Long before mainstream book sellers recognized the value of literature written by and about African Americans, independent black-owned book retailers fought to stay afloat and opened their doors to books from small presses and self-published authors.
The 13th Black Writers on Tour event April 26 at the LAX Crown Plaza Hotel will pay homage to seven of these retailers and one library during a luncheon presenting their literary awards.
"These bookstores have played such a part. . . When Barnes and Noble would not take self-published authors and books from small publishers, they (the black independents) kept their doors open and brought in these authors as speakers. Now many of the authors who are big time selling books got their starts in these little books stores until the mainstream recognized them," said Rosie Milligan, executive director of the Black Writers on Tour.
The stores to be honored are Eso Won Books, Nu Lyte Books, Shore Books, Smiley's, Windsor Hills Books, Word of Life Christian Books and Zahra's Books n Things. In addition the A.C. Bilbrew Library which has more black books than any library west of the Mississippi, will also be recognized.
The luncheon will feature Claud Anderson, author of "PowerNomics: The National Plan to Empower Black America," as keynote speaker. The mistresses of ceremonies for the luncheon is Bernadette Stannis of the television show Good Times, and Pam Powell (the Hope Doctor).
The luncheon is part of a day-long collection of free workshops, paid how-to writing and publishing seminars and interactive competitions that comprise the Black Writes on Tour 2008.
The day begins at 8 a.m. with a breakfast and roundtable involving self-published and mainstream authors giving the real low-down on what having your own book means.
"There are nine writer's workshops and 10 non-writer workshops," explained Milligan. "These include the "Let the Elders Speak Forum" where people ages 65 to 100 years old who have written books bring forth their wisdom and talk about their thoughts."
Among those scheduled to talk at this 9:30 a.m. event are Ernie Smith, author of "Nigger: A Divine Origin;" Robert Stovall, who wrote "We have Known Rivers;" Elfleda Tate, author of "Legacy of Tragedy: American History Revisited" and more.
"A lot of blacks want to read when the materials are relevant to their experiences. I thought it was time for us to not to allow the gatekeepers to tell us what to write and what to read," said Milligan, who added that attempts to direct and restrict what African Americans read continues to happen even today.
Black Writers on Tour will feature author's exhibits and book signings throughout the day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other activities include a 10 a.m. children's showcase, where the winners of a writing competition for 10 to 15 year olds will be revealed and the youth will read from their works. A free seminar from 4:30 to 6 p.m. called "Healing Hurting Women" will discuss domestic violence, life coaching and self image while participants can learn what stands between you and your wealth at a 3 p.m. workshop called "Health and Wealth." An 11 a.m. seminar will be led by Dr. Anthony Samad author of "Saving the Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom."
There is a charge for the publishing and writing seminars, except the children's writing class from noon to 1:30 p.m.. The remainder of the workshops are free and include sessions, "Survival Strategies and Success Tools for Today's Teens" beginning at 1:30 p.m. and "What Parents and Educators Must Do Now to Make Black Children Feel Good About Themselves," which begins at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.blackwritersontour.com or call (323) 750-3592.