Ten national and regional black authors spoke recently at the inaugural Black Women Writers Symposium: Writing the Natural World, Appalachia & Beyond at Berea College. The day-long event, the first of its kind in the region, was presented FREE to the public.
Crystal Wilkinson, the Appalachian Writer in Residence for Berea College organized the symposium, stating, “I know of no other literary event in the area that focuses specially on the writing of African American Women, especially those who primarily live and work in the region.”
Along with Wilkinson, the featured writers who presented speeches, readings, and led discussions included Joan Brannon; bell hooks; Carolyn Finney; Bianca Spriggs; doris davenport; Juyanne James; Kristine Yohe; Xandria Phillips; and Amethyst Kiah.
Wilkinson pointed out that Black women are often invited to talk about race, feminism, injustice, and politics, but rarely asked to discuss the importance of landscape, nature, and the mountains and their impact on women’s writing.
“As a Black Appalachian writer it stuns me when people are surprised that I write with an eye for nature and what it means physically and metaphorically and spiritually in Black women’s writing,” Wilkinson says. “And all the writers at the symposium shared what place means in their writing.”
The symposium’s activities began with conversation, coffee and pastries and a welcome by Wilkinson. Later, Joan Brannon spoke about The Talking Drum and The Spirit of the Land. She was followed by a Keynote Conversation between bell hooks and Carolyn Finney. The afternoon sessions included Bianca Spriggs who discussed The Natural and the Supernatural; doris davenport who conducted a Reading and Discussion; and Juyanne James, Crystal Wilkinson, and Kristine Yohe who presented readings about The Fictional Landscape. The Evening Keynote featured Student Readings by Xandria Phillips. The evening ended with a performance by Amethyst Kiah, a Southern Gothic, alt-country blues singer/songwriter. For a related article with authors’ bios, see: https://www.berea.edu/news/black-women-writers-gather-berea-college-symposium/