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Black women writers

From left: Fabu, Sherry Lucille and Catrina Sparkman.


Black History Month kicks off this month, and multiple events are scheduled in Madison and surrounding communities to commemorate the annual celebration of African-American achievements.

Local literary achievements will be the focus of a roving event that will feature past and present poets in Madison as local writers Fabu, Sherry Lucille and Catrina Sparkman talk about the works of three poets who lived and worked in Madison in the 20th century.

Those luminaries are:

  • Jean Toomer, a poet and novelist associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Toomer had attended the University of Wisconsin in the early 1900s and married the feminist writer Latimer, a Portage native, in 1931. He was best known for his 1923 novel “Caine,” a series of vignettes about African-American life.
  • Lorraine Hansberry, best known for her play “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry also attended the UW. She left Madison in 1950 for New York, where she became the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway.
  • Sarah Webster Fabio, a poet, literary critic and educator. Fabio taught at several universities, including the UW, where she worked in 1977 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She died two years later at the age of 51.

The discussions are scheduled for the Alicia Ashman Library, 733 N. High Point Road, on Friday night, at 6:30 p.m.; the Waunakee Public Library, 710 South St. in Waunakee, on Saturday, at 2 p.m.; the DeForest Public Library, 203 Library St. in DeForest, on Feb. 10, at 10 a.m.; the Pinney Library, 204 Cottage Grove Road, on Feb. 24, at 2 p.m.; and the Middleton Public Library, 7425 Hubbard Ave. in Middleton, on Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m.

Lena Waithe, an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter, producer and actress, will deliver the 2018 Black History Month keynote at Varsity Hall in Union South on Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m.

The Wisconsin Historical Society showcases historical artifacts, documents and performances during its Black History Month open house on Feb. 15, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a reception afterward.

More UW events can be found here.

The Madison Public Library is hosting a number of events, including a discussion on Feb. 8, at 5 p.m., at the Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., on the historic black colleges and universities experience. Before the discussion, starting at 3 p.m., UNCF representatives and people from area educational institutions will be on hand to talk about scholarships and financial aid options. Here is a list of library-sponsored events.  

Madison College has several events on tap:

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The panel discussion "Black and Brilliant: Black Participation in the Political Process" is on Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Truax campus, 1701 Wright St., in Room D1630B. The discussion starts at 12:30 p.m. Panelists include: Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell, entrepreneur and activist Sabrina Madison, pastor Harold Rayford, lieutenant governor candidate Mandela Barnes, activist Ali Muldrow and gubernatorial candidate Mahlon Mitchell. Food will be provided.

Black Market Day, featuring vendors from the Madison area, is scheduled for Feb. 10 at the Truax campus. Students will also have a shot at a scholarship in a Black History Month trivia contest.

On Feb. 15 at noon, the United Common Ground student group will screen "I Am Not Your Negro" in the Intercultural Exchange with a free lunch and panel discussion.

On Feb. 22 at noon, United Common Ground will screen the film  "Detroit," a fact-based drama set during the 1967 Detroit riots, in the Intercultural Exchange.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.