UrbanArtistry is a nonprofit program, (supported by the Claude Harvard Foundation), dedicated to bringing art to young and old in the most interesting ways. This journal will have comments from those participating in the first UrbanArtistry workshop in Detroit, Michigan as well as the other events to follow. UrbanArtistry:Detroit creative focus is POETRY. Come journey with us as we explore the arts and contribute to the greatest good!

Monday, October 24, 2005

15th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writer's Conference


Place: Chicago State University, Chicago IL
Date: October 22, 2005
Purpose: Celebrate a slew of Literary writers with emphasis on OCTAVIA BUTLER

It's 9am and not many people fill the Rotunda. 9:45am brings scholars Sandra Govan and others to conversation around the life, work, and influence of Octavia Butler. Some of us (myself-Mursalata, my two daughters, Felicia and her mom Angie) listen interestingly while others play GameBoy AdvanceSP's to what the first round of scholars have to say about Ms. Butler. It is a good listening occasion until the dialogue turns into a "Let's read our essays on Bulter's works" session. This is the point I see my opportunity exist open. So I take it. We leave so I can begin my trade off with my children... to the American Girls Store we go.

Some time there and I'll have a deaf ear for them if/when they begin to complain about the remainder of the conference schedule. We arrive at the American Girls Store and my mind is assaulted, heavily and relentlessly, by commercialism. I'm dumbfounded by sights and sounds of this over-priced simulation of whole-someness. Still I fulfill my duty and will return someday better prepared for the madness.

Back at the conference, consumerism satisfied, gamboys, video and camera ready to receive the next minutes that bring us closer to Ms. Butler-- I wait.

She walks slowly, luminously into the rotunda. I know something has changed in the air. Is it lighter? Brighter? Nope, but it sure seemed smarter in the room. She's introduced by words that mean little to those who've read her work. She walks to the tables set in front of us all; her movements segmented, calculated for a time suitable to them and her height.

She opens the dialogue with discussion about doubts on whether she'd have another novel completed in this life time. These are words, I didn't expect to hear, this also reminded me I had no expectations except to know I must see her because she's growing old and after all August Wilson just died under my nose. Her voice, low, steady, measured brought some words I expected, but hoped not to hear from my youngest daughter...

"Is she a girl or a boy?"

"Ah," I replied, "the question of gender and what makes is need to know my child is one of the many subjects explored in Ms. Butler's work."

Without blinking for far too long, my daughter stared at me so I took the hint and just said,

"Yeah, she's a girl."

"Oh, that's what I thought" and our gender issue was over.

Anyway, back to Ms. Butler. She signed every book placed in front of her, even when the guy with 7 or 8 books was next in line, she signed them all. When Felicia, a 13 year old radio reporter asked for an interview, she was not denied. Ms. Butler invited her to call the next day at 1pm for an interview (Mental note check to see if Felicia called).

her most important insights, for me, where those on writer's block. Yes it happened just keep writing. And on research for writing, don't be surprised about how much you may have to do to complete your projects.

This year's writer's conference was great. I bought books, took pictures and had conversations with so many of my S/heros: Octavia Butler, Lemont Stepto, Sterling Plummp. Got to meet new folks on the literary scene: Deborah Santana, Jaisia and others. I finally got a copy of the movie The Spook Who Sat By the Door and Toot & Blow the directorial debut by an up & coming Director. I even got to talk to the cool/hip/critic poet Keith Gilyard. The big bonus... My poem Giddy Muslim Girls appears in this year's journal Warpland.

Next year I hope to be there and take more young people to experience this literary celebration!


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