Reading buffs will be able to follow a new literary event online, despite lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates. On December 5 independent publisher and bookseller Jacaranda is launching a new literary festival devoted to black authors in the UK. Its goal? To explore the black experience through writing.
This festival is in keeping with the "Twenty in 2020" initiative through which Jacaranda published 20 fiction, non-fiction and poetry books by black British writers throughout the year. Njambi McGrath, Katy Massey, Sareeta Domingo, Abidemi Sanusi, Tolu Agbelusi and more were featured in that program, which aims to "normalize the presence of diverse literature and to embed the voices of emerging Black authors as valued members of British culture and society."
"Twenty in 2020" festival participants will be able to follow video conferences notably on "Empowering Black Women Through Romance Writing" and "Between Two Worlds: Exploring Mixed-Race identity." Writer Stella Oni will host a seminar discussing her experience as a crime writer, while Shola von Reinhold will tackle black queer censorship in the literary sphere in another seminar.
"This year has been a difficult year, particularly for the black community, but it has also been a year of great achievement, showing our resilience, creativity and talent. The #TwentyIn2020 programme was created to celebrate and share diverse black British voices and stories and this festival is a perfect representation of that vision, paying homage to the 20 incredible black British writers of #TwentyIn2020," said Jazzmine Breary of Jacaranda in a press release published by The Bookseller.
Black literature matters
The festival will donate part of its proceeds to British Black Cultural Archives, whose goal is to gather documents showcasing African and Caribbean contributions to British society.
While this year's Black Lives Matter demonstrations saw growing interest for black authors, some booksellers are joining forces to create an enduring movement. "We want people to see reading books by black authors as a habit, as opposed to something you pick up in October [Black History Month]," said Carolynn Bain to The Guardian. She launched her online bookstore Afrori Books, in July, to showcase black literature.
That's also why publisher Penguin Random House recently partnered with Runnymede Trust, to diversify its lists of literary works studied in British schools through the "Lit in Colour" program. The first results of this initiative will be unveiled in 2021. It follows the publication of an alarming report by Teach First which showed that British students could end their secondary studies without studying a single novel or play written by a black author or from any ethnic minority.