By: Micaela Shambee– Editor, The Drive
— On Friday, April 13th 2018, at Chicago State University, the first Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival took place in honor of the late Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000). Held on the fourth floor of the recently renamed Gwendolyn Brooks Library, the day long event treated attendees to inspiring speeches and performances by young poets from High schools and Grammar schools across Chicago.
The honorees, Nora Blakely (Gwendolyn Brooks’ daughter), Haki Madhubuti (Third World Press), and Emily Lansana (University of Chicago) gave rousing speeches, and shared stories of their experiences with Gwendolyn Brooks. In addition, attendees were treated to amazing performances by Chicago State University MFA students Reshay Ingram, and Jerimah Moore, spoken word community group Rebirth/Reborn and student poets from Wendell Philips Academy.
Click here to see MFA Students Reading from our Facebook live: facebook.com/thedrivestudentblog
The festival left attendees with a full understanding of the impact that Gwendolyn Brooks has had on Chicago State University, poetry, and children. Gwendolyn Brooks was known as the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her 1949 book Annie Allen. (Also paving the way for new Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar).
According to PoetryFoundation.org,
“Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most highly regarded, highly influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. She was a much-honored poet, even in her lifetime, with the distinction of being the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. She also was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois. Many of Brooks’s works display a political consciousness, especially those from the 1960s and later, with several of her poems reflecting the civil rights activism of that period. Her body of work gave her, according to critic George E. Kent, ‘a unique position in American letters. Not only has she combined a strong commitment to racial identity and equality with a mastery of poetic techniques, but she has also managed to bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young black militant writers of the 1960s.’
Learn more about Gwendolyn Brooks at the PoetryFoundation.org
The Gwendolyn Brooks Center
Also, check out the Gwendolyn Brooks Center to learn more about Brooks’ impact on Chicago State University in the Gwendolyn Brooks Library.
From the Library’s Website:
“Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing (GBC) was founded in 1990 on the historic campus of Chicago State University (CSU). It is named after Ms. Brooks, the former Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois and Distinguished Professor of English at Chicago State University. This Gwendolyn Brooks Conference for Black Literature and Creative Writing is sponsored by [sic] The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago State University College of Arts & Sciences.”
Did you attend the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Festival? What was your favorite moment? Who was your favorite speaker? Sound off in the comments below!
Stay informed, open-minded, and driven.
Event Photos courtesy of The Drive Student Blog and Dr. Kelly Norman Ellis (Chicago State University)