Hope College will feature a live virtual visit with author Kwame Alexander on Friday, Feb. 26, at 2 p.m. in conjunction with national Black History Month.

“Light and Hope for the World To See: A Conversation with Kwame Alexander” is intended for all ages, and community members and K-12 students and teachers are encouraged to attend.  Participation is free.  More information, including details regarding how to log in, is available at bigreadlakeshore.com.

The event is being presented virtually out of an abundance of caution due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Alexander’s visit is a collaborative effort of several Hope organizations:  the NEA Big Read Lakeshore, Black Student Union, Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Ruth Tensen Creative Writing Fund, Cultural Affairs Committee, Department of Education, and Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

“Kwame Alexander is a distinguished poet, educator and author, known for his works bringing attention to the experiences of Black lives in America,” said Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, associate professor of English education and director of the NEA Big Read Lakeshore. “His works are powerful and provocative, cultivating important thought and discussion.”

“During the event, he will discuss a variety of topics including his newest book ‘Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope,’” Van Duinen said.  “Kwame Alexander writes, in verse, about the ongoing racism and oppression in our country by highlighting events and experiences of Black lives in our world. It has been appropriately called ‘a rap session on race’ and eloquently describes extreme loss and incredible hope.”

Alexander is the New York Times Bestselling author of 32 books, including “Swing”; “Rebound,” which was shortlisted for prestigious Carnegie Medal”; “The Undefeated”; “How to Read a Book”; and his Newberry medal-winning, middle-grade novel, “The Crossover.”

A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, he has received numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, three NAACP Image Award nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In partnership with Follett Book Fairs, he created the #AllBooksForAllKids initiative to bring more diverse books into school libraries.

In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. Alexander is the Founding Editor of VERSIFY, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that aims to change the world one word at a time.

Hope College’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore program began in 2014 with the goal to create and foster a culture where reading matters. By bringing the Lakeshore community together around a common book, Big Read Lakeshore uses the shared experience of reading, discussing and exploring the themes of the book as a springboard to listen from and learn from each other.

The NEA Big Read Lakeshore program is made possible in part by a grant from the NEA Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Hope’s Black Student Union (BSU) has played a key role in the planning of this event and others during Black History Month. BSU facilitates interaction and heightens awareness of African American history and culture within the Hope College and Holland communities. The organization works to unite our community by providing educational experiences through speakers, dialogues and social functions.

"Books contain some of the greatest stories ever told, and Black Student Union is excited to partner with several great organizations around the Hope/Holland community to help highlight some of those stories and the black creators that inspire us. Kwame Alexander is one of those creators, and we are thrilled to have him come and share with us,” said Hope senior Kworweinski Lafontant, president of BSU.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion empowers students to excel academically and flourish as socially responsible members in a diverse world. They provide opportunities, resources and advocacy in partnership with the greater Hope College community to promote a Christ-centered culture of equity and inclusion.

“The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is excited to collaborate on our celebration of Black History Month and African American writers with many Hope College departments and groups. We commemorate Black History in February and throughout the year.  We are looking forward to virtually welcoming Kwame Alexander to our campus,” said Margo Walters, program coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is a student-run, faculty-organized series committed to hosting free events that are open to the public. The events offer opportunities for the local and student communities to interact with the visiting writers and discuss their craft through panels, readings, classes and workshops. The program’s goal is to provide the community with diverse and rich literary experiences.

Additional information about the college’s Department of Education, Ruth Tensen Creative Writing Fund and Cultural Affairs Committee is available at hope.edu.