The Oracle Set Foundation, Inc. held its 51st Annual Book & Author Luncheon at the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Adelphi, Maryland on Saturday, April 7.
The Book Club Luncheon began in 1967 with an aim to reach a larger African-American community and share stimulating ideas which have occurred at their meetings. In addition, the Book Club promotes literacy and raises funds to assist Washington, DC public and charter high school students with college scholarships. The Claudette Franklin Ford Memorial Scholarship Essay Competition is an expansion of the non-profit Oracle Foundation.
Each year notable African-American guest authors grace the podium as guest speakers. Some of the previous writers have been Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World & Me; Lalita Tademy, who wrote Citizens Creek and NY Times bestseller Cane River; former award winning journalist and television newscaster the late Gwen Ifill; and civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow.
Poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni was scheduled to be this year’s luncheon author, but unfortunately had to cancel. However, Oracle Set for able to secure award winning writer Tayari Jones, author of four novels – Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and her most recent, An American Marriage. Jones is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and has been the recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; United States Artist Fellowship; NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship.
After having had An American Wedding named the latest book club selection for 2018 and receiving a call from Oprah Winfrey, Jones said, “This was the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”
Following her introduction, Jones talked about wanting to tell a story dealing with the issues of the day; and was glad to tell this particular Black story that is also an American story. She then proceeded to read an excerpt from An American Marriage. The passage was so gripping you could actually hear a pin drop. When she finished, the applause was just as uproariously loud.
Questions from the luncheon guests followed which Jones answered honestly and often laced with humor. For example, someone asked her where did you start writing? “I wrote as a child and stapled them (pages) together. It was something I did for my own enjoyment and entertainment. People think that if you are a nice girl who likes to read and write…your parents don’t have to say ‘What are you writing’ because no one ever got pregnant in the library!”
Another question was how to get started writing. Jones said to try to do it gradually. While other people are at the gym, just sit down with a timer and write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about it. Jones offered encouragement when she said, “the more restrictions you put on yourself you are setting yourself up for failure.”
Jones spoke to the majority female African-American diners, many of them members of the flourishing book club population in the metropolitan DC area. “When I have a downhill day, week or month, when all appears to be going in wrong direction and not the right direction – I always know that Black women have my back.” These women are truly a powerful force in this nation and the key point Ms. Jones impressed upon the luncheon attendees.
“I found the warmth and sincerity of the author for her craft inspiring, and I particularly appreciated one of her quotes – ‘You write about people and their problems, not about problems and the people who have them.’ said Amina, a first time luncheon guest from New York.
This year’s Oracle Scholarship first place award recipient is Ms. Keyoco Williams, a student from Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School. William’s winning essay was “What is the most important issue facing young adults in Washington, D.C.?” Williams graciously thanked the Foundation for the $5,000 scholarship, and said that the funds would contribute to her college education.
Two second and third place scholarships were awarded to Ms. Crystina Harris and Savannah Ford, respectively.
In addition to the luncheon, Oracle sponsored a silent auction where the proceeds go toward the scholarship fund.
The line was quite long to purchase signed copies of An American Marriage. You can buy it now and see for yourself why it has received such acclaim, or wait for the movie that’s bound to be made based on it! It’s that good and extremely relevant.
For information on the Oracle Set Book Club/Oracle Set Foundation, Inc. –www.oraclesetbookclub.org