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Greensboro Bound brings diversity to literary festival

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Updated at noon May 16. The link to register for the Zoom presentation by Amor Towles has been updated to go.uncg.edu/atvirtual.

GREENSBORO — When Greensboro Bound opens on Thursday, it will bring a diversity in authors and topics over four days to center city venues, UNCG and N.C. A&T.

In 2018 and 2019, the new annual literary festival brought more than 175 presenting authors. Another 50-plus were slated to appear in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the festival.

It went virtual in 2021. Now it’s returning in person.

The AP Interview Nikole Hannah-Jones (copy)

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones poses for a portrait at the headquarters of The Associated Press in New York on Dec. 10. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020 for her work on "The 1619 Project." She will speak May 21 at A&T.

The festival “is going to be amazing with such an array of national, regional and local authors,” said board Chair Dabney Sanders.

Those authors include Black, Indigenous, Asian, Palestinian, Latino, and LGBTQ writers.

Organizers make it easy for the public to attend by offering free admission, although reservations are encouraged.

Amor Towles — author of bestselling “The Lincoln Highway,” “A Gentleman in Moscow” and “Rules of Civility” — will be there.

So will Jason Mott, a North Carolina native whose 2021 novel, “Hell of a Book,” won the National Book Award for Fiction. He will talk with award-winning local author Holly Goddard Jones about the state’s “literary fire.”

Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020 for her work on “The 1619 Project.” She will speak May 21 at A&T.

Seats for the opening event with Towles, and Hannah-Jones’ May 21 talk, already are filled. However, UNCG is offering a Zoom option to watch Towles’ talk; register at go.uncg.edu/atvirtual.

Amor Towles

Towles 

“Folk like who we are bringing to Greensboro,” said Steve Colyer.

Colyer brought the festival idea to the city when he moved from Miami. He joined with Scuppernong Books owners Brian Lampkin, Steve Mitchell, Deb and Dave White and others to form the nonprofit Greensboro Literary Organization and make the festival happen.

This year, 52 authors will speak in venues such as Greensboro Cultural Center theaters, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro History Museum, Greensboro Central Library and Scuppernong Books.

To make it all happen, Greensboro Bound has developed partnerships. UNCG Libraries brought Towles. A&T’s F.D. Bluford Library brought Hannah-Jones.

Well-Spring retirement community sponsored Mott’s appearance. PEN America will sponsor two presentations.

A new partnership with the UNCG College of Visual and Performing Arts will bring Brendan Slocumb and Tona Brown to talk and perform music.

When organizers set out to create the first literary festival in 2018, “promoting inclusivity” ranked among its tenets.

After the May 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, Greensboro Bound became more specific.

Jason Mott.jpg (copy)

Mott

It amended its mission to include “promoting inclusivity by providing programs that combat systemic racism and oppression,” Sanders said. “We’re determined to present ideas that promote serious discussions about race relations.”

In announcing this year’s lineup, Greensboro Bound said, “Of the 55 guest authors, 28 are BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color),” or more than half of the writers.

“We’re making real strides in our goal of seeing 50% of our authors be BIPOC,” Colyer said.

“And we’re creating a safe space for folk to delve into hard issues,” Colyer added.

On May 21, for example, Hannah-Jones will talk with Jelani Favors, an A&T history professor.

Hannah-Jones gained attention in 2021 with controversy over her status as a potential faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill. She received a delayed offer of tenure that she declined in favor of a professorship at Howard University.

At Greensboro Bound, the Pulitzer Prize winner will talk about “The 1619 Project.”

According to the Greensboro Bound website, they will discuss Hannah-Jones’ work to chronicle “the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act” and her latest book, “The 1619 Project.”

It’s the culminating event in the “History Of Redlining In East Greensboro: Conversations About Our City’s Past And Present” series.

The project was created by F.D. Bluford librarians Carlos Grooms, Katie Kehoe, Harvey Long and James Stewart at A&T, in collaboration with Dudley High School, Greensboro Bound and The Greensboro Public Library.

During the festival, “I know I’m going to learn something and see things in new ways,” Colyer said. “And that’s one of the joys of this for me — learning new things and new insights.”

Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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