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Community Engagement

PNC Bank Black History Month Honoree: Pearl Cleage

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Saturday morning at 8am on WCLK's The Local Take I'll talk with Pearl Cleage about her career and her latest honor from PNC Bank. Cleage first came to my knowledge after I attended a late-night reading during the 1988 National Black Arts Festival. I reminded her of this event and we were both blushing as we discussed her erotic poetry that was presented that night. 

We discuss her work across multiple genres including fiction, non-fiction, the theatre and poetry. 

Born in Detroit, Atlanta has claimed Pearl since the late 1960s. Cleage studied at Howard University and graduated from Spelman College. I ask her how she feels about the HBCU experience and the longevity of these institutions of higher learning.  She shared that she was aware of her "Blackness" and while that is a great reason to attend, she provides many others. 

Ms. Cleage is considered a "Southern" writer and I ask her about the region becoming a character in her work. She also shares how she came to mentor young artists including renowned author Tayari Jones. 

Her novel "What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day" was a seminal publication in increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS. It was named an Oprah Book Club selection.  Cleage shares with us what receiving that call was like and her reaction to the continuing spread of the disease in our community today. 

In our extended conversation I share with Pearl my reaction to her play "Bourbon At The Border" which I saw in 1997.  I share with her that I continue to think about this play, while disturbing and difficult to watch, it has stayed with me like a loose tooth that you ocassionally probe for pain.  She shares that it was a hard play to write. 

She also talks about the upcoming children's book "In My Granny's Garden" commissioned by PNC Bank as part of their Grow Up Great Program. She and her husband Zaron Burnett, Jr., wrote the text with illustrations by Radcliffe Bailey. The book is being made available to the Mayor's Reading Club.  Over 15,000 books will be donated by PNC Bank. 

For more information about Pearl Cleage

For more information about PNC Bank Grow UP Great Children's Programs