To celebrate acquiring the papers of poet and writer Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), the University of Illinois Rare Book & Manuscript Library and numerous campus partners have organized an afternoon and evening of poetry, song, and appreciation called: “Full of Pepper and Light: Welcoming the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers to the University of Illinois.
Brooks was the third Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois (following Carl Sandburg), poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, and the first African-American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize.
The celebration begins earlier in the day with a lecture by Dr. Haki Madhubuti entitled, “Gwendolyn Brooks: Beyond the Word Maker, a Black Poet and Activist,” at 4 p.m. in Room 66 of the Main Library. (Please note that this is a room change to a larger venue.)
The evening’s performances will include poets, scholars, singers, and dancers reading, discussing, and expressing their appreciation for Brooks’s art and inspirational legacy. The production and performance is directed by Interim Head of the Theatre Department Thomas Mitchell. The event will take place in the newly-renovated Lincoln Hall Theater (702 S. Wright Street, Urbana) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2014. Admission is free.
Performers will include the University of Illinois Black Chorus, conducted by Dr. Ollie Watts Davis; Aurora, a troupe led by Brooks's daughter Nora Brooks Blakely; poets Janice Harrington and Laurence Lieberman; artist Amos Kennedy; local high school students; and Dr. Haki Madhubuti, co-founder and director emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing.
“A special "Poetry Bus" will shuttle audience members between the Champaign Public Library, the Urbana Free Library, and the Douglass Branch Library and campus,” said Rare Book & Manuscript Library Director Valerie Hotchkiss. “This spares folks the parking hassles and will get them in the mood for poetry!”
Bus reservations are requested, but not required. Please email Marten Stromberg (mstrombe at illinois dot edu) to reserve a place.
Bus 1: Leave Urbana Free Library (Elm Street side) at 7:00 p.m. Return departure from Lincoln Hall at 9:15 p.m.
Bus 2: Leave Douglas Branch Library, 504 E. Grove St. at 6:50 p.m. Arrive Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St at 7:00 p.m. and leave for Lincoln Hall at 7:10 p.m. Return departure from Lincoln Hall at 9:15 via Douglas Branch and then Champaign Main Library.
“Full of Pepper and Light” is produced and sponsored by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library; the Departments of English, African-American Studies, Religion, Theater, and Music; the University Library; the Office of Public Engagement; and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Spanning more than six decades, the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers include some of Brooks’s earliest surviving poetry and prose, as well as scrapbooks and clippings of pieces she published as a young woman in The Chicago Defender. In addition, it contains extensive correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and informal jottings, annotations, and observations. The largest portion of Brooks’s papers documents her career after leaving mainstream commercial publishing to produce her works with small presses and black-owned imprints, including her own imprint, The David Company.