Calling all readers in Austin and Central Texas: the Austin African-American Book Festival (AABF) is just a few days away from putting on their thirteenth annual festival! This Saturday, June 22, head over to the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center for a day packed with author talks, book signings, workshops, and activities for all ages. The AABF, which is free and open to the public, runs from 9:30am to 5pm—view their full schedule on the AABF site.
We got the chance to ask AABF founder, Dr. Rosalind Oliphant Jones, a few questions about the AABF and their 2019 Festival. Dr. Oliphant Jones is also the founder of the Folktales Black Women’s Literary Society, which grew out of her fantastic independent bookstore Folktales (which closed its doors in 1999). Oliphant Jones has brought countless award-winning and best-selling black authors to Austin both through her bookstore and the AABF—including Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Gwendolyn Brooks and YA author sensation Angie Thomas. Through her work as a bookseller and festival organizer, Oliphant Jones has done immeasurable work in and for the Austin community at large and was recently honored with The Links Western Area Conference Services to Youth Award the Links for her contributions to community uplift and education.
Read our Q&A with Oliphant Jones below, and we’ll see y’all this Saturday, June 22!
Texas Book Festival: Could you tell me about some of what we have to look forward to at the 2019 AABF
Dr. Rosalind Oliphant Jones: The Austin African-American Book Festival is a celebration of the Black literary experience! There will be speakers addressing different literary and cultural themes, workshops, discussions, and book signings. This year, festival attendees will also enjoy some special surprise touches we’ve added to turn up the celebration!
TBF: What do you look for in putting together an event and author lineup like this one?
ROJ: This year’s festival looks at the promise of economic freedom in the Black community through both a historical and contemporary lens. After confirming author A’Lelia Bundles, the goal was to see if we could build the festival around her famous ancestor, Madam C.J. Walker.
There will be healthy snacks and a free book for kids attending story time, which is a round-robin of great read-alouds from eight independent authors showcasing their work. Mikaila Ulmer, the teen CEO of Me & The Bees Lemonade, will join us during the festival to talk about her business, and Start-Up Kids Club is providing a free workshop for youngsters looking to start their own business.
TBF: How can AABF attendees prepare for the day-long festival? What’s the best place for people to find information about the Festival and its events?
ROJ: Attendees can come early and stay late. There is great parking at the Carver Museum. And Smart Trips Austin is offering free bus passes to the event. Emoji’s Grilled Cheese will be serving up good food all day. All in all, it is a great day of learning, discussing, uplift, and reflection. We have many community volunteers to greet and direct you to our various segments. For more information about the festival, we encourage everyone to visit our website and Facebook page.
TBF: How many people are involved in putting together the AABF?
ROJ: We have a small core organizing committee who rely heavily on a larger group of community partnerships and organizations that work with us to produce the festival.
TBF: What are you currently reading?
ROJ: I’ve been reading books by our festival featured authors. Booksellers love selling books they love! For years, I have enjoyed and learned from Dr. Dennis Kimbro’s research. I had Bundles’s On Her Own Ground in my personal collection, but had not read it until now. It’s an insightful and inspiring look into Madam C.J. Walker’s life and business strategies.