Libraries join in celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks

Libraries join in celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks

URBANA — The Poetry Bus will ride to local libraries April 24, to honor Gwendolyn Brooks, with poetry and music featuring her daughter and some of the best talent in town.

"We want to involve the whole community in celebration of this amazing woman," said Heather Murphy, assistant director of advancement at the University of Illinois Library.

The Chicago writing legend was the poet laureate of Illinois, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and a vital force in the Civil Rights movement.

Her complete papers are now being sorted out in the University of Illinois Rare Book Room.

The bus will carry audience members to Lincoln Hall and back to the Champaign Public Library and Douglass Branch Library, as well as the Urbana Free Library for the event, which features live music.

Among scheduled performers and speakers are the University of Illinois Black Chorus, conducted by Ollie Watts Davis; Aurora, a troupe led by Brooks' daughter Nora Brooks Blakely; poets Janice Harrington and Laurence Lieberman; artist Amos Kennedy; and Haki Madhubuti, co-founder and director emeritus of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing.

The main event is 7:30 p.m. April 24 at the Lincoln Hall Theater, newly renovated at 702 S. Wright St., U.

Admission is free.

The celebration begins at 4 p.m. with a lecture by Madhubuti entitled, "Gwendolyn Brooks: Beyond the Word Maker, a Black Poet and Activist," in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 408 Gregory Drive, U.

More information is at

The day's events celebrate the life and work of Brooks, who died in 2000 at 83.

Many poetry readers remember her from a seemingly simple set of rhymes:

"We real cool. We Left school. We Lurk late. We Strike straight. We Sing sin. We Thin gin. We Jazz June. We Die soon."

But she was adept at various poetic styles, and created her own. Brooks was an accomplished poet at 13, with her "Eventide."

The papers include scrapbooks and clippings of pieces she published as a young woman in The Chicago Defender, as well as her correspondence with her New York editor.

"Full of Pepper and Light" is produced and sponsored by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library; the Departments of English, African-American Studies, Religion, Theater and Music; the University Library; the Office of Public Engagement; and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

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