Nikole Hannah-Jones headlined the “Books in Bloom’’ fifth year festival in Columbia, Maryland, on Oct. 10. The festival aimed to bring authors together to discuss activism through literature by supporting open dialogue on the societal themes of diversity, racism, inequality and culture.
Accomplished authors who sparked conversation included CNN anchor Jake Tapper, NPR critic Maureen Corrigan, novelist Laura Lippman, fantasy-writer Aparma Verma, and Pulitzer Prize winner, and Howard professor, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Vanessa Rodriquez, vice president of marketing at Howard Hughes Corporation, talked about her thrill for the in-person event after facing pandemic related challenges.
“I’m very proud of how the progressiveness of the festival has always stayed true,” Rodriquez said.
“Because everything went virtual, authors were able to do stuff from their house. So getting them to get out of that space, and come in person was a bit of an educational and reintroduction of having that personal connection in front of people,” Rodriquez said.
The festival provided open dialogue on societal themes as well as advice and tips for aspiring writers and journalists.
Laura Lippman, a New York Times bestselling author, spoke on the significance of young journalists reading. The novelist published Dream Girl, a mystery novel, earlier this year.
“Look, the most important thing about being a writer is to be a reader. If you don’t read, you can’t be a writer,” Lippman said.
The festival was attended by Howard professor, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. The district began to fill up rapidly with spectators, writers, and children for her highly anticipated panel discussion. Attendees of the event waited anxiously for the writer.
Hannah-Jones spoke on the significance of the younger generation being in the front of the discussion for societal change and the obligation the previous generation has in supporting.
“One of the benefits of studying the civil rights movement is you realize how young folks were who were challenging the system and breaking down apartheid,” Hannah-Jones said.
“Look to us for wisdom, but mostly look to us for support in ways y’all are going to tackle the problems of today,” she said.
The festival ended with Hannah-Jones signing books and engaging with fans. Laughter, smiles and excitement filled the room as the creator of “The 1619 Project” walked around the stage. Howard University alumni were present at the festival, showing support for the new Bison professor.
After discussion, a Q&A was provided for fans to speak to their favorite writers. Fans rushed to the microphone to ask questions covering every topic, from the personal life of the writer, motivation for writing and curiosity for future books. The Q&A lasted for about 15 minutes, which was followed by book signings, autographs and personal interactions from the audience to the speakers.
Food trucks filled the side streets to serve their signature cuisine, while clothing vendors happily supplied the attendees’ their merchandise. This year was the first in-person festival in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith