Now celebrating its 15th year, The National Black Writers Conference, presented by The Center for Black Literature, will open on Sunday March 26 – Thursday, March 29, 2020 on the campus of Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The four-day event is a highly anticipated gathering of the some of the most celebrated writers of the African Diaspora. Every year, the conference attracts authors, scholars, literary professionals and students from across the country. Through a variety of panel discussion, workshops, author readings and film screenings, participants examine the state of black literature– honoring the pioneers, acknowledging the current trailblazers and looking at possibilities for the future.

Andrea J. Ritchie (l) and Desiree Cooper (r)

This year theme, “Activism, Identity, and Race: Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads,” is a continuation of a thematic conversation that first opened in 2019 at the Biennial Symposium– an expansion beyond literature to include the influence of writers in theatre and film.  

People browse the books on display at the National Black Writers Conference.

“Over the last decade, we have seen an increase in the writing and works by Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters focused on breaking new ground,” said Dr. Brenda Greene, founder of the Center for Black Literature and NBWC director. 

Dr. Brenda Greene moderated a roundtable discussion on “Interdisciplinary Perspective on Contemporary Plays by Black Writers”
Photo: BK Reader

“It’s important we include their works in this canon of writing, as they are creating bold new work in theater, film and television while also expanding the narrative of the Black experience in America and throughout the African Diaspora.”

Panelists and special guests will examine the ways race, identity, politics and popular culture shape the production of plays, films, and television shows. 

This year’s conference includes a pre-conference program on March 11, March 24 and March 25:

Pre-Conference

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11: John Oliver Killens Reading Series Program

Black Divas on Stage: Challenges of Women Playwrights with invited speakers Elizabeth Van Dyke, Lizan Mitchell, Ebony Jo-Ann, and Trazana Beverly.

6:30pm – 8:30pmEdison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College 

TUESDAY, MARCH 24: NBWC Poetry Slam

Host and MC: Tarashi “Midnight” Shuler; Presented and curated by GREEN EARTH POETS CAFÉ All poets are welcome to register on-site on the day of the event (no advance registration). Trophies and cash prizes will be awarded.

6:00pm – 8:00pm The MEC Café/Welcome Center at Medgar Evers College

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 Youth Day Literary Program

∎ 12:30pm – 3:00pmFounders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College ** High school literary program coordinated by Kel Spencer, Program Director, R.O.L.L., Center for Black Literature 

∎ 1:00pm– 3:00pm Founders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College ** Creative writing workshops with Liza Jessie Petterson, Nsangou Njikam and Michael Green

∎ 6:00pm – 9:00pm Founders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College:

Film Screening and Talkback: The Hate U Give (RT 2 hours 13 minutes) is a 2018 American drama film directed George Tillman Jr. with a screenplay by Audrey Wells. It is based on the 2017 young adult novel (of the same name) by Angie Thomas. Curated by Miles McAfee (School of Professional and Community Development, Medgar Evers College).

MAIN CONFERENCE PROGRAM

THURSDAY, MARCH 26

10:00am – 3:00pm Presentation of Conference Papers Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. Scholars and writers discuss works of honorees and featured speakers who have had their work developed into dramatic plays, screenplays, and documentaries. Curated by MUDIWA PETTUS (Assistant Professor of English, Medgar Evers College). Dr. Edith Rock 

 3:30pm– 5:00pm Elders Writing Workshop PresentationEdison O. Jackson Auditorium (EOJ) at Medgar Evers College.  Members of the Dr. Edith Rock Elders Writing Workshop will present readings on the theme called “Home Remedies” and will travel the African Diaspora with sharp, funny memories of poultices, powders, and potions created to maintain wellness in our diverse Black communities. 

6:30pm – 8:30pm NBWC Poetry Café Dweck Cultural Center at Central Brooklyn Public Library. Curated by WENDY ROBINSON and TAI ALLEN 

Dominique Morisseau, Stanley Nelson, Liza Jessie Peterson, Richard Wesley

FRIDAY, MARCH 27

11:00am – 12:30pm Fiction and Playwriting Talkshops  Medgar Evers College Rooms: TBA Workshop Leaders: DONNA HILL (fiction) and LIZA JESSIE PETERSON (playwriting) 

11:00am – 12:30pm TOWN HALL The Role of the Media, Critics, and Reviewers on Black Plays and Film  PM Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. The conversation will include emerging and seasoned panelists whose work is impacted by professional critics and the media-at-large. Also, audience members will be encouraged to provide their views on the subject and suggest ways for moving forward. Speakers: Lisa Cortés, Vincent Cunningham, David Greaves, Pamela Newkirk, and Marcia Pendelton. Moderator: BRIDGETT M. DAVIS Sponsored by Our Time Press 

1:00pm – 2:30pm ROUNDTABLE The Impact of Hip-Hop and Popular Culture on Black Playwriting and Screenwriting  PM Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. Panelists will examine how hip-hop and popular culture has influenced and shaped the plays, films, and television scripts created by Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters. They will also look at trends in experimental theater and independent films by Black playwrights and screenwriters. Speakers: Dasan Ahanu, Radha Blank (pictured), Shaun Neblett, NSangou Njikam, and Carl Hancock Rux. Moderator: SADE LYTHCOTT of the National Black Theatre. 

