The New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival Project
The Toni Cade Bambara Award
for Cultural Leadership As the opening event of the 2010 Mississippi River 9th Ward Film Festival, the New Orléans Afrikan Film and Arts Festival Project (NOAFEST) will host a celebration on Friday October 1, 2010, to present the first annual Toni Cade Bambara Award for Cultural Leadership to two cultural workers who have contributed significantly to the cultural and artistic diversity of the City. This initiative has been made possible in part by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
We have chosen to name this award for the activist and prolific writer, Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995). Bambara was a practicing artist, filmmaker, educator, feminist, and community activist. Her travels to Cuba and Vietnam helped her see the struggles of African Americans in the context of black nationalist struggles around the globe. She is well known for her novel, The Salt Eaters (1980), but her 1999 novel, Those Bones are not My Child, about the murder of forty black children in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981, is powerful. Toni Morrison edited it and considered it a masterpiece. Bambara once said that she never thought of herself as a writer but as a community person who "writes and does a few other things." But she recognized that "writing is a legitimate way, an important way, to participate in the empowerment of the community that names me" (Black Women Writers, 1984).
We are pleased therefore to honor Vera Warren-Williams, who in 1983 founded the Community Book Center (CBC), and Jennifer Turner, the manager of the CBC, with the first annual NOAFEST Toni Cade Bambara Award for Cultural Leadership. These visionary, ambitious and dauntless women have created a bookstore that highlights books by and about Africans and people of African descent. The CBC is also, as many know, a community center, a gathering place to share ideas, food, and to constitute community. In short, the CBC is a people's place.
Jennifer Turner insists on the spirit of dialogue as a distinctive feature of their enterprise: "You can go to Barnes and Noble and have books everywhere you can see - from wall to wall, from floor to ceiling, everywhere's a book. But it's not the quantity, but the quality, and that's what we pride ourselves on, the quality of the word. And besides that, where else can you go and have a one on one and talk about a book and give your views and they give it back to you?"
Vera Warren-Williams stresses the ultimate goal of breaking down barriers: "Our services weren't specifically for African-Americans, even though that was the primary audience. But we felt it was important for the entire community to have access to this information because all of racial discrimination and prejudice is based on ignorance. The more we know about each other's history and culture, we can eliminate some of those stereotypes and prejudices we carry. Sometimes you can't go certain places and discuss things, so we created a safe haven here for political, cultural, and social discussions."
Joseph Gaï Ramaka
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For more information
Visit our website neworleansafrikanfilmfest.org