The seventh annual Know Thyself Book Fair takes place this year amid ongoing attempts by GOP lawmakers and some white parents to prevent U.S. students from learning about how African Americans persevered in a racial caste system.
Several Black authors, including Dr. Nubia Kai, will bring to light that history during the book fair, scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage in Northwest D.C.
At the book fair, Kai, an award-winning playwright, poet and novelist, will present and sell copies of her 2016 novel, “I Spread My Wings and Fly.” This work, a decade in the making, describes in great detail the history of Maroon resistance in southern Louisiana.
While much scholarship about marronage, through which enslaved Africans escaped captivity and preserved their Afro-indigenous culture in their independently formed communities, focuses on the Caribbean and South America, Kai said that she has set out to highlight similar movements that took place in the U.S throughout the antebellum period.
She described it as part of her effort to inspire, and motivate, young people who are inundated with negative images and messages about their self-worth.
“It’s so important when children know that their ancestors fought, resisted and formed independent communities right here in the U.S.,” Kai told The Informer. “That inclination [for resistance[ is already in them naturally. You’re trying to make them understand that when they see what our ancestors did, they know we can do it again. We see it in the natural expression of our arts and our collective consciousness. The youth are so intelligent.”
Kai counts among several dozen authors of various ages who will present and sell literary works during the Know Thyself Book Fair. This event, sponsored by the Woodson Banneker Jackson-Bey Div. 330 of the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League and Heritage Gallery, will provide a platform for Black self-published authors across various genres, including history, poetry, art, prose, and children’s literature.
Queen Laureen Butler, president of Woodson Banneker Jackson Bey Div. 330, called the annual book fair an opportunity to start Black History Month on the right foot. For her, it’s a matter of not only preserving the legacy of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Amy Ashwood Garvey, but familiarizing community members with those living among them who’ve created significant literary works.
“We want to emphasize that when you see these Black authors who wrote these books, you can do the same thing,” said Butler, a retired teacher with nearly 40 years of classroom experience. She organized the event with her husband and fellow Div. 330 Education Committee Chair Charles Butler. “We [also] encourage any kind of reading. We want people to be aware. There are so many adults who don’t know our history. We want to perpetuate that and increase the love and necessity of reading. It’s not acting white, it’s acting African.”
Mr. Butler echoed his wife’s sentiments, telling The Informer that the book fair builds upon other Div. 330 educational projects focused on connecting young people to highly esteemed community elders. At some school districts counter attempts to teach Black history, Butler said it’s incumbent upon independent Black-led institutions to provide that space.
“Our children can’t learn in a hostile environment,” said Butler, who’s also a retired educator with 40 years of experience. “It has to be full of caring and love and that’s what Black teachers bring to the educational experience… Young people don’t listen to African history when people omit and misrepresent things. We have a big job ahead of us. It won’t be done overnight or in my lifetime, but I want to get the ball rolling.”
When it comes to African history and culture, the Know Thyself Book Fair provides ample opportunity to delve into that which has been hidden from Black people.
For instance, Danny Queen, a well-known poet, astrologist, and archivist, told The Informer about his plans to share 10 of his books, the latest of which is “Astrological Love Poems.”
That work, more than two decades in the making, compiles poetry that’s tailored to each Zodiac sign. It includes a foreword from globally renowned astro-numerologist Lloyd Strayhorn. Queen, who started writing the book to better understand an ex-girlfriend, said that conveying astrology through poetry better helps people respect the authenticity of what he calls an ancestral science.
Over the past 40 years, Queen garnered a reputation as the host of “Color Me Poetry,” a program that aired on Bowie TV throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. He also served as an archivist for the late Dr. Frances Cress Welsing; he has more than 1,700 of her lectures stored on cassette tapes, CDs, and thumb drives.
Another book that Queen plans to feature at the Know Thyself Book Fair, titled “The Book of Tributes,” includes reflections on Welsing, Pan-African historian John Henrik Clarke and other late, great Black pioneers of various career fields.
As it relates to astrology and poetry, Queen, an avid old-school hip-hop aficionado, said he relishes the opportunity to further affirm knowledge of self through the two mediums. For him, such a combination allows the readers of his books to learn about themselves, which he said aligns with the theme of the upcoming book fair.
“People in the community saw what I did in this area of study and it was unusual for a poet,” Queen said. “There’s so much more you can learn about numerology and astrology. Numbers is the most exact science there is. Whatever is happening in nature, at the time and place you’re born, becomes a part of your nature as an individual.”
Source: Washington Informer