Black literary voices John A. Williams and Paule Marshall.

The literary careers of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams will be recognized and celebrated at the National Black Writers biennial Symposium, held by the Center for Black Literature.

The virtual one-day event titled They Cried I Am: The Life and Work of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams, Unsung Black Literary Voices will take place on March 27 from 11am-7pm.

Marshall and Williams contributed seminal works centered on the African American experience in a time when those narratives were uncommon and despite their enduring themes, they remain unsung voices of American and Caribbean literature, CBL said in a statement.

“Their novels, short stories, and essays issued a call to America: “I Am,” the statement said.

The keynote address We Cried I Am: Paule Marshall and John A. Williams. Why the Works of Paule Marshall and John A. Williams Matter will delve into the ways the honorees’ works relate to the current social and political environment.

A group of scholars and writers will offer academic and personal perspectives of Marshall’s and Williams’s work through well as readings, panels, roundtables and dramatic presentations.

Authors including Edwidge Danticat, Donna Hill and Liza Jessie Peterson will headline the day. Presenters include Dr. Carole Boyce-Davies, Wallace Ford, Keith Gilyard, Maryemma Graham, Michael Anthony Green, Lawrence P. Jackson, Evan Marshall, Ishmael Reed, Linda Villarosa and Mary Helen Washington.

There will also be a musical tribute from jazz singer Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, a presentation of awards to the honorees and remarks from family members of Marshall and Williams.

CBL has previously honored the works of Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez— who all support the annual event. The Center has also created platforms for Black writers and thinkers, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kevin Powell, asha bandele, Jelani Cobb and Joan Morgan.

It’s mission is to expand, broaden and enrich the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the value of Black literature. It does that through programs that build an audience for reading, discussion and critical analysis of contemporary Black literature and create a forum for its research and study.

Over the past year there has been a heighted interest in Black literature that has added more fuel to CBL’s commitment to spotlight Black writers – including those who may not be as well-known, but whose work has significantly impacted literature across cultures, CBL said in a statement.

The National Black Writers Biennial Symposium is one avenue the Center is doing that. Tickets are free for Medgar Evers College students and faculty and are $20 for the general public. To register for the event, click here.

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