In an era where YouTube videos and internet memes have become a primary source of information for some conscious Black people, a local division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) will once again connect the D.C. metropolitan area’s Pan-African community to those who’ve written a bevy of hard-hitting literary works.
The “Know Thyself Book Fair and Author’s Forum” will feature 32 authors from the D.C. area selling copies of their books and engaging readers in conversation about their craft. Organizers said the event, scheduled for at 11 a.m. Saturday in the main gymnasium of the Thurgood Marshall Center in Northwest, serves a multitude of goals relevant to the social uplift of Black people.
“We want to reinforce the love of reading books in our millennials, Generation Xers and baby boomers and the principles of Kwanzaa while exposing the community to local entrepreneurs,” said Laureen Butler, first vice president of Woodson Banneker Jackson Bey Division 330 of the UNIA-ACL.
Butler and her husband Charles, co-chairs of the UNIA-ACL Division 330’s education committee, coordinated the “Know Thyself Book Fair and Author’s Forum,” the second consecutive gathering of its kind.
The inaugural event, which took place last year at Roots Public Charter School on Kennedy Street NW, featured a bevy of authors and presenters, including professor Kimberly A. Collins who shared gems about the self-publishing process.
Authors scheduled to attend the book fair include Askia Muhammad, Nana Farika Berhane, Jeff Menzise, Ph.D., Tony Browder, Ayo Handy-Kendi, C.R. Gibbs, and Nkechi Taifa. Featured guest speaker Tom Porter will explain the lucrativeness of selling books overseas.
Other literary wares on sale include the Black Seeds Calendar, a well-regarded repository of Pan-African history, health, and culture doled out annually. Baba Mosi Matsimela, president of UNIA-ACL Division 330, will also sell books written by and about Marcus Garvey, the founder and first president-general of the UNIA-ACL and arguably one of the most significant Black leaders of the 20th century.
“We’re following the Marcus Garvey philosophy of doing for self and in that process, we want to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Charles Butler said as he referenced the disciplines scheduled to be on display, including economics, philosophy, education, and books by and for children.
The Butlers revealed plans to host author forums and study groups in the future to build off the momentum of the annual book fair, saying that it would allow readers of various generations to make personal connections to the reading materials, and those who produce it.
“We have to be well read and with the right background before we start talking about philosophies,” he continued. “If we pulled all of our Black authors, that perspective would be the same for all of us. That’s the undergirding foundation of the book fair, because these authors have done a lot of research and written a lot of material.”
For Nana Farika Berhane, a prolific Pan-African writer, Rastafari community elder and returning book fair author, conversing with guests last year allowed for greater appreciate her unique catalog that documents her experiences in Jamaica, at the sixth Pan-African Congress in Tanzania in 1974, and during the Black Power era.
“It’s good for authors to be together in one place so you could have a choice,” said Berhane, author of “Africa on the Move: Communiques on the AU Global Diaspora and the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary,” and “Sing I a Song of Black Freedom,” both of which she had on sale last year.
“People asked me about the background of ‘Sing I a Song of Black Freedom,’” she said. “It was published in Palo Alto, California [a center of Black power at the time]. People weren’t so accustomed to learning about the Black Power era from a Caribbean woman’s perspective,”