By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the past 28 years, Art Sanctuary has held in Celebration of Black Writing Festival, but this year they’ve made a big change.

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The Celebration of Black Writing is one of the oldest African-American festivals in the country. It attracts more than 5,000 attendees, as well as top journalists, authors and artists who meet and greet their audience, teach free workshops and showcase their talent.

“We’re taking it from 13 days to 31 days all throughout the month of May,” says Valerie Gay, who is the executive director of Art Sanctuary.
She says expanding the festival creates the opportunity to take the celebration to the people.

“We’re going to be in Germantown and West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia and in Center City,” she says. “We’re taking the celebration of black writing to the community, which is really, really exciting.”

This year’s theme is Launching Beyond Legacy: Celebrating the Literary Achievements of Black Women.
The work and accomplishments of black women writers, poets, journalists and poets will all be celebrated.

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“We are going to celebrate the body of black women songwriters,” says Gay. “While songs are ubiquitous and sit in our consciousness, we often do not think about who wrote those songs or the meaning.”

Gay says a compilation of songwriters, including Nina Frelon, Valerie Simpson, Phyllis Hyman, Jill Scott and many other black women will be celebrated. But the event is not just for black women or black people.

“It is for people who love to read, people who are interested in something new, people who are interested in writing and writing themselves,” she says.

The festival will include a month long photo exhibit by Erinn Cosby, the daughter of Bill Cosby, as well as an awards celebration honoring poet and playwright N’Tozake Shange and former Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist, Annette John-Hall.

For the full scheduled of the events, go to

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