Well-Read Black Girl Festival Shows Up For Black Literature

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief Glory Edim, The 2nd Annual Well-Read Black Girl Festival brought Black women in the literary arts under one roof.

“Let me put it in one sentence… God’s time is the best,” were the words Glory Edim’s mother, Henrietta, spoke as she watched her daughter address the Well-Read Black Girl Festival audience at Pioneer Works Saturday, Nov. 10.

Henrietta, like most of us, were moved by Glory Edim’s conviction, her poise and undeniable profound storytelling felt as if you were catching up with your closest girlfriends. Edim, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Well-Read Black Girl, an online Brooklyn-based book club, hosted her 2nd Annual Well-Read Black Girl Festival — but it easily could’ve been her 100th.

Edim, author of Well-Read Black Girl: Finding our Stories, Discovering Ourselves,” always had her head dipped into books,” according to her mother. “That’s where she got her inspiration from. Her interests revolved around this. It came full circle, it kinda clicked.” Looking around the Well-Read Black Girl Festival, no words seemed more accurate.

“I thought about all my friends in the book club. I thought about my mom. I thought about Maya Angelou. I just considered all the people that helped me form my foundation and helped me grow into the woman I am today,” Edim said.

“I hope when you read the book it feels like a conversation. It feels like a friend. Something you can hold onto and pass along to your friends, daughters, sisters, aunties. It can be a keepsake for you.”

The Well-Read Black Girl Festival was simply that - an IRL invitation to step into conversation cultivated from Edim’s digital community. Not only was the festival set to draw its online presence together, but also to shine light on what naturally exists: Black, intelligent, exuberant women.

We want to be seen. We will be heard.

The Well-Read Black Girl Festival was truly a congregation of female literature, laughs, and love. The all-day festival ran from 12 to 7 pm with organizations such as the New York Public Library and A Public Space onsite, alongside the festival’s partners, Penguin Random House Publishing and Greenlight Bookstore.

Merchandise coined with the phrase, “Well-Read Black Girl” (inspired by the T-shirt that began Edim’s movement), was available for purchase. Not to mention, an incredible lineup of keynote speakers including poet Patricia Smith, memoirist Veronica Chambers, and Newbery honorees Jacqueline Woodson and Renée Watson were slated to speak.

A warm, energetic hue filled the sold-out venue, its vibrancy reflecting off each individual within the space. Bustling chatter, genuine conversation and sisterhood were not only seen, but felt. The Well-Read Black Girl Festival was a safe space for Black women and their minds, but also a strong and supported one. It’s hard not to wonder why more spaces like this don’t exist.

“I’m thankful Glory finds herself in that community in what she does. It’s good to see that Black women can be empowered and lift one another,” Edim’s mother said.

Patricia Donkore, Edim’s friend from Washington D.C., witnessed the movement grow from its earliest stages. Donkore, who runs the Well-Read Black Girl Instagram account (@wellreadblackgirl) labels herself as simply, “a friend of Glory, the founder.”

“It’s inspiring to see some of the same faces from last year, and more new faces. I’m enthusiastic about it, for Black females and readers to network and learn about authors. I hope it’s an inspiration for them on their journey.”

For some audience members, the Well-Read Black Girl Festival wasn’t their first interaction with Edim. In fact, one woman’s journey landed her face-to-face with Edim — for a second time. Delores Connors, a reading specialist and author of children’s book, I Don’t Want To Go!, met Edim a couple years ago at a bookstore.

“I asked her about Well-Read Black Girl, and she said in the most humble voice, ‘It’s just me.’ To see it flourish… It’s amazing,” Connors said, looking around the festival in awe.

The Well-Read Black Girl Festival united females from all over the country. Black women from areas of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and even California, came together to witness Black readers, writers, and their voices. While the 500 seats in Pioneer Works were completely filled, there was room made for everyone, reassurement that more spaces for Black females and their literary works would be created in the future.

“I just see it growing. For her [Edim] as a writer, and then for the interested Black female readers,” Donkore said.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding our Stories, Discovering Ourselves is Edim’s anthology, a collection of stories, poems and memories derived from the Black experience. The Well-Read Black Girl Festival proves that literary arts have Black voices, ones that are just as integral and necessary as its peers.

As said best by Edim, “It comes as a guide and a resource to show young black women, young black girls, that they can be anything they want in the world.”

Carly Quellman