Celebrating Black Voices with the Free Library Podcast

By Jason F. RSS Thu, February 16, 2023

It’s Black History Month and the Free Library has an extensive archive of podcasts and videos to help you celebrate a diverse range of writers working in politics, fiction, food, poetry, religion, memoirs, sports, and much more. Here’s curated list of eight author events that feature some leading Black voices and viewpoints — and these are just from the past six months!

You can certainly find many more on the Free Library Podcast page or our Author Events YouTube channel.

Misty Copeland and her book, The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson in conversation with Tamala Edwards


Misty Copeland | The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson

In conversation with Tamala Edwards, anchor, 6abc Action News morning edition

The first African American principal dancer in the history of the elite American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is one of the world’s most accomplished and recognizable artists. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Life in Motion, Ballerina Body, Black Ballerinas, and the children’s books Bunheads and Firebird. A recipient of the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, an inductee in the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Hall of Fame, one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and one of Glamour’s Women of the Year, Copeland also made her critically acclaimed Broadway debut in 2015 in On the Town. In The Wind at My Back, Copeland offers a memoir about her formative and enduring relationship with friend, mentor, and trailblazing ballet dancer Raven Wilkinson.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Kardea Brown and her book, The Way Home: A Celebration of Sea Islands Food and Family with over 100 Recipes in conversation with Valerie Erwin


Kardea Brown | The Way Home: A Celebration of Sea Islands Food and Family with over 100 Recipes

In conversation with Valerie Erwin

Charleston, South Carolina-based Kardea Brown hosts the Food Network’s Delicious Miss Brown and OWN’s The Great Soul Food Cookoff. She also is the creator of the pop-up New Gullah Supper Club, where her cuisine pays homage to her grandmother’s cooking and her Gullah/Geechee heritage, which describes a distinctly African American group that has preserved much of its West African culture in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. She has also appeared on Beat Bobby Flay, Chopped Junior, and Family Food Showdown, among other culinary programs. In her first-ever cookbook, Brown shares her multi-generational recipes for Low Country favorites, accentuated with helpful tips, family anecdotes, and beautiful photos.

The longtime owner of the Low Country-inspired restaurant Geechee Girl, longtime Philly chef Valerie Erwin was also the general manager of the innovative EAT Café. These ventures have been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine, and on The Food Network and NPR. She currently manages Farm to Families, a produce access program for children; serves on the board of C-CAP, a culinary scholarship program for high school students; and is a member of the board of the anti-homelessness organization Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Ross Gay and his book Inciting Joy: Essays with Major Jackson and his book A Beat Beyond: Selected Prose of Major Jackson


Ross Gay | Inciting Joy: Essays with Major JacksonA Beat Beyond: Selected Prose of Major Jackson

Ross Gay is the author of The Book of Delights, a life-affirming collection of short lyric essays that reminds readers to appreciate so-called ordinary wonders, even during turbulent times. His several volumes of poetry include Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Be Holding, winner of the 2021 PEN America Jean Stein Book Award; and Bringing the Shovel Down. A writing professor at Indiana University, Gay has earned fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and Cave Canem. Inciting Joy explores the ways that people can inspire love and compassion by recognizing that which unites us.

Major Jackson is the Richard Dennis Green and Gold Professor at the University of Vermont, a core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and the poetry editor of the Harvard Review. He is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd ManHolding Company, and Leaving Saturn, and his work has appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and Ploughshares, among numerous other periodicals and journals. Jackson’s many honors include the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A Beat Beyond is a collection of essays, interviews, and notes that delve into the intellectual and spiritual aspects of poetry in order to understand its political, social, and emotional functions.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Charlayne Hunter-Gault and her book My People: Five Decades of Writing about Black Lives In conversation with Dorothy Roberts


Charlayne Hunter-Gault | My People: Five Decades of Writing about Black Lives

In conversation with Dorothy Roberts

Referred to by Jelani Cobb as “a Dean of American journalism,” Charlayne Hunter-Gault has chronicled some of the past half-century’s most important moments in Black life, culture, and politics. Often the only Black woman in the newsroom, she wrote for The New Yorker and The New York Times, where in 1968 she established the paper’s Harlem bureau. Also a broadcast journalist, Hunter-Gault served as a reporter and anchor for PBS’s McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, NPR’s chief Africa correspondent, and the South Africa bureau chief for CNN. Her many honors include two Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, and honors from the National Urban coalition and the National Association of Black Journalists. Ranging from the Civil Rights Movement to Barack Obama’s presidential election, My People is a definitive compilation of reportage and commentary that explores the Black American experience. 

