New York Times bestselling author Namina Forna is the 2023 keynote speaker at the Black Ink Book Festival | Photo by Melanie D'Andrea

Black Ink: A Charleston African American Book Festival returns Jan. 12-14 for its seventh year. The theme is “Black to the Future,” highlighting Black voices in the sci-fi and fantasy genre, and the keynote speaker is New York Times best-selling author Namina Forna.

Writers from South Carolina and neighboring states will showcase their work, introduce themselves to readers and enjoy lectures and workshops. All virtual and in-person events during the three-day festival are free, including the Jan. 14 keynote speech and book signing with Forna at Trident Technical College’s main campus in North Charleston.

The festival offers panel discussions such as “How Libraries and Indie Bookstores Can Advocate for Underrepresented Authors” and “The Ins, Outs, and Betweens of Audiobooks.” Alongside Forna, other notable guests include renowned authors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due.

Literary agents and publishers will take a limited amount of virtual pitches during the event. 

“The Black Ink book festival has quickly become a staple event in Charleston as we highlight and uplift the work of Black authors to local and national audiences,” said Djuanna Brockington, Black Ink committee chair.

The festival was centered last year around Black romance, as inspired by the Netflix series Bridgerton. Brockington said that the afrofuturism theme of this year’s festival was inspired by the release of the second Black Panther film. 

“We knew that Black Panther 2 was coming out with a lot of anticipation and excitement,” she said. “It made us think maybe it’s time to shine a light on Black voices in the sci-fi and fantasy genre.”

Lovers of the genre especially won’t want to miss the keynote speech and discussion with Forna, the author of The Gilded Ones and The Merciless Ones.

“We are over the moon to have Namina Forna,” Brockington said. 

Forna, who is originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, is based in Los Angeles. She moved to the U.S. at age 9 and regularly travels back and forth. She works as a screenwriter building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads.

The Gilded Ones is exciting: There’s adventure. There’s magic. There’s action. There’s underlying social messaging, but you’re not hit over the head with it. It’s just a great story,” Brockington said. 

“We can’t wait to sit down with her and talk about writing, about fantasy and about writing to a particular audience that often isn’t highlighted, which is young Black women.”

Brockington said that there is “something for everyone” at the festival: writers, readers and book lovers in general are all invited to attend the events and lectures.

The Black Ink Festival is hosted by the Charleston Friends of the Library in partnership with the Charleston County Public Library and the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture

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