LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Scores of authors, poets, writers and newspaper publishers comprised the 12th Annual Black Writers on Tour (BWOT) to promote literacy at the LAX Crowne Plaza Hotel Mar. 17.
BWOT 2007 featured an authors’ exhibit complete with book signings, a youth poetry jam and essay writing competition, African dance and drumming, and various workshops on writing, self-publishing and marketing of books. It also included a luncheon featuring Dr. Claude Anderson as the keynote speaker.
Dr. Rosie Milligan, BWOT founder and owner of Express Yourself Books store and Milligan Publishing Company, asserts that literacy is everybody’s business, and said that she was excited that this year, more than 100 youth joined the Tour as authors, illustrators and poets, because each facet helps to increase their interest and awareness in reading and writing. She gave Charlene Muhammad, staff writer for The Final Call, further insight into why there is a need for BWOT.
Final Call (FC): How specifically does the Tour promote literacy within the Black community?
Dr. Rosie Milligan (RM): We’re in an era in which we will not come face to face with people we will communicate with, not even regarding job applications. Most things you have to say to anyone will take place through an email. We will not sit face to face with a company president, and we cannot miss this point on education. In high school and college, you have to complete a graduate writing or exit exam. We will have paid all of this money for our children to get to the end and not be able to exit, if we do not become passionate about writing.
The Tour also came about because I was writing books myself, and people came to me with stories of being rejected by major publishing houses. I thought why should we sit and beg somebody to get our work out. I decided to start a forum looking at both mainstream and self publishing. It started for writers and those who wanted to write, people who have always had books, like elders going to their graves with family histories and recipes that never got passed down.
FC: Why do you say that literacy is everybody’s business?
RM: My hope goes beyond reading words on paper. I see literacy as a part of the written word, which is so critical. If we’re to change the image of the world about our people, it will be through the pen. We can no longer sit in a system where every book written excludes our children and people. We must encourage our schools to focus on reading, along with writing, because you may have a great understanding and be well versed, however, unfortunately, if you’re not able to express your understanding on paper, people will throw your letter or your work in the trash.
FC: In addition to a youth component, BWOT has featured noted celebrity authors, as well as elderly publishers. What are some of those highlights?
RM: We can leave a car or something tangible that won’t last long or have value, but when we leave a legacy of writing, it goes on and on. One year featured “Children of Legends Who Write.” We had Maryum Ali, author of “I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali”; Yolanda King, author of “Open My Eyes, Open My Soul: Celebrating Our Common Humanity”; and Illyasah Shabazz, author of “Growing Up X.”
A favorite whom we’re still talking about is Mother Ruby Muhammad, featured on the tour when she was 106 years old with her book of poems, “Who Do They Say I Am?” We will never forget her and the words that rolled off her lips that were so powerful.
This year, teenagers Mia and Merlyn McCurry, who first joined BWOT as little girls with “The Foods” and “The Seamonster’s Revenge,” returned with sequels.
FC: Thank you.
(For more information on Black Writers on Tour, visit www.milliganbooks.com.)