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27th Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference Set for April 7 & 8

Posted Mar. 6, 2011

Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni will add to her acclaim in April when she receives the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award at Kent State University. The award will be given at the 27th Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth, where Giovanni will deliver the keynote address at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, in the ballroom of the Kent State University Student Center.

The conference provides a forum for discussion of multicultural themes and issues in literature for children and young adults. In addition to Giovanni, this year’s program features Coretta Scott King award-winning author and photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. and Caldecott Honor Book award-winning illustrator Chris Raschka.

The conference opens Thursday evening, April 7, with Giovanni’s address, followed by a special poetic performance by the Kent State Wick Poetry Center and area elementary and middle school students, with musical accompaniment.

On Friday, April 8, the program includes presentations by Smith and Raschka, as well as local and national speakers leading workshops on such topics as notable books for a global society; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “using music in the classroom and library”; Mahjong, World War II and ethnic Chinese cultural representation; Appalachian children’s literature; and an update on the newest multicultural picture books, to name a few. Participants also can attend a conversation session with the three featured presenters.

“Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff are good and dear friends,” Giovanni said.  “I am incredibly thrilled to receive this award named for one of the great children's authors.  I cried all the way through The Planet of Junior Brown and actually had the nerve to turn Zeely into a play. Winning this award is one of the highlights of my life.”

“Nikki Giovanni’s work speaks for itself,” said Dr. Carolyn Brodie, conference director and professor in the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. “We’re delighted to be able to honor her in this way. She truly speaks to what this conference is about and what Virginia Hamilton stood for.”

Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968, and within the next year published a second book, thus launching her career as a writer. Early in her career she was dubbed the “Princess of Black Poetry,” and over the course of more than three decades of publishing and lecturing she has come to be called both a “National Treasure” and, most recently, one of Oprah Winfrey's 25 “Living Legends.” Giovanni's books have received numerous honors and awards. Most recently, her children's picture book, Rosa, about the civil rights legend Rosa Parks, became a Caldecott Honor Book, and Bryan Collier, the illustrator, was given the Coretta Scott King Award for best illustration. Rosa also reached #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. Among other honors, she was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award and has also been awarded the Langston Hughes Medal for poetry. The author of some 30 books for both adults and children, Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va.

Chris Raschka received a Caldecott Medal for The Hello, Goodbye Window and a Caldecott Honor Award for Yo! Yes? Publishers Weekly has called him “one of the most original illustrators at work today.” His A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems, a critically acclaimed anthology, was both a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.

Charles R. Smith Jr.’s photographic exploration of Langston Hughes’ My People received the 2010 Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. In other works he combines writing, photography and sports, as in his first book, Rimshots, a collection of stories, poems and “other stuff” mixed with gritty black and white photos. His recent work celebrates those who have inspired him, such as Muhammad Ali in Twelve Rounds to Glory, and subjects that have interested him since childhood, such as The Mighty 12, which celebrates Greek gods and goddesses.

The Virginia Hamilton Conference is the longest-running event in the United States to focus exclusively on multicultural literature for children and young adults. Honoring author Virginia Hamilton, the conference reflects a commitment to promoting cultural awareness and affirming cultural pride while addressing the array of issues which surround the concept of culture. The conference is held each April at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and is sponsored by Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science, the College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services and the Office of Continuing and Distance Education. Additional support is provided by Akron-Summit County Public Library, Cleveland Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Hamilton Arts Inc. and the Kent State University Bookstore.

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Media contact:
Flo Cunningham, 330-672-0003, fcunning@kent.edu