Art Sanctuary, the Philadelphia arts organization that took over the event in 1999, planned the celebration in coordination with its yearlong theme, “Growing from Good to Great.” The theme was inspired by changes within the organization.
“We moved into a new building, we’ve expanded our programming, we’ve expanded our reach around the city,” Burke said. Those changes influenced Art Sanctuary’s programming concept. “We wanted a theme to express that this transition is not a bad thing.”
In past celebrations, a feature event honored individuals whose work moved their communities in a positive direction. This year on June 1, two magazines — JET and Ebony — will be spotlighted as well as the lifetime achievement of writer Marita Golden.
Golden’s first book, Migrations of the Heart, told of her coming of age during the 1960s and her political activism as well as her marriage to a Nigerian. She is being honored for her work with The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, a resource center for writers, readers, and supporters of Black literature. It provides culturally sensitive services and guidance for black writers at every stage of their development, according to a spokeswoman for the sanctuary. Founded in 1990 by novelist Golden and bibliophile Clyde McElvene, the foundation’s mission is to discover, develop, and honor Black writers.
The celebration is founded in literary discussions and workshops, but the organizers have also injected pop culture and entertainment into the mix.
“It’s less a conference and more a festival,” Burke said.
Along with appearances by featured guests like artist Theaster Gates and author Bernice McFadden, the event will include events with rising star Issa Rae (The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl) and Deborah Gregory, creator of the book series turned Disney franchis, The Cheetah Girls. Gregory will speak with young girls about empowerment, Burke said.