Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Time: 5:00–7:00 p.m.
Location: Sala Literaria at Bellas Artes, 1st Floor
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante”
Hernández Macías 75, Centro
Admission: $50 pesos for Literary Sala members, $100 for non-members. Tickets available at the door.
The Literary Sala Honors Black History Month
By Cynthia Simmons
Shortly after I moved to San Miguel I joined a book club, a dozen well-read women who knew little or nothing of the work by Black writers I grew up reading. Most years my annual book selection for the club was a Black author. I read books by writers of other ethnicities but I wanted to introduce these women to some of my favorites — Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, arguably the star of the Harlem Renaissance; Kindred by Octavia Butler, the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship; and Song of Solomon and God Help the Child both by Toni Morrison, absolutely my favorite author, who has won both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Nobel Prize for literature.
This year, I thought I’d like to introduce the San Miguel community to some of these writers. I approached Susan Page about adding a Black History event to the Literary Sala’s February calendar, Black Voices a reading of works by authors from the African diaspora. She said yes. Maia Williams, co-director of the Literary Sala and Writers Conference, and I chose a date. Then I had an oh-my-God-what-have-I-done moment. How would I decide what to read from more than 300 years of work?
Should I select a period? Maybe the 1920s’ Harlem Renaissance, the first time there was interest in Black writers, when Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer and dozens of others were published. Or should I highlight the powerful male voices that emerged during the Civil Rights era — Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. I could read from the works of Pulitzer Prize winners. Just last year there were four in letters and drama — poet Tyehimba Jess, critic Hilton Als, playwright Lynn Nottage and fiction writer Colson Whitehead.
Finally I decided to do what in college was termed a survey course, start in 1890 with poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar who wrote in verse and in dialect, end with a selection from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 book Between the World and Me and select a prominent writer, or two, in most of the other decades.
Kissiah Young and Harold James will join me in interpreting these authors’ words. Kissiah is a writer who is on retreat in San Miguel while she writes a spiritual memoir about leaving her American life for a ten-month sojourn in Mexico. Kissiah holds a Masters in social work from the University of Southern California. Actor/director Harold Dean James, a San Francisco native, lived in New York City for thirty-five years before he moved to San Miguel a little over two years ago. Harold has performed on Broadway and in over one hundred plays in New York, California and San Miguel.
Join us at Hotel Aldea on February 28 at 5:00 p.m.
Cynthia Simmons worked as an actor, primarily on stage, in Atlanta, Georgia and New York City for more than 25 years and toured internationally with “Sally of Monticello,” her one-woman show about the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.