Monday, July 28, 2008


Once we'd all been disoriented and reoriented, unpacked and unjetlagged, the PALF organizers organized our way over to the W.E.B. DuBois Center for the official opening of the Literary Forum, marked by music and poetry.

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.

The one poet I was hearing for the first time was a tornado out of the midwest, Tyehimba Jess. I'd seen his work in places like OBSIDIAN III and had been hearing rumors of his performances for years, so it was great to be able to put a face together with the verse at long last.


tyrone said...

Looks like a great time was had by all. And thanks for posting re Barbara Teer--taught Smethurst's BLack Arts Movemen tome in the spring and Teer plays an important role in the development of and controversy over black theatre, its putative audience and question of careerism (and its necessary adjuncts) v. community networking...I'm writing a brief paper on the Lnagston Hughes-Zora Neale Hurston dispute vis-a-vis their collaborative play "Mule Bone' and dealing with the question of theatre, form, audience, etc. so Teer (et al) has been on my mind...


Patricia said...

Hi Aldon,

Just got back from Africa where all of you abandoned me (HA-HA), but your post is great. You captured everyone and all the good times. Could not get Internet long enough to do what I usually do, so I might post more. I have a problem though. Did we do a photo in the spirit of Penn State out there? Thanks for the great write up.

Aldon Lynn Nielsen said...


That Penn State shirt photo is now on the blog -- see PALF in Accra III above.