FIRE & INK IV: WITNESS will address the urgent question of what it means to bear witness as LGBTQ and SGL writers of African descent and heritage in the 21st century. Merriam-Webster offers these definitions of “witness”: One that gives evidence. One who is present at an event and can say that it happened. One who testifies in a cause. An attestation of fact. One who has personal knowledge of something. Public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction. We invite Black LGBTQ and SGL writers and artists to assay their own definitions of witness.



OUR KEYNOTE Randall Kenan

RANDALL KENAN is the author of a novel, A Visitation of Spirits; two works of non-fiction, Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century and The Fire This Time; and a collection of stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead. He edited and wrote the introduction for The Cross of Redemption: The Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963, Kenan spent his childhood in Chinquapin, North Carolina and graduated high school in Beaulaville, NC, after which he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he received a B.A. in English in 1985. From 1985 to 1989 he worked on the editorial staff of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; in 1989 he began teaching writing at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. Kenan was the first William Blackburn Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University in the fall of 1994, and the Edourd Morot-Sir Visiting Professor of Creating Writing at his alma mater in 1995. He was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford (1997-98), Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Memphis, and held the Lehman-Brady Professorship at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (2003-4). He has also taught urban literature at Vassar College.

Randall Kenan is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, the Sherwood Anderson Award, the John Dos Passos Prize, and was the 1997 Rome Prize winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2005 and was elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2007. Kenan is currently a professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.