Inspiring Authors Café Forum Gives Insight on Black History

With an impromptu musical and spoken word performance by a respected Brooklyn poet, a look into the history of the automobile industry, and a spiritual discussion by a psychologist for the federal government, WCC’s Black History Month got off to a varied and genuinely entertaining start on Feb. 6.

The second event planned by WCC’s Black History Month Committee—chaired by Professors Glenetta Phillips and Jacob Wilson—the Inspiring Authors Café Forum included authors Henry A. May, Dr. Althea Phillips, Dr. Richard A. Courage, and Tai Allen, as well as film writer Ann Mitchell, and actor Ivan Hernandez.

“Black history is American history,” said Black History Month Co-Chair Glenetta Phillips. “White boys and girls usually feel excluded because they don’t have a buy in, but when you sit back you realize that we are all in this together on this planet.”

After a warm welcome speech by Phillips, First Black Autos author Henry A. May was the first author to take the stage. May spoke in detail about his own experience digging through historical archives to write his moving book, which tells the true story of African Americans in the early automobile industry.

Following May’s lecture, Dr. Althea Phillips discussed her work as an acute psychiatric nurse for the federal government, before turning her focus to her book The Need for Transformation.

The Need for Transformation came when I had to examine not only myself, but examine people,” Phillips said. “We need to move from one state of thinking to another state of thinking where we become more productive individuals.”

While it may not be for everyone, Phillips’ book is a Christian spiritual guide aimed at helping Christians discover their “true identity.” Phillips was refreshingly not overbearing about her own faith and drew more on her experience as a psychiatric nurse to help others with their spiritual health.

While the morning began at a slow pace with a subdued tone, poet and musician Tai Allen gave the proceedings a serious shot in the arm when he chose to forgo the microphone and podium and move freely about the stage. The No Jewels author and Brooklyn Arts Council member’s considerable energy and charisma resulted in one of the highlights of the morning’s event.

Allen, who admittedly dislikes spoken word label, pointing out that he is primarily a classically trained poet who began performing his poems, ended his segment by performing a moving rendition of one of his pieces. A mix of sung and spoken poetry, with complex meters, tonal shifts, and deeply personal themes about alcohol abuse and self-discovery, Allen’s performance was perhaps the most memorable of the event.

“When Allen belted out his rendition of poetry, and showed how many ways he is able to portray his poetry it was phenomenal,” Glenetta Phillips said. “That to me said a whole lot about how authors can inspire us.”

Overall the event was considered a success by both attendees and Phillips herself, who was eager to point out how grateful she was to the entire Black History Month committee for organizing the various events. There will be several more events in the coming weeks culminating in an awards luncheon on Feb 28.

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