Dig Baton Rouge

Festival of Words

IWE Festival features performers, authors, and art

When Councilwoman Erika L. Green isn’t at city hall or practicing law, she can be found doing one of her favorite pastimes, reading. Her love of literature prompted her to create the IWE Festival, an initiative designed to promote creativity, diverse culture, and the literary arts.       

“I used to [live] in Houston, Texas, and every weekend they had cultural events for all ages,” Green said. “When I moved back here I felt there was something missing.”    

Green, who represents District 5, aims to provide a family oriented intergenerational festival where music and culture abound, appealing to all ages. The IWE, (Yoruba for book), festival features nationally recognized authors, along with regional and local performing arts talent, including singers, dancers, actors, and spoken word performers. The festival also features marketplace vendors and a kid zone.    

“I wanted to be able to provide children in my community with images that looked like themselves,” said Green. “I also wanted to offer a cultural event where we can sit outside and enjoy music and the performing arts, but also get to hear authors read and learn about their writing process through panels.”   

Green is a Baton Rouge native who graduated from Bellaire High School then furthered her education at Prairie View A&M University and Southern University’s Law Center, believes that promoting cultural activities are key to the progress of the Capital City.    

“In our mayor’s State of the City-Parish address she said that she’s taken an approach to put arts back on the radar,” Green said. “For our mayor to highlight that as a need and a priority, it really shows we are lacking in what we could provide.”

Green hopes that the festival, now in its second year, continues to flourish. Hearing how last year’s event was appreciated made her feel like all the hard work wasn’t in vain.   

“Last year I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “You envision things and put everything together, but when I saw the event come to life, it was a self-reflective moment where you feel you’ve accomplished something where others benefited.”

Green says the local library plays an integral part in the community and the festival. It’s a great way to remind the community to utilize such an important and easily accessible resource.         

“They have the ability to offer books, audio books, and other multi-media resources,” she said.  “They provide a book mobile on event day, exposing kids to the mobile library.  Sometimes in our community we take services like that for granted.”

A book that commanded Green’s attention recently was “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, a best-selling young adult novel and soon-to-be movie. Green points out that it touches on racial issues and police brutality from a young adult perspective, but is a good read for adults as well. Other books on her bookshelf include “Wench” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and “Hacks: The Inside Story by Donna Brazile.” Green’s goal is to stimulate the love of reading in everyone.

“I hope to make reading and literacy cool,” she said.     

The IWE Festival is free to the public and will be held Saturday June 9, at Southern University and A&M College, on the Bluff, from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Photos by Sean Gasser

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