African-American authors participate in inaugural Urban Book Festival

September 22, 2012|By DAN DEARTH |
  • Seslie Daniels of Hagerstown looks over a book written by Devaughn Lilly of Cleveland, Ohio, at the Urban Book Festival held Saturday at Bridge of Life Center.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

African-American authors from as far away as Atlanta and Cleveland converged on the Bridge of Life church in downtown Hagerstown on Saturday to participate in the inaugural Urban Book Festival.

Event organizer Ladetra Robinson said she used Facebook and other Internet sources to invite the authors to sell their books and show the community that other African-American writers exist besides Maya Angelou.

“A lot of them have never been here before, but they agreed to come to showcase their books,” Robinson said.

Eleven authors attended Saturday’s event, which was sponsored by the Washington County Free Library, Women of Valor, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Bridge of Life church, Blossom School of Etiquette, The Herald-Mail and WHAG-TV.

Robinson said the generosity of the sponsors allowed organizers to provide food and lodging for the authors.

Adrian “Ox” Mendez said he drove 12 hours from Atlanta to promote “High Risks,” his latest novel about betrayal and revenge.

“It’s a violent book full of suspense,” he said.

Mendez said he was impressed by the inaugural book festival.

“People have been flowing in and out,” he said. “I can see how after the first year, this can get bigger.”

Mendez lauded the sponsors and Robinson for treating the authors so well.

“I have nothing but blessings for them,” he said.

DeVaughn Lilly said he made the five-hour trip from Cleveland to attend the event with his father and manager.

He was at the book festival Saturday to plug his historical-fiction novel “The Magnificent Life of Gravvy Brown.”

“It takes place in New Orleans between 1905 and 1941,” he said. “It’s about a young man on death row for the brutal murder of his mother, and on the eve of his execution for this crime and three days before his 21st birthday, he sits down with a journalist to tell of him and his mom’s life story.”

Lilly said that story involves the humble beginnings of Gravvy Brown’s mother on the harsh streets of New Orleans to being one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time of her death.

“He claims to be innocent,” Lilly said of Gravvy Brown. “This young man is crying innocence hours before he’s scheduled to be executed for this crime.”

Lilly said he chose New Orleans as the setting of the novel because he has always been fascinated by the city’s culture and wanted to give the residents something to enjoy after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

He said he wants to be a part of restoring literature as the main form of entertainment in America.

“My goal and my dream is to become the biggest author in the world,” Lilly said. “I want to totally revolutionize the literary world to make it cool to read again.”

In addition to the authors, the book festival featured music and poetry readings.

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