A wordsmith’s delight: 31 days of writing events during the Celebration of Black Writing

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Children in the sand at "Chicken Bone Beach," a photograph by John W. Mosley displayed in the Chicken Bone Beach exhibit at Art Sanctuary Gallery from May 1 through May 31.

Over the course of its 30-year existence, the Celebration of Black Writing has grown from a single-day literary event to a month-long festivity, spotlighting notable writers and the history of black writing in society and culture. This May marks the 30th anniversary of the event in Philadelphia and below is some of its highlights.

Art Sanctuary Gallery gets the month started with the opening of the Chicken Bone Beach exhibit that’s available throughout the course of the month on Mondays through Saturdays, starting Thursday, May 1 at 10 a.m. Curated by Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, the show displays photographs by John W. Mosley taken at a stretch of Atlantic City beach known as “Chicken Bone Beach,” where many, from public figures—such as Martin Luther King, Jr.—to casual beachgoers vacationed during the Civil Rights era.

Pre-school children will get an education in writing at the Art Sanctuary’s Storytelling Circle on Friday, May 2. Various writers will share some of their work and delve into the ties it has to the African American culture. The one-hour event begins at 10 a.m.

CBW will have a display during the outdoor South Street Spring Festival on Saturday, May 3 where, starting at 11 a.m., writers will share work, hands-on art activities for kids will be available and creativity is encouraged.  

Another ongoing series that launches Tuesday, May 6 is In the Sanctuary. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday a different local author will be interviewed and will read excerpts of his or her work for this PECO-sponsored podcast taping, taking place at Art Sanctuary from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Turiya Raheem, author of Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City, Victoria Huggins Peurifoy, author of A Blade of Grace and Vanna B, author of FANCY: Handbags, Heels, and Hard Times are just a few of these authors. The final "In the Sanctuary" of the month on Thursday, May 29 will be directed toward a younger audience and begin at 10 a.m.

Black writing will be deeper explored, discussed and developed at two literary and arts conferences and workshops held at both Temple University on Saturday, May 10 and University of the Arts on Saturday, May 17. The all-day events will feature speakers and performers Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement at Temple University, Aja and Fatin Dantzler of the music duo Kindred the Family Soul, and Max Rodriguez, founder of the Harlem Book Fair. 

Take a break from your latest draft and attend Sanctuary LIVE! at Art Sanctuary at 7 p.m., where jazz vocalist Laurin Talese will serenade the crowd as they sip on wine and munch on light bites at this Friday, May 16 event.

The month closes out on Friday, May 30 where author Ernest Gaines (A Lesson Before Dying, A Gathering of Old Men, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman) will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and for the first time ever, the Gamble and Huff Award for Excellence in Songwriting will be granted to Philadelphia producing duo Carvin & Ivan, who have written and produced songs for Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Justin Timberlake and more. The ceremony starts at 7 p.m. at the Temple University Performing Arts Center

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