Dorothy Roberts is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. She is also founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society in the Center for Africana Studies and the author of several books that focus on health, social justice, and bioethics. Her most recent book is Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Camika Royal and their book Not Paved For Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia in conversation with Edwin Mayorga and Sharif El-Mekki


Camika Royal | Not Paved For Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia

In conversation with Edwin Mayorga and Sharif El-Mekki

For 20 years Camika Royal was a middle and high school teacher and a teaching coach for her fellow educators in Baltimore, Washington, DC, and her hometown of Philadelphia. Currently an associate professor of urban education at Loyola University Maryland, she examines the racial, historical, and sociopolitical contexts of school reform ideologies, policies, and practices. A sought-after speaker and education consultant, she taught at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania and other colleges and universities in the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas. 
Associate Professor in Swarthmore College’s Department of Educational Studies and the Program in Latin American and Latino Studies, Edwin Mayorga is the founder of the Education in Our Barrios Project (BarrioEdProject) research study and after school club, and the Philadelphia Community, School and College Partnership Research Project. The co-editor of What’s Race Got to do With It?: How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Equality, he is the recipient of several research grants and fellowships.
The Director of the Center for Black Educator Development, Sharif El-Mekki has served as an administrator and teacher in Philadelphia schools for nearly three decades. The co-creator of The Fellowship—Black Male Educators for Social Justice, he was a 2013 U.S. Department of Education Principal Fellow Ambassador and an America Achieves Fellow. His other projects include Philly’s 7th Ward blog and the 8 Black Hands podcast.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, Dawud Anyabwile and their book Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice in conversation with Tracey Matisak


Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, Dawud Anyabwile | Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice

In conversation with Tracey Matisak, award winning broadcaster and journalist

Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics when they stood at the winners’ podium and raised their black-gloved fists to protest racial injustice in the United States. Smith, gold medalist in the 200-meter sprint, and Carlos, the bronze medal winner, were forced to leave the games and faced a swift and brutal backlash at home. In his illustrated memoir for young readers, Smith tells the story of his rural Texas childhood, early career, Olympic victory, and internationally famous protest.

In addition to his Olympic gold medal, Tommie Smith held the record for the 200-meter sprint for more than 44 years, held an additional six running world records, won the 1966 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship, and was drafted into the NFL. The author of the memoir Silent Gesture, he coached track and taught sociology at Oberlin College. Smith is an inductee to the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the California Black Sports Hall of Fame.

Derrick Barnes is the author of more than a dozen bestselling children’s books that celebrate African American culture, including The Making of Dr. TrueloveCrown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, and the Ruby and the Booker Boys series. He has been honored with a Newbery Award and a Coretta Scott King Award

Emmy Award-winning illustrator Dawud Anyabwile designed storyboards for Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, and Boomerang. He illustrated the graphic novel adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’ book Monster and is the illustrator of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic series, among numerous other projects. His many other honors include an Eisner Award and a Glyph Comics Award.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


Ruth Wilson Gilmore and their book Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation in conversation with Chenjerai Kumanyika


Ruth Wilson Gilmore | Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation

In conversation with Chenjerai Kumanyika

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is largely credited with creating carceral geography, the study of how the interplay between space, institutions, and political economies shape modern incarceration. The author of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California and several often-anthologized essays, she is the co-founder of several social justice organizations, including the California Prison Moratorium Project and Critical Resistance. She is a professor of earth and environmental sciences and American studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is also director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. Gilmore’s many honors include the Angela Y. Davis Prize for Public Scholarship from the American Studies Association and the Association of American Geographers' Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research. A collection of Gilmore’s work from the last three decades, Abolition Geography offers scholars, activists, and all interested people a new way of reacting to the incarceration crisis.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.


W. Kamau Bell with Kate Schatz discussing Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book in conversation with Lamont Hill


W. Kamau Bell with Kate Schatz | Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book

In conversation with Marc Lamont Hill

W. Kamau Bell is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award–winning CNN docuseries United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, and also directed and executive produced the recent four-part Showtime documentary We Need To Talk About Cosby. He has appeared as a guest and comedian on many television shows, has two comedy specials, hosts the radio show Kamau Right Now, co-hosts two podcasts, and hosted the FXX series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. The author of the memoir The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, he has contributed writing to The New York TimesVanity FairThe Hollywood Reporter, and The LA Review of Books, among other places.

Kate Schatz is the author of The New York Times bestselling Rad Women book series. Her other books include the work of fiction Rid of Me, articles and essays in an array of publications, and “Folsom, Survivor,” which was anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2011. A political organizer and frequent public speaker, she is the co-founder of Solidarity Sundays, a nationwide network of more than 200 feminist activist groups. Schatz is the former chair of the School of Literary Arts at the Oakland School for the Arts, and she taught women’s studies, literature, and creative writing at University of California, Santa Cruz; San Jose State; Rhode Island College; and Brown University.

Filled with activities, ideas, games, illustrations, resources, comics, and prompts for conversations, Do the Work! challenges readers and the people in their lives to better understand systemic racism in order to dismantle it.

Enjoy this episode on the Free Library Podcast or the Author Events YouTube page.

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