THE ICON: Kalamu ya Salaam
THE LEGACY: Since he started writing nearly five decades ago, New Orleans author Kalamu ya Salaam has never stopped expressing himself – in cultural essays, political essays, articles, poems, plays, music and such books as “The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement,” “360: A Revolution of Black Poets” and “Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology.” In the 1960s, he and Tom Dent emerged as key figures with the influential Free Southern Theater, a traveling dramatic company that performed racially themed works for audiences in economically depressed parts of the South and which gave rise to BLKARTSOUTH, which was created to develop additional literary and theatrical material. A social and political activist, Salaam — whose name translates to “pen of peace” — has turned out a long list of works that focus on the African-American experience and show its relationship to, and place in, the overall community.
THE ARTIST: Jeremy Paten
THE INSPIRATION: “In the final analysis, writing is a conversation, and even if we cannot tell the pilgrim which way to go, certainly we should tell the pilgrim from whence we have come, what brought us here and what is the nature of the ‘here’ where we now find ourselves.” — Kalamu ya Salaam, from the seventh Sylvia R. Frey Lecture: Kalamu ya Salaam, delivered Sept. 26, 2018, at Tulane University