Sponsored by the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, the National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) is a long weekend of panel discussions, workshops and roundtable discussions beginning Thursday, March 29 and concluding Sunday, April 1.

The conference provides emerging and established writers, literary scholars, critics, agents, publishers and booksellers, as well as the general public, with a forum to share the writing published by Black writers, discuss the trends and themes in Black literature and identify the major issues and challenges faced by Black writers and those in the business of reading, publishing and selling Black literature.

Hailed by best-selling author Walter Mosley as “the most significant gathering of Black writers in the country,” the NBWC is the only gathering of its kind in North America. Initially inspired by the late John Oliver Killens, the conference has been held at Medgar Evers College since 1986.

Killens was a writer-in-residence and professor at Medgar Evers College from 1981-1987. The first NBWC, held at Medgar Evers College a year before Killens’ death on Oct. 27, 1987, focused on the social responsibility of the Black writer. Each subsequent conference has built on the previous one, attracting a national and international audience. The conference is currently held biennially; on the alternate years, literary symposia are held.

This year’s conference will also celebrate the contributions of filmmakers and film as a literary art form on Friday, March 30. Screenings will be held throughout the day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., highlighting full-length features as well as shorts based on literary themes.

“Films are our words in motion; every film begins with the written word,” said Dr. Brenda M. Greene, director of the NBWC and executive director of the Center for Black Literature. “There are many films that are adapted from books to begin with, so to incorporate them in the conference is a natural and organic evolution.”

Hosted in collaboration with African Voices, the film series features fascinating works like “Sonia Sanchez: Shake Loose Memories,” by directors Jamal Joseph, Rachel Watanabe-Batton and producers Voza Rivers, Joseph and Watanabe-Batton. The film is a musical and poetic journey through the life, art and activism of Sonia Sanchez, a poetry icon, professor emeritus at Temple University, cofounder of the Black Arts Movement, pioneer of the Black Studies Program at San Francisco State and a tireless fighter for human rights.

Sanchez’s poetry, performance and reflections weave together to create a moving “cine poem” in this film featuring performances of her works by Amiri Baraka, Oscar Brown Jr., T.C. Carson and Toshi Reagon. There will be a Q & A with the audience following the film.

In addition to the day of film, the 2012 conference will feature panels and roundtable discussions, youth and elder writers’ workshops, talkshops on fiction, poetry and drama, author readings and book signings. The conference will also honor literary and cultural icons Kenyan-born writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o; poet, novelist, essayist and publisher Ishmael Reed; poet Nikki Giovanni; and Dr. Howard Dodson, former director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Confirmed participants for the 2012 NBWC lineup include authors, poets and publishers such as Haki Madhubuti, Sterling Plumpp, Tavis Smiley, Herb Boyd, Patricia Smith, Camille Dungy, Isabel Wilkerson, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Nnedi Okorafor, Lita Hooper, the Rev. Conrad Tillard, William Jelani Cobb, R. Dwayne Betts, Maulana Karenga, Teju Cole, Bernice L. McFadden, Elizabeth Nunez, Karen Hunter, Sofia Quintero, Joan Morgan and Regina Brooks, among others.

This year’s conference has received major funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Founded in 2003 and spearheaded by Greene, the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College was established to expand, broaden and enrich the general public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature; to continue the tradition and legacy of the NBWC; to serve as a voice, mecca and resource for Black writers; and to study the literature of the people of the African Diaspora. It is the only center devoted to this study in the country.

For further information about this historic literary event and for conference updates, pre-NBWC programs and the awards tribute and ceremonies, call (718) 804-8883, email nbwc@mec.cuny.edu or visit www.nationalblackwritersconference.org.