Book Expo: Book And Author Breakfast

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Los Angeles BookExpo, Sunday May 2, 1999

Celebrates the Power of the Indestructible Human Spirit

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Jane Goodall author of Reverence For Creation

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Frank McCourt author of Angela's Ashes
Iyanla4.jpg (6274 bytes) Iyanla Vanzant author of In the Meantime
BookExpo America - Outcry Magazine's Press Coverage

On Sunday, May 2, 1999 the Book and Author Breakfast   started with  Blackboard Book of the Year Awards presented to African Americans.

The morning was fired up by many powerful authors who read from their books to an audience of over one thousand, generating such a very powerful emotion in the hall. Jane Goodall, the author of Reverence of Creation: The Spirit Ties that Binds Us to the Earth. In her presentation, she made unbelievable imitation of Chimpanzee's noise using her own voice. The sound made in the hall was so perfect in resemblance to that made by chimpanzees. In her speech, Jane Goodall made us to understand that through her work with these animals, she learned over the years that animals communicate just like human beings.They have their own unique ways of communication besides using sounds which are very oblivious to us as humans. Jane indicated that animals have feelings, and personalities just like people.

While working with chimpanzees for many years, Jane Goodall  noticed that the greatest threats to these animals are human greed and cruelty due to war, the rate of deforestation due to over consumption from the West, and then destructions caused by wars. With these problems she said, "We are headed for a shipwreck." She could not understand why human brain power is used to create the weapon of mass destruction.

At the end of her presentation Jane Goodall reassured the audience that there are always reasons for hope. She indicated that nature will heal itself and the environment because she has seen some animal species in extinction which have been reintroduced by nature. Her final appeal to everybody is to use our own judgement by refusing to do business with companies destroying the environment.

When Frank McCourt, the author of Angela's Ashes took over the microphone, he kept everybody laughing for more than half of his readings. He took us inside the class room of teaching under-privileged kids and his daily routine of spending more time dealing with the kids' problems, trying to keep them quiet so they can pay attention to the lesson. He continued to give one instruction after another telling one kid to sit down, stop talking, pay attention to the teacher, don't bother other kids, do your work, etc. He had to attend to the kids' needs -- one who wanted to see the nurse, the amusement of a young girl telling the teacher she just started her period and wanted to be excused from class and another boy who wondered what that was all about and the list of things he had to deal with within the class room continued. Frank McCourt said that most of the time he spent giving instructions and little time to teach.

McCourt came from a very religious Irish family where his mother baptized every kid she baby sat even if they belong to other Christian denominations -- it made no difference, she would still baptize them. It was at this time she joked that many Jewish parents who brought their kids to his mother thought the kids were still Jewish and little did they know that his  mother already baptized them by washing their heads in their sleep. His mother believed she was baptizing the children so that they can obtain eternal salvation.

He told us of his humble beginning when he arrived in New York and didn't know what to do and had no education. But, despite his lack of education which made him insecure, he managed to overcome his obstacles. He became a substitute teacher in 1969, and later taught for 30 years in public school.

McCourt urged everybody to follow their dreams, instincts and ideas. He appreciated the value of education so much as he described an event in his life which brought him to tears -- the hall became silent. McCourt started to describe a powerful moment of his life when a 70 year old African American finally learned to read and was at an event telling people how he was able to read to his grandson. Frank McCourt was taken by so much emotion, he  was in tears. His expressed emotion defined the great value McCourt placed on adult's  literacy.

Who was going to beat the emotional tone and the impression created in that hall after Frank McCourt? We thought we had heard the end of the story until Iyanla Vanzant took over the microphone. She thanked the Black bookstores and other bookstores who helped to sell her books, and also thanked the BlackBoard Committee for honoring her. Vanzant raised the emotion inside the hall even higher when she said, "It doesn't matter what people look like outside, you should always honor what they are inside." Her presentation struck to the heart of society's vanity of our physical look and how we put so much value on the outside appearances, we ignore to look at the being inside. She indicated that the Columbine Massacre was not due to anything other than our inability to look and treat each other as human beings and not as objects. We are each human beings with great spiritual power covered up because of what is on the outside.

Iyanla Vanzant appealed to the human race to make every single person feel important. We should reach out to people, particularly to those going through emotional pain. She said that many times when she was a young black child many people didn't think that she had anything to say, nor did they want to hear what she had to say. With a loud voice and powerful emotion she said, "Society doesn't know the wound that I carry in my heart or the painful experiences I have been through as a Black woman in America."    That was deep!

Her final appeal was to us as people to treat each other with dignity and respect. She pleaded with publishers to take chances on small unknown authors, perhaps they have a message for society. She re-emphasized her appeal that when we get too stuck with what is on the outside, we deal too much with the superficial and ignore the real person inside. She ended her speech by saying, "We should begin to affect each other consciously. The hall exploded into a giant applause after she finished, ending with a standing ovation.

In her presentation, Iyanla Vanzant could move a mountain by the power of her speech! She left many people in tears, her speech was that powerful!

V. 'Yinka Vidal  -- Reporting with camera from the Los Angeles BookExpo, 1999