Book Reading by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu at Kweli Lit Fest 2023.

The 2023 Kweli International Literary Festival launched on Saturday, July 15 with a day-long inaugural program at Barnard College in New York City. Comprised of both in-person and virtual events, the festival is currently running till September 15.

Inaugural Day was a spirited convening with deep dive conversations on craft and community and down-to-earth advice on the writing life. During a lunchtime fireside chat, acclaimed poet and cultural critic Hanif Abdurrqib encouraged writers to “build a discipline around your interests [in tandem with writing].” At a craft session on screenwriting, award-winning filmmaker Raven Jackson shared her process on creating sensorial screenplays that defy linear storytelling structures. Namwali Serpell, Victor LaValle, Oscar Hokeah and Jocelyn Nicole Johnson were among the other celebrated authors who led craft talks and master classes during the daylong event.

As with previous years, KweliLitFest23 brought together local and international writers of color in community with literary luminaries, publishing industry insiders and fellow emerging writers. Speaking of her experience of the Festival, writer-attendee Dana Fletcher said, “At KweliLitFest, you get to be in a room of literary giants and feel like their peer.”

Two special events took place before Inaugural Day.

“Sing the Truth” included a reading and book signing by Pulitzer finalist Ingrid Rojas Contreras, a conversation between the author, Rodney Hamilton (choreographer), and debut author and Kweli Fellow Maria Alejandra Barrios, and a breathtaking dance performance by Mia Bermudez.

“Myth and Music” featured the works of authors Yvette Lisa Ndlovu and Chika Unigwe. Their writings were dramatized in poignant dance performances by Mikaela Brandon (dancer) and Khensani Mathebula (choreographer). Violist Iymaani Abdul Hamid opened the event with a musical performance that set a striking note of defiance – a theme that permeates the works and authors featured throughout the festival.

Check out the photos from Inaugural Day and pre-Festival events below!

Rodney Hamilton, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and Maria Alejandra Barrios at “Sing The Truth”.
Mia Bermudez performing at “Sing The Truth”.
Audience member with Ingrid Rojas Contreras at her book signing at “Sing The Truth”.
Yvette Lisa Ndlovu at her book reading at “Myth & Music”.
Ladan Osman, Chika Unigwe, and Yvette Lisa Ndlovu at “Myth & Music”.
Iymaani Abdul Hamid performing at “Myth & Music”.
Hanif Abdurraqib at the lunchtime keynote conversation during Inaugural Day.
Retha Powers (VP/Exec Editor, Henry Holt) with novelist Jocelyn Nicole Johnson.
Oscar Hokeah (novelist) at the “Capturing the Elusive” craft session.
Writer-attendees at the lunchtime keynote.
Writer-attendee with screenwriter Raven Jackson.
Writer-attendees in craft session.
Book signing at “Sing the Truth”.
Laura Pegram (Kweli EIC) giving her welcome remarks during Inaugural Day.
Victor LaValle (novelist) at “Researching the Novel” craft session.