In Celebration of the 60th anniversary of Lorraine Hansberry’s, A Raisin in the Sun, we welcome you to join us at Ashé Powerhouse Theatre—in conjunction with a production by Voices in the Dark—for a Symposium celebrating the tremendous contributions of Lorraine Hansberry and Black women writers everywhere.
This symposium will include a screening of Tracy Heather Strain’s documentary, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.
Alexis De Veaux is joined by four award winning authors, performers, activists and scholars in a panel discussion and literary reading.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has Ms De Veaux’s papers covering the period 1970s, 1980s and 1990s including notebooks, plays, poetry, manuscripts and drafts, photos, memorabilia, VHS and audio tapes, and correspondence.
The Amistad Research Center has additional papers from 1967 to 2016. The archives mainly consist of correspondence, drafts of original manuscripts, photographs, and ephemera documenting her professional life and work. Correspondence within the collection is professional in nature covering De Veaux’s many speaking and lecturing engagements, publishing, her work as the chair of the Women’s Department at the University of Buffalo, and her work as a graduate student in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The papers are rich in original drafts and notebooks of De Veaux poetry, novels, and biographies including Yabo, The Unbreakable Threat, and Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde. De Veaux’s thesis, This Far by Faith: A Writer’s Autobiography (1989) and Dissertation, Concealed Weapons: Contemporary Black Women’s Short Stories as Agent’s for Social Change, 1960s to the Present (undated) can be found within the collection. Additionally, her published work, Blue Heat: A Portfolio of Poems and Drawings(1985) is available.
The papers also document De Veaux’s teaching life and work as the chair of the Women’s Studies Department at the University of Buffalo, and other institutions through notebooks on teaching, correspondence, student papers and poetry, as well as ephemeral materials such as flyers, posters, programs, and news clippings.
There is a small amount of material in the form of cards, letters, and mementos generated from De Veaux’s long-term relationship with Loyce Stewart, Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Administration.
Of note are conference materials and photographs of the International Women’s Playwrights Conference at the University of Buffalo (circa1990) and the Black Women Writer & the Diaspora Conference in Michigan (1985). Additional photographs are mainly personal, documenting events, such as her book tour in Japan in 1998, Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990 and De Veaux’s travels in Africa, and various events held by the Women’s Studies Department at UB including poet, Paula Gunn Allen’s visit in 1990. Also of note are compact disks for Warrior Poet produced by Out-FM on WBAI 99.5 FM Radio in New York and audiocassettes Black Box 11and Black Box 17, readings by black poets and produced by The New Classroom in Washington, D.C. (undated). Lastly, slides and programs are available for An Evidence of Letters, Alexis De Veaux and Renée Armstrong at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in 200.
Congratulations to this year’s recipient of The Society of AfroFuture Visionaries in They Own Category, Ola Osifo Osaze. Ola is a trans masculine queer of Edo and Yoruba descent. Ola is the “National Organizer for the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project and has been a community organizer for many years, including working with Transgender Law Center, the Audre Lorde Project, Uhuru Wazobia (one of the first LGBT groups for African immigrants in the US), Queers for Economic Justice and Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Ola is a 2015 Voices of Our Nation Arts workshop (VONA) fellow, and has writings published in Apogee, Qzine, Black Girl Dangerous, Black Looks, and the anthologies Queer African Reader and Queer Africa II.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Sisterfire festivals which began in the 1980s. Alexis regularly attended the festivals and will be present at this year’s anniversary celebration in Washington DC. Below is an excerpt from an interview with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative on the importance of the Sisterfire festivals.
Alexis at the 1982 Sisterfire festival, Washington DC,
behind her is the black gay poet and activist, Essex Hemphill
Q: What are your memories of Sisterfire festivals in the 1980s? How did they inspire you?
A: I remember the Sisterfire festivals in the 1980s as not simply an event but an opportunity for community we all looked forward to. We were all hungry for, and needed, a sense of community that was local and global, and the Sisterfire festivals shaped a weaving of multicultural women’s voices that were necessary to surviving the Reagan era. As black, female-identified and lesbian, I felt particularly in need of, and inspired by, the ways in which Sisterfire politicized the erotics of our resistances.
Q: How did Sisterfire festivals elevate women artists of that era?
A: The festivals provided a venue for our collective visibility, by introducing us to each other across geographies, political agendas and economic realities. There were few, if any, such venues; certainly not another that prioritized a multicultural women’s world view in which art and politics merged in powerful couplings.
Q: How does the legacy of Sisterfire benefit young women artists today?
A: To the extent that we can create necessary intergenerational opportunities for cross-fertilization and knowledge exchange, the history and legacy of Sisterfire is poised to present women artists coming up behind us with a sense of —a model of—what is possible. That’s one of the things Sisterfire did. It made possible what had been impossible. And it can point the way to what can be done now.
In 1982, Roadwork produced the first Sisterfire Festival at Takoma Park Jr. High School in Washington, DC. Initiated as a fundraiser during the severe arts-funding cutbacks of the Ronald Reagon years, Sisterfire featured women artists and welcomed all genders to participate in an open-air urban environment. This video was filmed by Victoria Eves and aired on several local cable channels as well as WETA televisio
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival joins Roadwork in celebrating its fortieth anniversary as a D.C.-based multiracial coalition that puts women artists on the road globally.