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The Books That Sit by the Door

Chuck D and Kool Moe Dee drop by the St. Louis Black Book Fair


Some say the Black Arts Movement (BAM) began after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 when poet LeRoi Jones, disgusted with the white world, abandoned his bohemian life in New York's Greenwich Village, moved to Harlem, changed his name to Amiri Baraka and called for a separate Black nation. Others say BAM was more a galvanization of a nationwide grassroots movement that had been building momentum for years. Whatever the case, it was over -- as a recognizable social movement anyway -- by the mid-'70s.

How fitting is it, then, that BAM and the St. Louis Black Book Fair be resurrected in early April? The fair will take place for the first time in fifteen years on Friday, April 2, and Saturday, April 3, at the Gateway Classic Foundation Sports Arena (2012 Martin Luther King Boulevard; call 314-918-8229 or email

Asked to explain the significance of this year's theme, "Radical Recovery Through Literature and Arts," writer and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville English professor Eugene B. Redmond, who helped plan the event, offers: "Recovery is a two-level thing: recovery of racial identity, cultural identity, self-identity. And a recovery from the throes [of] whatever you've been up against -- whatever demons, real or imagined, you're fighting against. I don't know anyone who is not in recovery."

The organizer of the St. Louis Black Book Fair, Akbar Muhammad, is hoping to recover the spirit of BAM by bringing in celebrated scribes Amiri Baraka and Marvin X, hip-hop's Chuck D and Kool Moe Dee, and author Shahrazad Ali. WGNU's Lizz Brown (pictured) will also be there to discuss her new CD, In Defense of Our Babies.

From 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday night, $5 gets you into a poetry reading featuring the Willie Akins Quartet. The free book fair opens at 9 a.m. Saturday with a screening of The Spook Who Sat by the Door, followed by a lecture from Sam Greenlee, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based. There will also be children's programs, workshops, lectures and, of course, books for sale.

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