Community Voices

Black writers conference will debut next weekend in Opa-locka

A 2016 gathering of the Ralph Hogges and Benjamin Cowins Writers Group of South Florida at Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale, including Alice Johnson, Johane Metellus-Surpris, Delores Smiley, Benjamin Cowins, Willie Logan, Indiana Robinson, Ralph Hogges and Darrell Davis.
A 2016 gathering of the Ralph Hogges and Benjamin Cowins Writers Group of South Florida at Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale, including Alice Johnson, Johane Metellus-Surpris, Delores Smiley, Benjamin Cowins, Willie Logan, Indiana Robinson, Ralph Hogges and Darrell Davis. Miami Herald File

Ralph Hogges and Benjamin Cowins are on a mission to help black writers get their works published.

Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a significant mission. But to those who have dealt with the frustrations of trying to get their their work published, theirs is a mission of the utmost importance.

Hogges and Cowins are retired educators (Hogges is also a retired minister) who’ve been friends for more than 40 years. They are also published authors.

They will be sharing what they know about publishing in the first Hogges and Cowins Book Festival and Writers Conference, Dec. 9-10, at the Arts and Recreation Center (ARC), 675 Ali Baba Ave., Opa-locka .The theme is: “Lifting Our Literary Voices.”

Keynote speakers for the two-day event are Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., founder of the Black Archives, and Kitty Oliver, Ph.D. Both are published authors.

In 2012 Hogges and Cowins came together to form a writers’ group. The idea was to create an atmosphere where blacks writers could meet and look at each other’s work. The idea for a book fair and writers conference came from those meetings. Now, they say, “Our day has come.”

“I have always loved to research and write during my spare time when I was working,” said Hogges, who retired from Nova Southeastern University and from the ministry in 2012. “Over the years, I convinced Ben and his wife Harriet to use their writing talents.”

Cowins retired from Norland High School as an administrator and counselor; in 2000, he self-published his first book.

Since their retirement, the two have become prolific writers. But when they tried to get their works published, they ran into roadblocks.

“We couldn’t get a literary agent to represent us,” Cowins said. “And even when we self-published, the big issue was how to market our work. We decided that there must be other black writers out there who share our frustration.”

Thus, they formed the Ralph Hogges and Ben Cowins Writers Group of South Florida, now a 75-member organization.

Although the Writers Group is relatively new, Hogges said that he began thinking of such a group as a child when he would spend his summers in New York and learned about the works of W.E. B. Du Bois at neighborhood literary events. Du Bois was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1895).

“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do something like that in our neighborhoods?’ Later I realized that we really needed a medium where established black writers could reach out to other black writers to mentor and inspire them.”

He referred to the Chit’lin Circuit in the South, created for black entertainers who could not perform in white establishments.

“Black entertainers could always perform in the Chit’lit Circuit,” Hogges said. “We needed something like that for black writers.”

So, once a month the writers come together to read each other’s work and encourage each other.

“How else do our people get the experience and exposure to appear on [writers] conferences and panels unless we create the opportunity?” Cowins asked. He said the philiosophy of The Writers Group is simple: “Those who don’t know, come to learn; those who know, come to teach.”

The Hogges and Cowins Book Festival and Writers Conference 2017 will be Dec. 9-10, with an invitation-only opening reception at 5 p.m. Dec. 9. The conference will feature stations where authors will be able to sell and sign their books, panel discussions and workshops. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Hogges at ralphhogges@bellsouth.net.

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Tis the season for beautiful music. And to get the season started, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church will present its annual Christmas concert, “Carols of the Bells,” at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The “Carol of the Bells” is a Ukrainian carol and one of the most popular of the season, according to information from the church. Admission is free and refreshments and a social gathering will follow the concert in the church hall.

Also, the church choir will participate in Epcot’s Christmas Processional on Dec. 29. Call 305-798-0190.

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The Miami Oratorio Society will present its annual Christmas concert at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Holy Family Episcopal Church, 18501 NW Seventh Ave. in Miami Gardens. The program will feature J.S. Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” with excerpts from Handel’s “Messiah.”

Directed by Andrew Anderson, the soloists are Joanne Martinez, soprano; Emelia Acon, alto; Lievens Costillo, tenor; and Daniel Snodgrass, bass. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for youth 10-17 in advance, and $30 at the door for adults. Call Gloria Christian at 954-882-2242 for more information.

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The Inter-American Chapter of Hadassah will present the North Miami Pops Band in concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Temple Beth Shalom, 4144 Chase Ave., in Miami Beach.

Directed by Bruce Bailey, the band will perform light classical music and popular Jewish and Broadway music.

Admission is $20 at the door or $15 if received by Dec. 1. Make checks payable to Hadassah, Inter-American Chapter, P.O. Box 5461666, Surfside, FL 33154.

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Ahavat Olam Synagogue will present Cantor Steven Haas in concert at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at 10755 SW 112th St.. The synagogue shares its premises with Killian Pines United Methodist Church. Haas will perform, “The Music From the Great Jewish Composers of Tin Pan Alley.”

A native of Miami Beach, Haas made his debut with the Israel National Opera, and who has received acclaim on the operatic and concert stages of Europe, Australia and the United States. He has appeared with the Greater Miami Opera, the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the Palm Beach Opera, and the Orlando Opera and has performed with Itzhak Perlman, John Williams and the Florida Philharmonic for the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel.

Tickets are $36 for pre-paid preferred seating, $25 for pre-paid general admission, and $30 for general admission at the door. A reception will follow the concert.

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The annual St. Nicholas Celebration at St Basil Catholic Church will be at noon Sunday at the church, 1475 NE 199th St., in North Miami Beach.

The program will include dinner and a play presented by the Sunday School children of the church. St. Nicholas will be there too, with chocolate chip cookies and a gift for each child.

The cost of lunch is $10 per adult (ages 13 and older), $5 per child (ages 4-12) and free for children 3 and under.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email bea.hines@gmail.com. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.

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