The Black Cultural Center hosted an African-American virtual reading on Monday evening to highlight the work of Harlem Renaissance author Richard Bruce Nugent. The event was advertised by the BCC on its website and newsletter. However, only 2 of the 15 scheduled attendees joined the presentation.
The event, as part of their cultural art series, covered the poems “Shadow” and “Who Asks This Thing”, and the short story “Smoke, Lillies, and Jade”, each relating to Nugent’s experience as one of the only openly gay authors of his time.
BCC Librarian Ula Gaha organized the event as part of her individual campaign to promote the works of black queer authors. Gaha said many of Nugent’s contemporary authors were also gay, but few were open about their sexuality at the time.
“When it comes to writers, poets and artists, a lot of what they do is to be vulnerable and want to share themselves with the world through their art,” Gaha said.
The reading involved discussion of the complexity of Nugents’ work, analysis of themes and commonalities between the writings.
Gaha said Nugent’s ability to write complex works rivaled that of famous American authors of the day like William Faulkner. Nugent just doesn’t get that much credit.
“It’s such a shame for me that if people have even heard the name Richard Bruce Nugent,” she said, “he’s not celebrated that way.”