John Oliver Killens Reading Series

The John Oliver Killens Reading Series is a testament to the life of the late John Oliver Killens whose advocacy of the Black writer is legendary. The series provides authors, poets, scholars, and writers of the African Diaspora with opportunities to expound on their work while in dialogue with a knowledge moderator. Featured writers also engage audience members which create lively, stimulating conversations. Series topics range from an examination of the guest's work, the craft of writing, challenges related to writing and publishing, to much more.

The monthly series is presented monthly on the second Thursday (unless otherwise noted). It is always free and open to the college community and the public. A very special thanks to the Amazon Literary Partnership for support of this program.

"...Killens was an important figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, Killens was a close friend of Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists.

John O. Killens created the Black Writer’s Conference (which has been hosted ... at Medgar Evers College since 1986), was a Medgar Evers College professor and one of the most respected authors of his time. He died of cancer on October 27, 1987. He was 71 at the time of his death and lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York.

The Killens Review of Arts & Letters, published by the Center for Black Literature and Medgar Evers College (CUNY), was named in his honor in 2010." | Source: African American Literature Book Club.

John Oliver Killens photo by Carl Van Vechten.


Sample of Previous Events


COVID-19 Writers Project
The COVID-19 Writers Project captured the viewpoint of the coronavirus pandemic from inside the virus’s hotspot—New York City—while examining the extent to which health outcomes are impacted by socioeconomics, education, and race.

The program was presented by the Center in collaboration with Scriibe and BK Reader. C. Zawadi Morris, founder of BK Reader is the project manager and executive producer of the project.

Willie Perdomo and Friends
The Center, in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library and the English Department at Medgar Evers College, celebrated 2019 National Poetry Month with Willie Perdomo. Perdomo is the author of The Crazy Bunch and The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, which was a National Book Critics Circle 2014 Finalist for Poetry.

Poets Nicole Sealey and Rico Frederick joined Perdomo for an evening of readings and a discussion. The program also featured writer Sean Anderson and Medgar Evers College English majors Cherish Pierre-Louis and Brianna-Christine Alicea.


An Evening with Nicole Sealey and Cheryl Boyce-Taylor
This event was  held at the Dweck Cultural Center at Brooklyn Public Library. Boyce-Taylor opened the program with the reading of her poem “Devouring the Light, 1968: After Martin Luther King Jr.” in honor of the 50th anniversary of King’s death. She then read a selection of poems from her previous collections and her recent book, Arrival.

Sealey read several of her favorite poems, which included “Hysterical Strengths” from her collection Ordinary Beast. Following the poetry readings, Clarence V. Reynolds, director at the Center, joined the poets on stage for a conversation about their journeys as poets, influences on their writing, and their views on the ways poetry can effect social change.

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Center for Black Literature
at Medgar Evers College, CUNY (CBL)
1534 Bedford Avenue, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11216

Primary Phone: (718) 804-8883
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