After an invigorating welcome from the Jazz Tone All Stars (a pickup group from the Chelsea Hotel combining American and African musicians) we got down to the poetry.
First up was Keorapetse Kgositsile. I'd first read his MY NAME IS AFRIKA, attracted by the introduction written by Gwendolyn Brooks, back when I was twenty. I fianlly got to meet him a few times during the years when I was doing research at UCLA and Kgositsile was living and teaching in the area, still in exile from the Apartheid regime. He returned to South Africa with the advent of majority rule and he now serves as South Africa's Poet Laureate. Showing the spirit he'd exhibited in his young years in America as a close cousin of the Black Arts Movement, Kgositsile treated us to a strong dose of moral encouragement along with his poetry.
Another of the readers was my Penn State Altoona colleague Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. Following the conference, Patricia was going to Liberia to visit her family home for the first time since she was forced into exile by warfare eighteen years ago.