom, Gwen Valentine. Publicist, Laini Brown whose clients include Bishop T.D. Jakes were among many others who enjoyed the festivities.
Most years we take a group photograph, but we skipped it this year. Without the benefit of photographer Marcia Wilson, who has taken all of the previous group shots, coordinating effort would have been more complicated and broken the flow of the evening. Hopefully others, who attended, will share their photos or post links, in the comments section below, and let us know how they enjoyed the event.
Finally, I’d like to thank the other hosts of this year’s gathering, The African American Children’s Book Project (Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati), The Chicago Defender (Kai EL’Zabar), Linda Duggins, Mosaic (Ron Kavanaugh), Say It Loud! Readers & Writers (Patrick Oliver), and Written Magazine (Michelle Gipson). You are all warriors in your respective fields.
Next year’s the party will be held in New York City. The date will be Wednesday, May 31, 2017. I hope to see you there!