Monday, November 20, 2017
Leimert Park Village Book Fair to Salute Artists and Illustrators
By Sentinel News Service
Published June 4, 2009

Preeminent Artists Varnette P. Honeywood, Synthia SAINT JAMES,

Kamal Al Mansour and Rene to Exhibit

Art comes in many forms.  It can be literary, visual, instrumental, spoken, performed or more.  Whatever form it takes, participants in the third annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair (LPVBF) will be recipients of it all beginning at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 6, 2009 in Leimert Park Village, Degnan Blvd. at 43rd Street. 

Participants also will be provided an opportunity to interact with and view the works of four talented visual artists, Varnette P. Honeywood, Synthia SAINT JAMES, Kamal Al Mansour and Rene, during the LPVBF’s first Tribute to Artists and Illustrators beginning at noon.

An extremely talented artist who has used her creativity to document and celebrate the historical record of African American people, Varnette P. Honeywood believes that many African American artists create as a response to their environment.  “We link with the music and the words that surround us,” she explains.  “We move with the drums and the dancers.  We create art that speaks to our physical, mental and spiritual needs.  We allow our African retentions to be expressed through our work.”

A Los Angeles native, Varnette is indeed a product of her environment.  Having come of age during a time when Black students were prohibited from wearing “Afro’s” to high school, she became even more determined to reveal the exuberance and creativity of Black life.  She discovered that visual art played a powerful role in the broader struggle for equality and human dignity while a student at Spelman College.  After earning a degree in Fine Arts there, and returning home earning a masters degree in Education from the University of Southern California, Varnette honored her personal commitment to her community by teaching art through the Central Juvenile Hall School and later as Director of Art Programs for the Joint Education Project.

Varnette received national acclaim for her work as illustrator of Bill Cosby’s “Little Bill” book series.  She has produced a body of work that includes “Slavery” depicting the tragic origins of African American history in the new world; “Club Alabam: Down at the Dunbar” acknowledging a thriving African American community in the 1940s; and, “Virtuous Woman” and “Taking Care of Business,” that celebrate the role of Black women in America.

Her work also has been included in a number of exhibitions and she has created covers for a variety of books, as well as art for Essence Magazine, the Children’s Defense Fund and the 125th Anniversary of Spelman College, among others.  Varnette’s “A Black Look in a Black Book: Malcolm, Marcus and Martin” will be the featured art work for the 2009 LPVBF bookmarks, and festival guide map under the theme, “Celebrating Our Literary Legacy: Families Reading Together.”

“The world is watching Leimert Park,” said Varnette.  “I grew up near Leimert Park.  It represented many great things to young kids in Los Angeles. Over twenty years ago, Alonzo and Dale Davis, the owners of Brockman Gallery had a vision of Leimert Park Village as a cultural and business center.  It now represents an important cultural center in our community.”

Varnette’s good friend, Kamal Al Mansour is a firm believer that “art controls society.”  Citing the worldwide influence of the hip hop culture and the fact that from an historic perspective you would think that Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and their contemporaries were the “only artists who ever existed,” Kamal is convinced that African Americans are “…in a cultural revolution.   And that revolution is about retaining our culture.”

An artist by way of a degree in Political Science from UCLA and a Juris Doctorate from University of California Hastings College of Law, it took Kamal almost 30 years after beginning college as an art major to figure out that he really is an artist.  After spending years as a corporate attorney, then another few years as founder of AfroLink, which created the first Afrocentric interactive multimedia software, Kamal now combines assemblage, collage, and digital art in his work.

Soaring since his first solo exhibition in 2005, which was suggested by Dr. Samella Lewis and encouraged by Varnette P. Honeywood, Kamal comments, “As visual artists, it’s important to represent things that are indicative of the greatness of our society.  I base my work on various themes that reflect social, political, spiritual and cultural ideas and ideals.”

An international award-winning artist, among many other things, Synthia SAINT JAMES is designer of the first U.S. postal stamp for the Kwanzaa holiday.  Having created more than 60 book covers that include books by Alice Walker, Terry McMillan and Iyanla Vanzant, Synthia also has authored or illustrated more than 20 books for children.

A relative newcomer to oil painting, Rene is a self-taught artist who veers toward portraitures – portraying positive images of people of color.   Through “love, hard work and dedication” she feels she will continue to grow as an artist.

Seeking to provide the local community with greater access to writers and their work, the LPVBF will feature more than 150 authors, writers, storytellers and poets, in addition to workshops, forums, and panel discussions.

During a special ceremony, the LPVBF also will honor photographer, Howard Bingham; California Poet Laureate Emeritus, Al Young; artist, Varnette P. Honeywood; David Hollaway, publisher and author; Dr. Samella Lewis, artist and author; Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, author and columnist; Regina Jones, publisher; and Jessie Mae Beavers, award-winning columnist and editor at the Los Angeles Sentinel for more than 40 years, will be honored posthumously.

Honorees also include the Los Angeles Sentinel, A Place Called Home, Reading is Poetry and Reading to Kids and book clubs-the Friends of the Hyde Park Miriam Matthews Branch Library Book Club, Ladies of Color Turning Pages, Minga Suma Book Club, Real Ladies Read Book Club, Sister Friends Book Club, and Tabahani Book Circle.

“We are committed to supporting and showcasing our best literary talent.  I believe that the Leimert Park Village Book Fair has established us as the preeminent literary event on the west coast for our community,” said Cynthia E. Exum, LPVBF founder and producer. 

Participating celebrity artists include Maryum ‘May May’ Ali, introducing her new book, “I Shook Up the World,” on the life of her father, Muhammad Ali; Kim Wayans (In Living Color) reading from her latest children’s book, “Digging Up Trouble (Amy Hodgepodge Series #6);” Karyn Parsons (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) on hand to present her DVD’s “Garrett’s Gift” and “The Journey of Henry Box Brown;” and, Ellia English (The Jamie Foxx Show) offering her first novel, “I Am That I Am.”

Ten-year old actor, Kwesi Boakye, who was recently booked for Tyler Perry’s upcoming movie, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” will serve as ambassador for the LPVBF Children’s Village, which will offer face paintings, clowns, storytellers, a book making crafts pavilion hosted by Scribble Press, and a special performance by Mayseo the Magician.

Writing workshops under the topics “How to Get Published,” “How to Write Poetry,” “The Writers Dance Class,” and the award winning hip hop documentary film, “This is the Life” will be screened during the book fair.

A Poet’s Stage, cooking demonstrations, outdoor theatrical performances featuring Akuyoe Graham’s one woman play “Spirit Awakening;” and the Playhouse Theatre Players along with musical entertainment will round out the book fair activities.

Produced by Cynthia E. Exum and Associates in partnership with L.A. City 8th District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks the LPVBF also is supported by public partners 9th District City Councilmember Jan Perry, L.A. County 2nd District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council, Eso Won Books, Leimert Park Village Merchant’s Association and the Leimert Park Village Certified Farmers Market.  Sponsors include Nestle U.S.A., Inc., Broadway Federal Bank, KABC-TV Channel 7, Time Warner Cable, Sempra Energy, Urban Studio L.A. and Metro.

To accommodate an expected traffic overflow, a free shuttle bus service will be provided between Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza at the Stocker Street entrance west of Crenshaw Boulevard (between IHOP and Wells Fargo Bank) and 43rd Street at Degnan Boulevard.  The bus will rotate every 25 minutes beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  The last bus will leave 43rd Street and Degnan Boulevard at 4:30 p.m.

For additional information call 323.730.0628 or visit the book fair’s official website at

Categories: Local

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