The Year of Newark Literacy and the Harlem Book Fair-Newark: Two “Precious and Historically Significant” Events for City of Newark

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On April 9, Dr. Clement A. Price, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and chairperson of  the Harlem Book Fair-Newark, addressed the media and community members at a joint press conference to announce the 2012 Newark Year of Literacy and welcome the Harlem Book Fair to Newark on April 27-28.  The full text of his remarks is below; information on the Harlem Book Fair follows his remarks.


Good morning my fellow citizens and welcome to the Newark Public Library.

We gather round this morning in one of the nation’s most remarkable public institutions. While you’re here, be sure to go upstairs to the second floor to see one of the City’s most extraordinary murals. Newark is a city of murals, but there are few as lovely as the one just above. And then go up to the third floor and step into the Charles Cummings New Jersey Reference Division. If there is something you have always wanted to know about Newark, or Camden, or Short Hills, or New Jersey, you will likely find it there. And while you’re there, have one of the librarians show you the humble, the simple desk where the late Charles Cummings used to do so much on behalf of the history and memory of our City.

And we gather ‘round this morning in an American city wherein its age, and its aspirations, have nurtured what is at the heart of our democracy: learning for all, opportunity for all, and a deep and abiding respect for all cultures.

This morning we acknowledge 2012 as the Year of Newark Literacy. And this year, during this season, we also acknowledge the forthcoming Harlem Book Fair in Newark. I will only speak for myself: I could not be more heartened, or more thrilled.

These two events in town are related in ways that are precious and historically significant.

Literacy is power; literacy is agency; literacy is freedom.  Indeed, Frederick Douglass, whose childhood was deprived of literacy by dint of his predicament as an enslaved American, would ultimately write, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” That was true in the 19th century; it is all the more true in the second decade of the 21st century.  

As for the Harlem Book Fair, let us agree that Harlem is synonymous with the challenging uplift of African Americans in 20th century cities. When we think of Harlem, we think of the Great Migration, we think of street corner preachers, we think of Marcus Garvey, and jazz. But, most especially, when we think of Harlem, we should think of writers and readers. That the Harlem Book Fair, through the good offices of my friend Max Rodriguez, is coming to Newark means that Newark is an extension of Harlem. Indeed, it is and always has been.

Mayor Booker is here and we thank him, as always, for being wherever Newark’s better angels and highest aspirations are present. We will hear from him shortly.

Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson is also here. She has become such a change agent in town, turning the most important institutions of Newark—our schools—toward the future. In doing that, she is giving the City a future it has long deserved. We will hear from her, too.

Let me thank the community partners who have banded together in support of the Year of Literacy and the Harlem Book Fair:

Rutgers-Newark, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, UMDNJ, Essex County College.

Also, the Newark Public Library, the Newark Museum, Wells Fargo Bank, the Newark Arts Council, the Positive Community Magazine, the Newark Alliance, the Star-Ledger, Bethany Baptist Church, the Newark Public Schools, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the City of Newark.



 New Jersey’s largest city already is home to arts and cultural venues, six universities and the Dodge Poetry Festival, and many of the state’s largest corporations.  Now, Newark will join an elite group of cities  -- New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.;  Boston; Los Angeles; Hempstead, NY; and Atlanta -- as partner to  the most lauded and well-attended African American literary events in the United States, the Harlem Book Fair. 

The Harlem Book Fair (HBF)-Newark launches on Friday and Saturday, April 27 - 28, 2012 as a dynamic multi-cultural community based literary festival that has as its theme “Let us Read.” The book fair will engage families, avid readers, aspiring writers and visitors to the city. Newark Mayor Corey Booker, an eloquent spokesperson for literacy and the HBF-Newark along with the Newark corporate community, has declared 2012 as the “Year of Newark Literacy.” In addition, HBF-Newark will host the first annual Newark Literacy Awards program on Friday evening which will recognize Newark-based literacy organizations and their effective impact on the Newark community.

Dr. Clement A. Price, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor, is chairperson of the Newark fair, while Wilma Grey, director of the Newark Public Library, is event director. A partial list of local participating authors include Benilde Little, Moody Holiday, Anasa Maat, Valerie Wilson Wesley, playwright Richard Wesley, and poet and essayist Amiri Baraka. The HBF-Newark, which will be held rain or shine, is free, expects to attract 5,000 people and will showcase up to 100 exhibitors. Most events will take place on the Rutgers-Newark Paul Robeson Center and outdoor plaza.


Friday’s event schedule, titled “Family Fun,” will run from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and target students, parents and educators in the following fun-filled activities:

§ Young Reader’s Alley, a world of reading and learning focused on children’s and young adult literature

§ Art to Books – a gallery display by book illustrators

§ Street Fair with more than 100 exhibitors selling books for all tastes and ages

§ Storytelling, teaching signing books

§ Book drive, used book sales


Saturday’s event schedule will run from 10 – 6 p.m. and will feature authors, poets, illustrators and entertainers in the following activities:

§ Flash Fiction – a short fiction reading contest

§ Special exhibits on various topics of literacy education, and events including

  • A look at Hip Hop literature
  • Screenings of literary themed films
  • Sound stage


A final schedule will be posted online at Questions about participation in the fair should be directed to Max Rodriguez, 914-231-6778.

The HBF-Newark marks the first time the fair has been hosted in a university setting. Our community and cultural partners include the City of Newark; Rutgers University, Newark; the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Essex County College; Wells Fargo Bank; Newark Public Library, Newark Arts Council, Positive Community Magazine, and the Newark Alliance, the Newark-based business consortium. The Harlem Book Fair was founded by Max Rodriguez, publisher of QBR The Black Book Review (www.magcloud/browse/issue/350208) in 1998.


• NEWARK IS…a college town of 60,000 students at six colleges and universities, including four major public nationally recognized institutions: NJIT, Rutgers Newark, UMDNJ and Essex County College.  

• NEWARK IS…world class cultural institutions including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, WBGO Jazz Radio 88, Symphony Hall, Newark Museum, Newark Public Library, Branch Brook Park, art galleries, and other art and cultural centers.

• NEWARK IS…home to the 18,000 seat Prudential Center arena housing the NJ Devils, concerts and special events and the $30 million 6,200 seat stadium housing the Newark Bears minor league baseball team.

• NEWARK IS…the restored Penn Station, an art deco landmark used by over 70,000 commuters a day.

Members of the media should contact Carla Capizzi, 973/353-5263.