Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conference

Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conference

Date Observed: 10 days in April or May
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conference is a 10-day spring event held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sponsored by the Broward County Library, the festival provides an opportunity to take part in literary events grounded in AfricanAmerican and Caribbean cultural ideals and traditions.

Historical Background

According to scholars Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Pan-Africanism "in its most straightforward version . . . is the political project calling for the unification of all Africans into a single African state to which those in the diaspora can return. In its vaguer, more cultural forms Pan-Africanism has pursued literary and artistic projects that bring together people in Africa and her diaspora."

In 1900 the Pan-African Congress was held in London. There delegates began formulating the idea of creating a unity campaign to champion the rights of African peoples everywhere throughout the globe.

Additional conferences followed in the years spanning 1919-1945 under the leadership of writer and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. The last conference in 1945 was held in Manchester, England, and brought together 90 conferees from Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean. All agreed that their peoples' destinies must no longer be in the economic or political control of others. A sense of militancy arose at this meeting, boosting morale for the emerging struggles for independence on the African continent.

In 1958 the first meeting of the leaders of all independent African states convened at the All-African People's Conference. At that meeting, specific recognition was given to the role that African Americans and West Indian Americans had played, to date, in the achievement of the Pan-African Movement. (See also Haile Selassie's Birthday; Marcus Garvey's Birthday; Pan African Festival of Georgia; and Pan African Film & Arts Fes- tival).

Creation of the Festival

In 1986 the first Broward County African American Caribbean Cultural Arts Conference was held, leading to formal incorporation of a nonprofit organization two years later. The annual conference began to expand its horizons. Seeking to draw in more segments of the community, its range expanded from being more than a literary event to include visual, performing and other expressions of the arts as well. In 1989 organizers added the Pan African Bookfest that included visual art, music, dance, and drama as well as literary activities.

In 2002 the African American Research Library and Cultural Center of the East Broward County Florida Library opened. Since then, the Broward County Library, the ninth largest library system in the United States, has been the main site of the Bookfest.

Observance

The 10 days over which the Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conference is held - usually in April or May - offer something for everyone. Among the many highlights are the panel presentations that include authors (both known and emerging); representatives from all media markets such as film, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television; and local, national, and international government leaders and officials. Popular draws include book signings, sales and author readings, receptions, and talks and discussions with noted scholars. Writing and cultural workshops are sometimes held, as are minifilm festivals. A "Poet in Residence" and "Visiting Scholar" are selected annually and take part in several events.

By far, the most anticipated day of the entire event falls on the final Saturday. "Bookfest Day" is held at nearby Samuel Delevoe Park and is open to the entire community. Offerings include plenty of ethnic food and drink, drumming, and ceremonial rites that recall African roots and heritage. Multiple activities are planned on this day for children, ranging from their own author meet-and-greets to book-making workshops to storytelling and oral history events to a Junkanoo Parade. Bookfest Day presents an opportunity for arts and crafts developed over the centuries to be shared with new generations, perhaps kindling new interest to carry on old traditions.

Contacts and Web Sites

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau 100 E. Broward Blvd., Ste. 200 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 800-227-8669; fax: 954-765-4466

African American Research Library & Cultural Center East Broward County Florida Library 2650 Sistrunk Blvd. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 954-625-2800 (AARLCC) 954-357-7348 (Bookfest Hotline)

Further Reading

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., eds. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience: The Concise Desk Reference. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2003. Bell, Bernard W., Emily R. Grosholz, and James B. Stewart, eds. W. E. B. Du Bois on Race and Culture: Philosophy, Politics, and Poetics. New York: Routledge, 1996. Hurley, Anthony E., Renee Larrier, and Joseph McLarren, eds. Migrating Words and Worlds: Pan-Africanism Updated. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998. Kanneh, Kadiatu. African Identities: Race, Nation, and Culture in Ethnography, Pan- Africanism and Black Literatures. New York: Routledge, 1998. Prah, Kwesi Kwaa. Beyond the Color Line: Pan-Africanist Disputations, Selected Sketches, Letters, Papers and Reviews. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998.
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