8th annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair Aug. 9 in Los Angeles

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

The Leimert Park Village Book Fair, based in South Central Los Angeles, is the main annual literary event for the Black community on the West Coast. A number of authors and screenwriters attend every year to expose the community to their latest work, and thousands of book lovers come to see what all of these writers have cooked up. This year, philanthropic musician the legendary Stevie Wonder and screenwriter Eric Monte of “Good Times” and “All in the Family” will be honored with Legacy Awards.

It’s a treat to meet young authors along with the celebrities and literary legends at the Leimert Park Village Book Fair.
It’s a treat to meet young authors along with the celebrities and literary legends at the Leimert Park Village Book Fair.

I sat down with Leimert Park Village Book Fair founder Cynthia Exum to discuss the history of the book fair, as well as what is happening this year at this historic event. Check her out in her own words.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell our readers a little bit about the history of the Leimert Park Village Book Fair? Who founded it? Where?

Cynthia Exum: I founded the the Leimert Park Village Book Fair in 2007 in partnership with 9th District Councilman Bernard C. Parks, the City of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles, LA Department of Cultural Affairs and Eso Won Books, one of Los Angeles’ premier African American owned bookstores.

The book fair started from my desire to promote and encourage literacy, education and the love of reading in our community.

And I am proud that after seven years the event gets bigger and better every year with the support we get from our sponsors, our community partners, our participants, our special invited celebrities, special guests and most importantly our community.

The book fair started from my desire to promote and encourage literacy, education and the love of reading in our community.

M.O.I. JR: For the people who have not been, can you describe what the Leimert Park Village Book Fair looks like today? Who are some of the more recent headlining authors who have attended the fair?

Cynthia Exum: The book fair has experienced wonderful growth in the past seven years. Since its inception, we have been able to make some truly meaningful additions each year – from our Chefs’ Corner to the Poets’ Stage.

This year we are excited to introduce the Jessie Redmon Fauset Awards, recognizing exceptional works by authors from various genres. Ms. Fauset was a phenomenal writer and author who made her mark during the Harlem Renaissance.

Leimert Park Village Book Fair ad 080914 We are also honored to present our annual Legacy Awards to award winning screenwriter Eric Monte (“Good Times,” “All in the Family” etc.) and legendary musician-philanthropist Stevie Wonder. In recent years we have enjoyed the participation of notable authors like Eric Jerome Dickey, Susan Taylor and Poet Laureate Isabel Wilkerson, to name a few. So, attendees can expect our tradition of the very best in literary offerings and presentations to continue.

M.O.I. JR: Why did the Leimert Park Village Book Fair move from last year’s location?

Cynthia Exum: Fortunately, we are growing. And at a time when it seems that there are more book stores closing than opening, we are grateful that people respond so well to our book fair each year. It was important that as we expand, we do so in the community.

Therefore, our move to Baldwin Hill Crenshaw (BHC) was quite smooth, almost a natural progression. BHC is ideal for its location, community-driven events, beautiful venue and, of course, spaciousness!

M.O.I. JR: You have also written a book about the history of Leimert Park, which includes in it its connection to the Bay Area. What is the name of your book? Can you speak a little bit upon this history?

Cynthia Exum: Yes, and actually I co-wrote “Images of America: Leimert Park” with Maty Guiza-Leimert, wife of Walter H. Leimert, whose grandfather developed the area in 1927.

It’s a historical documentation and pictorial on the history of this area, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to document the area’s rich and diverse history.

This ad in 1926 announces the opening of the Leimert Bridge, built by the same Walter Leimert whose name graces a Los Angeles neighborhood and the book fair.
This ad in 1926 announces the opening of the Leimert Bridge, built by the same Walter Leimert whose name graces a Los Angeles neighborhood and the book fair.

Now what most people don’t know is that prior to Mr. Leimert migrating to Southern California, in 1926 he completed the largest structure, the Leimert Bridge – also named after him – in Oakmore Highlands, a neighborhood in the Oakland Hills.

M.O.I. JR: Why is literacy important?

Cynthia Exum: Being literate opens doors in every aspect of your life. Both personally and professionally, you progress when you are able to communicate effectively. It’s difficult for me not to be proactive when it comes to the importance of being able to read and comprehend. Literacy is important because everyone benefits from knowledge.

M.O.I. JR: Why is owning books important?

Cynthia Exum: Can you even imagine a world without books? I can’t. You don’t have to be a voracious reader to understand how important it is to be able to grab your favorite book for reference, to be able to loan a good book to a friend or even pick up a good book to read for a long flight or drive. Books equal knowledge, and you can never learn too much.

M.O.I. JR: When and where is the Leimert Park Village Book Fair this year? Who are some of the authors who will be featured? And what’s going to happen?

Cynthia Exum: The book fair will be held on Saturday, Aug. 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Los Angeles! We are excited about the fantastic new venue as well as the growing line-up of authors.

In addition to being a Legacy Award honoree this year, author Eric Monte will be signing copies of his latest novel, “A Prophet Ranaway,” at the fair. It is a “must attend” for everyone!

M.O.I. JR: How can people keep up with the Leimert Park Village Book Fair online?

Cynthia Exum: Please visit us at www.leimertparkbookfair.com. Facebook us at www.facebook.com/LeimertParkBF and Twitter us @LeimertParkBF. Thank you for this interview and thank everyone for their continued support!

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.