In celebration of Women’s History Month, noted Bermudian author Neletha Butterfield recently attended the Sixth Annual Black Women’s Book Festival for over 22 Black women authors and poets, entitled ‘Our Narratives – Tellin’ It Like It Is!’.
This year’s festival was held in Rochester, New York by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc.
Ms Butterfield, who heads the local chapter, was invited by the club as the International Literary Artist guest author, speaker and panelist on ‘How to Write, Publish and Sell Your Own Book’.
Club President, B Jamiylah Miller stated that she was honoured and thankful to have an international guest and was excited to have so many local participants.
Asked what she brought to the table as a panelist and a published writer, Ms Butterfield said “as an experienced writer”, she shared how “over the years” had documented all of her “speeches and information “not with the hopes of writing a book but to have the information stored for the future”.
“I decided to write after meeting so many young people and some adults who did not know me or my contributions to my country as a senator, a Member of Parliament and community activist.
“I decided to publish the books so that I can leave my legacy for my grandchildren and great grandchildren,” she added.
Questions from the audience included:
- How did I meet my publisher?
- Is it better to have a publisher of self-publish?
- Was editing your books difficult?
- What is the first step to writing?
As a panelist, she spoke on her role as a female politician and some of the positions she has held during her career.
“As women it was time for us to not just tell it like it is but to encourage one another through networking, mentoring, being positive role models, celebrate our elders as trailblazer for the rights of women and gender equality, training and development of our sisters in the diaspora and the professional women’s club and build trust amongst us and empowerment.
“I felt honoured and some of the women present stated that they were honoured to be amongst a woman of power.
“It was truly a warm welcome, as their overseas guest they had an itinerary for me to visit the Mayor’s office and meet Councilwoman – President Loretta C Scott, who presented me with two lovely books on Frederic Douglas.
“His statues – thirteen of them were all displayed through the City of Rochester.”
She also noted that she “made new friends” at a time when she has distributed her books “internationally to some wonderful sisters”.
“The 22 authors and poets present all had a story of struggle and survival. It was such a wonderful time that I will be returning next year as I told the sisters of the club that I had some ideas to make the event even better.”
Asked what she would say to encourage would-be authors to actually write a book, she said: “Documentation of your history and life is very important.Taking photos of yourself especially when you travel.
“With so much technology we still especially as authors have to research for information on people we want to write about or talk about.
“Women writing our stories tells our community that we want equality and a better understanding of us as the new role of women today in this fast moving society and world.
“As women we need to continue to show respect to one another as they did in Rochester – a beautiful setting of sisterhood and continue to guide each other to pursue our goals in life as well as assisting other women in fulfilling real needs in life and the pursuit of happiness.
“We all as women have our individual strengths and working together we can accomplish more especially the issues and challenges that continue to plaque us today. Let’s incorporate a willingness to work together,” she added.
President and Councilwoman Scott, in her greetings, said: “May you relish in the richness of the literary expressions brought forth by this year’s presenters as well as welcome our overseas guests from Bermuda.
The Rochester Club was organized in 1963 and their programmes extend to the young and old. The club is committed to the positive development of our community and to our sisters engaged in business and the professional world in the Rochester area.
The club supports and co-sponsors a number of initiatives designed to educate and support young children in addition to programmes for senior citizens.
Ms Butterfield also appeared as a guest on WXIR 100.9 FM hosted by the Programming Director, Rashida Burch-Washington – an extreme independent radio station in Rochester, along with outstanding author Leslie C Youngblood, who has a two-book contract with Disney- ‘Love Like Sky’, a middle-grade novel geared toward children and for adults too, refers to the endless, expansive love between siblings.
Youngblood believes she was able to complete it only because she returned to Rochester, a move she had resisted for years.Despite a happy childhood growing up in the 19th Ward, Youngblood had a brother, Samuel,who was killed in a robbery.
Fear of painful memories had kept her away.”Grief comes in so many forms,”says Youngblood, who now lives in Brighton.
“But writing from that emotion—about siblings, about endless love—was what I needed to tell my brother.
“With that epiphany, she abruptly resigned from teaching creative writing at Lincoln University of Missouri and returned to her childhood home Rochester,New York to finish the book.
The visit ended with a Gospel Fest by Fred Hammond and his guest artists Brian Courtney Wilson and Bishop Cortez Vaughn at the new Life Fellowship Church with Co-Pastor Tina McNeill, Senior Eder IV Nelson, Bishop Eulah M Nelson and Pastor Bernard McNiell.
The Bermuda Club was founded in 1964 and as president, Ms Butterfield said: “I have been moved from attending this event to assist in doing more for the community especially in uplifting our young women and men and yes some more publishing of books like ‘The Soul of CARE’ and ‘Educating the SOUL behind the Prison Walls’.”
Both books are ready to be published before release in October 2019.