3:00pm – 4:30pm ROUNDTABLE Telling Our Stories: Transcending Barriers and Boundaries on Stage and Screen  Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College ** Artists and writers interrogate their interior lives and collective experiences to document their stories in a country where racism, sexual violence, gender discrimination, alienation, miseducation, immigration, and cultural conflicts are very present. The speakers here will explore these issues in theater, film, and television. Speakers: Donja R. Love, Amina Henry, Nina Angela Mercer, and H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams. | Moderator: DIONNE BENNETT 

5:00 PM – 6:00 Dramatic Presentations PM Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College: ALEXIS ALLEYNE-CAPUTO, interdisciplinary artist, writer, and filmmaker; and TRACIE MORRIS, poet, educator, and performance artist. 

7:00pm– 9:00pm OPENING CEREMONY  Founders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. The official opening of the 15th National Black Writers Conference will feature a robust conversation with Ngozi Anyanwu, Stanley Nelson, Woodie King Jr. (pictured), and Voza Rivers. Moderator: NINA ANGELA MERCER. Hosted by LURIE DANIEL-FAVORS 

SATURDAY, MARCH 28

11:00am – 12:30pm Publishing, Poetry, Screenwriting, Playwriting Talkshops  Medgar Evers College; Workshop Leaders: GLENDA HOWARD (publishing), ARRIEL VINSON (poetry), BRIDETT DAVIS (screenwriting), and DARRELL HOLNES (playwrighting). 

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM Short Film Screenings and Talkback ImageNation’s Sol Cinema Cafe presents RACE CARD: Short Films Exploring Activism, Identity, and Race Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College ** ImageNation’s Sōl Cinema Cafe is proud to present RACE CARD: Short Films Exploring Activism, Identity, and Race. These short works delve into these issues with wit, humor and brutal honesty, in an effort to spark dialogue and effect change. 

1:00pm – 2:30pm PANEL DISCUSSION Defying Stereotypes: Writing Plays, Films, and Scripts from the Black Gaze  PM Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College ** Panelists will explore the manner in which Black playwrights, screenwriters, and scriptwriters provide the Black gaze in the works they create.  Panelists: Sandra Shannon, Shay Youngblood, Eisa Davis, and B. Nandi Jacob. Moderator: WALLACE L. FORD II 

2:45pm – 4:00pm ROUNDTABLE The Playwright and Screenwriter as Activist  PM Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. The panelists of this roundtable discussion will examine how today’s climate influences character, plot, and viewpoint in the works they create. Speakers: Keith Josef Adkins, Ngozi Anyanwu, Kia Corthron, Antoinette Nwandu, and Liza Jessie Peterson. Moderator: ADESOLA OSAKALUMI 

4:15pm – 5:30pm ROUNDTABLE Black Theater and Film: Looking Back, Moving Forward “Celebrating 50 Years of Advancing Knowledge, Social Justice, and Excellence” at Medgar Evers College, CUNY Edison O. Jackson Auditorium at Medgar Evers College. Panelists take a look at current and future trends in plays, screenplays, and scripts written by Black writers and address the question: Do we need more complex and nuanced stories in theater, television, and film? Speakers: Carl Clay, Aurin Squire (pictured), Elizabeth Van Dyke, and Richard Wesley. Moderator: SANDRA ADELL 

7:30pm – 9:00pm  NBWC AWARDS AND TRIBUTE PROGRAM  Founders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College  A Tribute to Toni Morrison by SANDRA GUZMAN, journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author. Presentations by 15th NBWC Honorees CARL CLAY, DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU, STANLEY NELSON, VOZA RIVERS, and RICHARD WESLEY. Hosted by ANTOINETTE ROBERSON 

SUNDAY, MARCH 29

11:00am – 12:30pm Screenwriting, Poetry, Publishing, and Young Adult Fiction Talkshops Medgar Evers College (Rooms TBA) Workshop Leaders: CEDRIC HILL (screenwriting), ROSAMOND KING (poetry), NORMA PEREZ HERNANDEZ (publishing), ARRIEL VINSON (young adult fiction) 

12:00pm– 4:30pm NBWC Film Festival  Founders Auditorium at Medgar Evers College Curated and coordinated by AFRICAN VOICES/REEL SISTERS OF THE DIASPORA FILM FESTIVAL 

5:00pm – 7:00pm NBWC CLOSING PROGRAM For the Culture  Medgar Evers College (Room TBA) A stellar roster of hip-hop, spoken word, and performance artists will examine films and plays from sociocultural, political, and global perspectives. Also, they’ll discuss the intersections of activism, identity, race, and art in theater and film. Speakers: Talib Kweli and jessica Care moore Moderator: APRIL R. SILVER of AKILA WORKSONGS (NBWC Presenting Partner) 

For more information and more details on the conference, go here.

For tickets to the conference, go here.


Update 3/11/20: BK Reader has been informed that, due to public health concerns surrounding the spread of the Coronavirus, the 15th Annual National Black Writers Conference (NBWC), scheduled for March 26 – 29, 2020, has been postponed. If you have any questions or concerns, including questions about refunds, please direct your inquires to the CBL office at 718 804 8883 or via email at writers@mec.cuny.edu
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