A welcoming crowd filled the Public Works Boardroom at L.A. City Hall on Feb. 20, to hear from three leading Black authors.
The event, which featured writers Judith C. Owens-Lalude, Gary Phillips and Dr. Karin Stanford, was the third installment of the city’s African American Heritage Month observance. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Our Author’s Study Club (OASC) co-sponsor the month-long celebration in conjunction with Council President Herb Wesson, Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Association of Black Personnel.
“When we think about this effort to promote reading and share literature, it’s important to reflect the stories that African Americans write and that they have to share,” said Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis. “The mission of Our Author’s Study Club is to report African American history and I can’t think of a better way than to encourage African Americans to write and to read. That’s what this event does.”
As chair of the African American Heritage Month Committee, Davis moderated the evening’s program, which included participation by OASC president Ernestine Gordon, Human Relations Commissioner Rosa Russell, Cultural Affairs Commission president Charmaine Jefferson and Garcetti staffer David Price. Also, soloist Madam Dee entertained the audience with “A Tribute to Aretha Franklin.”
In addition, each author shared insight into his or her works. Phillips, an award-winning novelist who edited “The Obama Inheritance Anthology – 15 Stories of Conspiracy Noir,” said his book wasn’t “just a commentary about current times. It’s about people working together to overcome the presidency of Barack Obama.” The anthology contains over-the-top stories about the bizarre fictions floated around during Obama’s tenure.
Owens-Lalude recited an excerpt from her book, “The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom,” which recounts the indignities of bondage suffered by Clarissa and her son, George. Although bought, sold, resold and abused, the two slaves endure and are eventually rescued by passengers on the Underground Railroad where they embark towards freedom by following the North Star.
Stanford, who penned “African Americans in Los Angeles,” highlighted her remarks with a slide show depicting photographs of Blacks from the founding of L.A. in 1781 through the 21st century. Remarking on the many contributions of African Americans to the city, Stanford said, “The willingness to search for a better life – the principal idea that built Los Angeles’ original Black community over two centuries ago – continues anew.”
The African American Heritage Month observance continues with a closing ceremony at City Hall on Feb. 28 recognizing outstanding Black city employees.
Council President Wesson kicked-off African-American History Month with the “Blacks in Cinema” exhibit on City Hall’s Bridge Gallery. The display features movie posters, films, TV shows, photographs, biographies and other memorabilia highlighting African Americans’ involvement in 1970s film and television, the pioneering decade when Blacks either launched or appeared in a range of entertainment projects. Other activities in February honored gospel artist BeBe Winans, L.A. Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile, USC Interim president Wanda Austin and AT&T West president Ken McNeely.