After more than 20 years, I had the chance to chat briefly with Ernest Gaines, who received the North Star award for his work. He had been a guest speaker at Hampton University when I was a student there, and I admit, I was in awe to see him again all those years later. I took my worn copies of his two books – “A Gathering of Old Men” and “A Lesson Before Dying” – and asked him to sign them, recounting our first meeting. And he signed them both with a personal note: “Good to see you again after so many years.” What a joy!
I also met the Ella Baker award recipient, Junot Diaz, who was gracious and funny, and NPR’s Michel Martin, who a wonderful emcee for the evening. Sharing the room with so many inspiring fiction, non-fiction and poetry writers was a thrill beyond words. Visit the foundation’s website for a list of the winners.
There is no other such award ceremony that I know of. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award was the first national award presented to Black writers by a national organization of Black writers. In a world where people are censored for what they think, marginalized for what they believe, and attacked for the way they look, it’s vital to have opportunities such as the Legacy Awards to honor an array of voices, each one sharing their own perspective of the black experience.