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Richmond book festival celebrates African American literature

The Richmond African American Book Festival returned for its second year Saturday, this time at Diversity Richmond in the city’s Northside.

Capital News Service



By Lelia Contee

The Richmond African American Book Festival returned for its second year Saturday, this time at Diversity Richmond in the city’s Northside.

The free annual event celebrates African American authors and their contributions to literature and literacy, according to VA Business Expo Associates LLC, a networking and marketing firm that is hosting the event. The company aims to promote African American people and their history, stated Roy Wyatt, the firm’s founder and CEO, in an email.

Last year there were 40 vendors at the event held at Richmond Public Library on Franklin Street. The vendors included authors, publishers and bookstore owners. This year there were more than 90 vendors from Virginia, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin.

Wyatt hopes the event inspires young African American people to be authors, bookstore owners or publishers, he said.

“A lot of the things we write, a lot of people don’t know about it,” Wyatt said. “There’s a lot of African Americans who, not seeing that, don’t feel like they can do that.”

There was a workshop on how to publish children’s books for the first time, and the event also featured seminars, book readings, and performances by singers and poets.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney was the keynote speaker, according to Wyatt. His speech focused on the importance of the event and literacy and literature in the African American community.

The event last year fostered a sense of community among authors and attendees, said author Melissa Fanning, who plans to attend the event again.

“We’re all there together, and we’re encouraging each other, so the children not only see themselves in the books, but they see adults interacting in a healthy way,” Fanning said.

Fanning writes children’s stories such as “Sea Lessons with Daddy,” which talks about the lessons she learned from letters her father wrote her while he was deployed in the Navy. The book instills core values such as kindness, education and truthfulness, according to Fanning.

Author David Miller also participated, sharing fun stories with serious and historical elements related to African American children. His book, “Chef Toussaint,” named after Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, features a 9-year-old boy who becomes a chef. The book shares recipes and introduces concepts of entrepreneurship.

“Any events that we can do to get children excited about reading, that helps advance our community,” Miller said.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.