March 2019 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium & Tribute to Ntozake Shange

“Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads”

Saturday, March 23, 2019; 11 AM – 7:00 PM

On-site registration and check-in OPENS at 9:30 AM.

Edison O. Jackson (EOJ) Auditorium
Medgar Evers College, CUNY
1638 Bedford Ave. 
Brooklyn, NY 11225

Admission for Symposium– [Does not include the reception.]
General Donation: $20
Student/ Senior/ Faculty (with ID): $5  [ALL schools & colleges.]

FREE for Medgar Evers College, CUNY Students & Faculty (with ID)
Evening Reception Donation: 7 :00 PM, Sat., March 23, 2019: $20 – Location: Sky Light Cafe – 1638 Bedford Avenue, 2nd floor.

Eventbrite - National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium 2019: “Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads” & Tribute to Ntozake Shange

Advance and on-site tickets are on sale until filled to capacity. [Directions]

Bios of Symposium Participants

Program Schedule

Symposium Description

The 2019 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, “Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads,” is a public gathering of writers, scholars, literary professionals, performers, students, and the general public. It will provide a forum for examining the trends and themes addressed by Black playwrights and filmmakers; showcase the work of Black playwrights and screenwriters; and pay tribute to Ntozake Shange, Obie Award-winning renowned poet, playwright, and novelist. Ifa Bayeza, playwright, producer, novelist, and sister of Ntozake Shange is the featured speaker.

The Symposium will continue the conversation generated at the 14th National Black Writers Conference: “Gathering at the Waters, Healing, Legacy and Activism in the Literature of Black Writers.” Roundtable discussions and a town hall forum will focus on how race, politics, and popular culture influence literary writing, playwriting, and screenwriting on the stage and screen.   Speakers include Keith Josef Adkins, Amina Henry, Ladee Hubbard, Tracie Morris, Shaun Neblett, Marlon Rice, and Aurin Squire among others.

Read bios of participants here.

Honoring Her Work and Memory

About Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange (1948–2018) was a renowned and beloved poet, playwright, novelist, performance artist, essayist and educator, whose adopted Zulu name meant “She who walks like a lion and carries her own things.” Shange was a Black feminist icon who gave voice to and embodied the ongoing struggle of Black women and girls and all other women for equality and the recognition of their contributions to human culture. Above all, she spoke for them to live with dignity and respect in the context of systemic racism, sexism, and oppression.

Shange made major contributions to the genres of drama, fiction, memoir, and poetry. She is perhaps best known for her landmark work for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, which premiered at the New Federal Theatre, New York, in the summer of 1975, and in a meteoric move, opened at The Public Theater that fall and at the Booth Theatre on Broadway the following September. Her “choreopoem” recorded a two-and-a half-year run on Broadway and is recognized as one of the most produced college and amateur titles in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The play received an Obie Award in 1976, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award as well as Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award nominations. Shange also won an Obie Award in 1981 for her adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children at The Public Theater. Her other productions include A Photograph: A Study of Cruelty (1977), Boogie Woogie Landscapes (1977), Spell No. 7 (1979), and Black and White Two Dimensional Planes (1979).

In her prolific career, Shange authored 15 plays, 19 poetry collections, six novels, five children’s books and three collections of essays. She was near completion on three other books, one on the Black dance movement in the United States, and two collaborations with visual artists before her death. Her book Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems of Ntozake Shange (Simon & Schuster) was released in late 2017 and has attracted an enthusiastic critical reception. A posthumous reissue of her popular 1998 book of essays If I Can Cook / You Know God Can was released in February 2019 from Beacon Press. Her other works include Some Sing, Some Cry (2010), which she wrote with Ifa Bayeza; Betsey Brown (1985), Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter (1995), and Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo (1982). Among her poetry collections are I Live in Music (1994) with illustrations by Romare Bearden, A Daughter’s Geography (1983), and Nappy Edges (1978). She collaborated with photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop for a literary and visual narrative titled The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family (2004).

Born Paulette Linda Williams, Shange was raised mainly in Trenton, New Jersey, and St. Louis, Missouri, and is a graduate of Trenton High School, Barnard College, and the University of Southern California, where she earned an MA in American Studies. Shange taught at major universities, including Brown University, Rice University, University of Florida, Villanova University, DePaul University, Prairie View University, and Sonoma State University. She lectured extensively at perhaps a hundred different universities and colleges, including Yale, Howard, NYU, Mills College, the California State Colleges, and the City College of New York. She traveled the world, including a tour in South Africa with the renowned choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Her travels were also defined by her political calling, taking her to Black revolutionary spaces in the Caribbean, Cuba, Angola, and Nicaragua, where she often met and collaborated with progressive and populist artists.

Shange holds the 2016 Langston Hughes Medal; and in 2018 she was a recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award by the Poetry Society of America; and that same year, she was honored with the North Star Award from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. Other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize. Shange dedicated the last decade of her life to wellness and creativity. In addition to writing new works and developing new collaborations, she maintained her commitment to political change as an elder, serving as a rally speaker at both the Women’s March in 2017 and the March for Black Women in September 2018.