Black Writers: Ready for the Millennium; Chicago State University Hosts 10th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference

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BLACK WRITERS: Ready for the Millennium; Chicago State University Hosts 10th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference

Chicago State University played host to approximately 550 writers, students, scholars and educators who attended the 10th Annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers' Conference last month. The four-day conference, "Ready for the Millennium: Black Writers' Approaches to the Diaspora," opened with a children's poetry reading and culminated with a presentation of literary awards and a keynote address by Susan L. Taylor, currently publications director for Essence Communications, and her husband and filmmaker/author Khephra Burns.

But in between there were several panels and discussions by such literary notables as Sonia Sanchez; John Edgar Wideman; Marita Golden; and Ishmael Reed. Dr. Lerone Bennett Jr., executive editor at Ebony magazine, discussed his latest book, Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln's White Dream.

A panel, "The Future of Black Education," brought together a younger generation of educators who discussed their experiences in academia as African American doctoral students and the importance of finding mentors to guide them through the transition from graduate students to educators and administrators. Panelists included: Dr. Rachel Lindsey, dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences at Chicago State University; Dr. Nichole Pinkard, assistant professor in the school of education at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; and Dr. Ronald S. Rochon, associate dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

A panel of distinguished African American educators, all of whom have served and continue to serve as mentors to the above mentioned scholars, discussed the importance of mentoring. They also shared their own experiences as mentors, often being the lone Black faculty member in a department.

Members of the panel included: Dr. James D. Anderson, head of the department of educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dr. Edgar Epps, professor of educational policy and community studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Marshall Field IV Professor of Urban Education Emeritus at the University of Chicago; Dr. Safisha Madhubuti (also known as Carol D. Lee), associate professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University; and Dr. Barbara Sizemore, professor emerita and former dean of the school of education at DePaul University in Chicago.

"Being the only Black professor can be a lonely job," Epps said. "You have to find intellectual support from academics at other institutions or by attending conferences."

Madhubuti and Sizemore talked about the challenges and successes of teaching Black youth.

"You have to treat children like they are coming in with strengths, you have to draw on their strengths," Madhubuti said. …