NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – On July 21, participants of the 9th Annual Harlem Book Fair filled the area of West 135th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevards in Harlem) to visit hundreds of booths offering books, story-telling, readings, and opportunities to meet and greet authors on four stages featuring spoken word poets, celebrities and music.
Max Rodriguez, executive director of the Harlem Book Fair, said it is the “largest book fair of its kind,” and told The Final Call that this year’s Book Fair demonstrated unequivocally that “books are a huge part in Harlem’s commercial revival.”
“You can walk on 125th Street and every other outdoor vendor will be a book vendor. We organized the book fair as a community celebration with books and other writings. There were 300 exhibitors, and people were telling us they wanted to see more books at the fair.
“The feedback was very positive, and I believe we exceeded last year’s crowd of 50,000,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
As in years past, there were guest authors, such as Howard Zinn, Mary B. Morrison, Jill Nelson, Wendy Williams and Elizabeth NuÃ±ez, who spoke on various subjects. A special appreciation award was given to long-time Harlem resident, Congressman Charles Rangel (D). The annual Wheatley Book Awards were given to Eloise Greenfield, Walter Mosley, Amiri Baraka, with posthumous awards going to Science Fiction author Octavia Butler and late actor Ossie Davis.
“We want to create access for all people to put their books on display. We are also pleased with the panel discussions. Minister Kevin Muhammad gave a rousing presentation concerning Minister [Louis] Farrakhan’s book ‘A Torchlight for America,’” Mr. Rodriguez said.
Holding up the book for everyone to see, Min. Muhammad said, “Minister Farrakhan wrote this book in 1993, and all of the guidance and direction in this book is more relevant in 2007 than in 1993. He introduced it at the Atlanta’s Georgia Dome where he drew a gathering of 60,000 people–more than who came to the World Series, which was right next door.”
Many today in Harlem are concerned about gentrification, Min. Muhammad said. “We can stop gentrification tomorrow if we but heed the message from Minister Farrakhan, who guides us in this book to pull our resources; and learn to build trust in each other, so that we may buy some of this earth for ourselves,” he stressed.
“Minister Farrakhan teaches us in ‘A Torchlight for America’ to stop asking about what others can do for us,” Min. Kevin noted, adding that “Minister Farrakhan says let us all come together and solve the issues of our people ourselves.”
Min. Muhammad told the audience, “I want you to walk away with this book today because you will find a timely guidance for a creation of our school system; and guidance for how we are to respect male/female relationships.”
He then read from the book’s Preface: “We believe that it is time for America to closely examine the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his message and the people who have come to follow his teachings.
“…We would like to offer the words of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, with ourselves as an example of what those words can produce, as a ‘torchlight’ for America.”
Speaking at the Harlem Book Fair for the past two years has been a great pleasure, Min. Muhammad told The Final Call. Last year, Min. Muhammad highlighted the book “Message to the Black Man in America” by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“This year in reviewing ‘A Torchlight for America,’ we are able to show that Minister Farrakhan’s wisdom transcends all periods of time. Next year, Allah willing, we will talk about the new book ‘Closing the Gap,’” Min. Muhammad said.