Literary SoulFEST: Celebrating Literacy and Freedom of Expression
Literacy is a powerful tool that can transform lives, empower individuals, and shape communities. Recognizing the significance of literacy and the freedom of expression, Literary SoulFEST has been celebrating the literary arts since 2008. This annual event is dedicated to honoring the triumph over two forms of literacy that were once punishable by law, showcasing the importance of literacy in society.
During the era of slavery, legislators enacted draconian laws that made mastery of letters and the drum punishable offenses. These laws were aimed at suppressing the intellectual and cultural expression of enslaved Africans. Despite this oppression, many enslaved Africans defied these laws and gained the ability to read and write. This defiance was a powerful act of rebellion, as literacy became a weapon against the institution of slavery.
Literary SoulFEST, which takes place in November, coinciding with Family Literacy Month, serves as a platform to advocate for literacy, promote the literary arts, and raise awareness about issues affecting youth, health, the environment, and the economy. The event also aims to support the development of reading skills and transform lives through the power of literacy.
The concept of Literary SoulFEST is inspired by the National Literacy Act of 1991’s definition of literacy, which states that literacy is an individual’s ability to read, write, speak English, and solve problems at levels necessary to function effectively in society and achieve personal goals. The festival embraces this definition and seeks to celebrate literacy in all its forms.
One of the key historical narratives woven into Literary SoulFEST is the spread of European languages, such as French, English, and Portuguese, in West Africa during the fifteenth century. During the transatlantic slave trade period, enslaved Africans like Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano managed to learn how to read and write. These individuals, after gaining their freedom in the late eighteenth century, authored books condemning the Atlantic slave trade. Their ability to read and write was directly linked to their capacity to rebel against their oppressors.
This connection between literacy and rebellion is further exemplified by the Stono Rebellion, the largest uprising of slaves in the American colonies. The rebellion was fueled, in part, by the Africans’ literacy skills prior to the implementation of literacy laws. These rebellions represent instances where literacy played a pivotal role in empowering individuals and challenging the oppressive system of slavery.
Literary SoulFEST brings together writers, poets, educators, and community members to foster a love for literature and ignite conversations about the importance of literacy. The festival showcases literary performances, book readings, panel discussions, and workshops, providing a platform for artists to share their work and engage with audiences.
In addition to promoting the literary arts, Literary SoulFEST also addresses social, economic, and environmental issues. The festival strives to create a space where communities can come together and actively participate in creating a better future. By fostering a sense of community awareness, Literary SoulFEST encourages individuals to take action and make positive changes in their own lives and the lives of others.
Literary SoulFEST is a testament to the power of literacy and freedom of expression. By celebrating the literary arts and advocating for literacy, this event aims to empower individuals, transform lives, and build stronger, more engaged communities. Through storytelling and the written word, Literary SoulFEST embodies the resilience of the human spirit and reminds us of the lasting impact of literacy on society.
This event was founded by Donya Craddock, Donna Craddock and Dominique Johnson, Mama Gregory owners of The Dock Bookshop.