Friday, October 19, 2007

Gwendolyn Brooks Conference

This weekend is the weekend of the 17th annual Gwendolyn Brooks Conference on Black Literature and Creative Writing. My father and I attended the event as book vendors. We were there last year, but this year we were fortunate enough to be set up adjacent to the speakers in the Rotunda, the main room in the alumni union.

Hip Hop and social justice were the main event for today. A panel of speakers, including Donda West, mother of Kanye West, and author of her new book Raising Kanye, discussed the current events and issues in Hip Hop and racism. It was very interesting. There were many young people in attendance, so issues such as the influence of the media and raising youth to be individual thinkers were brought up as well. This topic, in particular, really forced me to think. There was such a great youth turnout to talk about Hip Hop and social justice, I wondered how many of the same young people would show up to talk about literature and it's impact in America. I am really not sure. How many young people are reading today? With the rise of the internet, social networking, and the continued appeal of music and television, I feel that there are so many other ways to be entertained and get information. Young people are turning to literature less and less. Please, do not get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with these other forms of media, but I feel books serve a different purpose. Reading encourages a higher level of analytical thinking, and we need that. Our society, our culture, really needs to continue to cultivate generations of analytical thinkers. These young thinkers are the ones that will grow older and challenge future social injustices, such as those that occurred with the response to Katrina, the Jena 6 situation, and the Don Imus incident. In the year 2007, these issues are still among us, and it is my belief, 20 years from now, they will still be here in some way. We, as a culture, must prepare, be aware of our history and the directions we are going. I see reading as an important step in this process. Making sure young people read means sharing thoughts and ideas from the older generation in a more permanent fashion. They can then analyze, process, share their own thoughts and ideas, and the cycle continues. If knowledge is power, we pass the most precious gift through literature. Do not let the youth miss out. They must read, they must become powerful to succeed.


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