CBLC hosts 7th annual Book Fest and Juneteenth Celebration

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The Center for Black Literature & Culture’s seventh annual Book Fest & Juneteenth Celebration takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 15 at Central Library,
The Center for Black Literature & Culture’s seventh annual Book Fest & Juneteenth Celebration takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 15 at Central Library, (Photo provided/IndyPL)

Each year, the Center for Black Literature & Culture celebrates Juneteenth by welcoming in the community to uplift African American authors.

The Indianapolis Public Library’s Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC) was founded in 2017 as a place to celebrate Black writers, as well as educate patrons about the history and culture of Black literature. The Book Fest and Juneteenth Celebration — which takes place from on June 15 at Central Library — offers an opportunity for families in the community to learn about and celebrate Black literature while introducing them to established and up and coming Black authors local to Indianapolis, said Bryanna Barnes, public service library for the CBLC.

“I just want everybody to come and have fun and to learn something,” Barnes said. “Being part of the public library institution, some of the CBLC principles are windows and mirrors. It’s mirrors for people of African American descent to be able to see themselves highlighted in a good light and then a window for people of African American descent to come in and tomorrow and to gain knowledge.”

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Angela D. Barnes, author of “Tiger Out of the Cage,” speaking at the 6th annual Book Fest and Juneteenth Celebration, which took place at Central Library on June 17, 2023. (Photo provided/IndyPL)

The Book Fest and Juneteenth Celebration is one of two events the CBLC puts on each year, and Barnes said it allows established and up-and-coming authors a chance to promote their works and engage with other community members. 

The author presentation aims to draw attention to “African Americans & the Arts” by showcasing works inspired by “different representations of art” in the Black community, according to the library website. The programming for the day includes a poetry reading from CBLC Poet Laureate Januarie York, an African drumming show by Siteaw Inc., a music performance by Jamie Johnson and DJn4Red.

This year’s Book Fest and Juneteenth Celebration welcomes New York Times Bestselling and USA Today top 100 author JaQuavis Coleman as the featured speaker. Coleman, who is a prominent author in the urban fiction genre, will speak about his newest book “Cartel Queen 2: Mother of Murder” before participating in a Q&A and book signing, Barnes said.
There will also be a dedicated space for children and family, featuring games and activities such as face painting, canvas painting, photo 360 and more.

“For the institution to be able to provide that space and the time and our resources … they [the community] really enjoy it,” Barnes said.  “Then it’s also a family event … it’s not just, you know, you come to see a speaker, or you come to see the artists, it’s a four-hour family event of literature and fun and community.”

Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans two years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation in 1863, became a federally recognized holiday in 2021.

Events like this one, where Black authors can come and share their works directly with the community while engaging and honoring the history of the holiday, are either rare or not highlighted as much, Barnes said. The CBLC aims to provide that space, time and resources to give them that recognition.

“Juneteenth holds profound significance as it marks our journey beyond the shackles of slavery,” Alexus Hunt, manager of the Center for Black Literature & Culture, said in a statement. “Exploring its nuances allows us to celebrate progress. Collaborating with local artists and writers enriches our commemoration, allowing us to highlight all of the amazing things that Black authors and artists are creating.”

The Center for Black Literature & Culture’s seventh annual Book Fest & Juneteenth Celebration takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 15 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St. The event is free to attend, and registration is not required. 

Authors interested in having a table at the event can register at indypl.org until May 26. For more information, visit indypl.org.

Contact Arts & Culture Reporter Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on X @chloe_mcgowanxx.