Lead Story West Edition

Annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair has southern roots

By Marissa Wells

Contributing Writer

“Celebrating Our Southern Roots” will be the theme of the 12th annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair, to be held Aug. 25 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

This year’s theme highlights the great black migration of millions of African Americans from southern states to the Northwest, Midwest and West that occurred between 1916 and 1970.

“From the stories I’ve been told, traveling from the South to the West was not always easy,” said Cynthia Exum, who founded the book fair in 2006 with the goal of promoting education and literacy in South Los Angeles. “But both sides of my family made it with hopes of starting anew. I am so happy that our event will pay tribute to the 6 million African Americans who traveled from the South in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.”

For more than a decade, thousands of African Americans and other racial groups have flocked to the annual book fair to meet their favorite authors and be introduced to new authors. The event provides a cultural experience where attendees are educated on the literary contributions of the African-American community.

“Speaking for my production team, our aim is to create not merely a book fair, but a literary experience which brings to life our history, and the stories of our people,” Exum said. “Our event is more than a Book Fair, it is an experience.”

This year’s book fair will be held inside the mall instead of outdoors to foster a “southern comfort zone” complete with special exhibits, activities and programming.

The fair attracts more than 200 authors, poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, performers, and literary/educational exhibitor participants. In previous years, New York Times best-selling author Zane, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and White House correspondent April Ryan have graced the main stage. Fan favorites like authors Pamela Samuels Young and Tananarive Due have participated as well.

This year’s book fair Distinguished Guest Lecturer/Author is New York Times best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey.

With the “Celebrating Our Southern Roots” theme, those attending can expect to see numerous exhibits and displays that testify to a southern roots upbringing, including a panel discussion about the great migration and its impact on America and a walking tour mimicking the great migration of millions of African Americans.

The fair will display a list of “20 must-read southern literature classics” and there will be a Kids Activity area complete with authors of children’s books.

“I hope attendees will enjoy all aspects of the event including the many authors and literary/educational exhibitors who will be present,” Exum said. “I encourage folks to come out and support authors they may be familiar with or perhaps meet new authors.”

Since the fair’s inception, the family-oriented event has grown from its location at the Vision Theatre parking structure on 43rd Street and Degnan Boulevard to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, just down the street from the historic Leimert Park district, which is respected by many as the center of the African-American arts scene in Los Angeles.

“The Book Fair is a reflection of the times in which we live, in which we seek change for the better and for certain, how we thrive in our communities,” Exum said. “We represent what is possible through literacy, education and supporting positive community involvement. Always have and always will.”

The fair will run from 10 a.m until 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit www.leimertparkbookfair.com.