Dillard University’s English Department, in partnership with the New Orleans Public Library’s African American Resource Center, will present the 2012 Tom Dent Literary Festival on Thursday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 3. The event will feature readings and discussions by local and visiting writers in honor of Dent, one of the most influential New Orleans authors in the last half of the 20th century and something of an icon in New Orleans African-American literary and theater circles.
The festival kicks off on at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library with a reading by Dent’s friend and collaborator Kalamu ya Salaam and a music performance by Carl LeBlanc of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. An exhibition curated by the Southern University of New Orleans graduate program, “Storied Expressions: The Visual Language of African Art,” will be on display.
The festival continues at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, on Dillard’s campus on the first floor of the Professional Schools and Science Building with a panel discussion and readings by T. Geronimo Johnson, Valentine Pierce, Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore, and Olympia Vernon. Johnson appeared earlier this fall as part of Room 220‘s LIVE PROSE reading series. Room 220 featured an essay about his debut novel, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts by Kristina Robinson.
The Tom Dent Festival was established in 1999 as a tribute to Dent, who was a poet, essayist, activist, and teacher. The native New Orleanian was influential in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, having helped found the Umbra Writers Group and Umbra literary journal in New York City, and BLKARTSOUTH and the Free Southern Theater in New Orleans. He is part of a rich history of black writers organizations in New Orleans that stretches back to the Depression-era Negro Writers Project and forward to the present, embodied today by the MelaNated writers group. Dent also helped found Callaloo, the premier literary journal of African diaspora writing, published today by John Hopkins Press.