Connect with us


Local book festival features Chasten Buttigieg, Blade editor

Seventh annual Books in Bloom slated for Saturday in Columbia



Chasten Buttigieg will appear Saturday at Books in Bloom in Columbia, Md. (Screen capture via ABC/YouTube)

A YouTube video shows Nikki Giovanni leaning on the armrest of a brown leather chair with her layered purple-beaded necklaces reaching past her waist and closer to her knees. Her perfectly manicured afro tilted backwards as she gazes into the eyes of James Baldwin, seated opposite her, as they had a conversation about the state of affairs between Black women and men on a 1971 episode of “Soul!,” a variety show about African-American music, dance, and literature.

“Jimmy, I’m really curious, why did you move to Europe?” she began their segment. 

Giovanni, who has been honored with many awards, including the NAACP Image Award, will co-headline this year’s Books in Bloom Festival on Saturday, May 13 at Color Burst Park in Columbia, Md. She will join a host of other authors on the main stage, including co-host and LGBTQ rights activist Chasten Buttigieg, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, and Blade Editor Kevin Naff. Buttigieg is author of the new book, “I Have Something to Tell You.”

The festival, a collaboration between the Downtown Columbia Partnership and the Howard Hughes Corporation, began in 2017 to facilitate cutting edge discussions about diversity and inclusion in Columbia, Md. Authors, chefs, activists, and poets, among many others, have since gathered in the town to participate in programming about race, feminism, equality, and culture, according to the festival’s website. 

“Each year we highlight books that can highlight timely conversations that are happening nationally,” said Casey Jones, festival organizer and marketing director for the Howard Hughes Corporation. “One of those speakers is Eric Klinenberg, [and this] is very timely in downtown Columbia as the county executive just announced plans for a beautiful new central library that will be designed by Thomas Heatherwick.” 

Klinenberg’s session will center on his book “Palaces for the People,” which focuses on libraries as community anchors. He will also participate in a panel that includes Stuart Wood, a senior designer at Heatherwick Studio. 

Though Books in Bloom may follow the template of spearheading relevant discussions each year, this year’s edition is unique because the festival has engaged its local partners “more authentically.” The festival’s theme is “Building Community Through Empathy and Understanding One Another.”

“In prior years, we’ve [asked] our local partners to help market [the festival],” said Phillip Dodge, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership. “Whereas this year from the get-go we sat down and asked what value Books in Bloom can bring to them, and what can we offer them that could raise their profile in the community and help them do their jobs better.”

An example is Howard County Public School System Pride, which will participate in some of the programming and also launch its “Rainbow Vision 2023 Literary Magazine.” Students who contributed to the publication will also read their works, including poems and personal essays, in front of an audience. 

“Incorporating our partners makes sure that conversations exist beyond the event,” said Jones. “Libraries aren’t just houses for books, they’re opportunities to hear different perspectives.”

In line with uplifting the LGBTQ community in programming, Kevin Naff, editor and co-owner of the Washington Blade, will be in conversation with film critic and culture writer Manuel Betancourt, discussing his new book, “How We Won the War for LGBTQ Equality — And How Our Enemies Could Take It All Away.”

“I grew up in Columbia, so it’s quite a thrill to be asked back years later as a published author,” said Naff. “I can’t wait to talk about the important and grave issues facing the LGBTQ community in a city with such a long, progressive tradition.”

This progressive tradition dates back as far as the 1970s when Baldwin answered Giovanni’s question on “Soul!”

“I was trying to become a writer and couldn’t find in my surroundings in my country, a certain stamina, a certain corroboration that I needed,” said Baldwin “As far as I knew when I was young, as far as my father knew, there’d never been anything called a Black writer.” 



Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14



(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

Continue Reading


Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade