The mission of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY (CBL) is to expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Black literature and the literary works produced by people of the African Diaspora and the African continent.
Founded in 2002 by Dr. Brenda M. Greene, CBL achieves its mission, and actively engages audiences of all ages, through a variety of public programs, publications, and partnerships. Some of them include:
- National Black Writers Conference
- Writers on Writing Radio Program
- Re-Envisioning Our Lives through Literature Program (R.O.L.L.)
- John Oliver Killens Reading Series
- Killens Review of Arts & Letters
- Wild Seeds Writers Retreat
- Dr. Edith Rock Elders Writing Workshop
- Musings (Student Blog)
CBL’s approach to programs and activities is integrative. The Center’s focus on the literary arts and cultural values informs the work of Black writers and expands the vision in which these works influence society.
The Center’s strategic collaborations with public schools and organizations serve as a means for cultivating critical reading and writing habits of a cross-generation of emerging and established readers and writers. Over the years, just a few of CBL’s local and national partners have included:
- Brooklyn Public Library
- RestorationART at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- African Voices
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
- The Center for Fiction
- PEN America
Funding and other critical support for Center programs and publications have been provided by:
- Con Edison
- Amazon Literary Partnership
- National Endowment for the Arts
- Humanities New York
- Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
- New-York Historical Society
- Poets & Writers
- Brooklyn Community Council
- Community Council for Medgar Evers College, Inc.
- African American Literature Book Club (AALBC)
- City of New York and State of New York elected officials
For more information, please visit centerforblackliterature.org.
Executive Director’s Message
Welcome to the Center for Black Literature!
Now more than ever, institutions representing and supporting the literature created by Black writers are essential. In this pivotal moment in history, a moment that is dystopian in nature, a moment that reflects a racial, public health, economic, and spiritual pandemic, we should be reminded of our power to use language to nurture, safeguard, and heal.
In grappling with various approaches to cope with the challenges and obstacles we face daily, we must engage in acts that will feed us spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Language—that is, talking, listening, reading, and writing—is a way to make sense in the world, a way to explore that which frightens, excites, and comforts us. Our books, our songs, our letters, our diaries, and our journals are repositories for the language we need to engage in these acts.
Toni Morrison, the Nobel Laureate, stated, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” She noted that language has the power to oppress and to liberate, to scar and to sanctify, to plunder and to redeem.
The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College provides a stimulating space for exploring the power of language by its support of writers through conferences, symposia, workshops, readings, educational programs, and publications. Through its work, it exposes an intergenerational group of the public, students, and the literary community to a vast and diverse range of writers throughout the African Diaspora, and the African continent itself. Its memorable programs expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of Black literature.
I strongly encourage you to attend our literary events, listen to our podcasts, and participate and support the programming of the Center for Black Literature. It is one of only two centers in the country that offers such important programs for youth, young adults, adults, and seniors. Join us in this wonderful creative literary arts community.
Brenda M. Greene, Ph.D., Professor
Executive Director, Center for Black Literature