Celebration of African American Poetry This Weekend




“A Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry,” the longest running public program in Oakland Public Library history, will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., 1801 Adeline St. in Oakland.


Now in its 27th year, the program – hosted and founded by Wanda Sabir –each reflects a topical theme in Black lives, as poets and patrons reflect on the state of Black America. This year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History selected: “Crisis in Black Education.”

Did you know James Weldon Johnson was thinking about educational access and equity when he was a high school principal at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Florida? In 1900, he wrote a poem that would become the lyrics to music written by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”


The song first performed publicly at the principal’s school during a celebration for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday Feb. 12. Only 37 years earlier, Lincoln ended slavery by signing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.


In 1919, the NAACP adopted “Lift Every Voice” as its official song, the year after WWI ended. However, in 1919 nothing changed for Black Americans as racial violence in the United States increased, documented by history professor David F. Krugler in his book, “1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back.”

The poetry celebration is free and open to the public. Ms. Sabir is looking for footage from the previous 26 years. Those who bought copies from KTOP are encouraged share their VHS tapes with the branch library for their archives.



The featured program includes many renown poets like Avotcja, Steve McCutchen, Lee Williams II, Paradise, Karen Mims, Charles Blackwell, Gene Howell, Jr., Halifu Osumare, Karla Brundage, Leroy Moore, Andre Wilson, Ann Marie Davis, Ayodele Nzinga, Darlene Roberts, Tyrice Deane, Nicia Delovely and Chris Harris.


The event will honor the memory of Lee Williams (Sept. 2, 1937-Jan. 1, 2017).


There will be an open mic at the end of the program and refreshments throughout the day. For information or to volunteer, call (510) 238-7352 or [email protected]



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