Another happy ending for book festival

Authors share their thoughts on literacy and the importance of the annual event.

Authors and festival attendees are shown at a workshop on Saturday. The group includes Donna Gray-Banks, right, founder and director of the festival. Gray-Banks also is an author.


The 2020 F.R.E.S.H. Book & Film Festival ran from Jan. 9-11 and brought 25 authors and filmmakers from Daytona Beach, DeLand, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, South Florida, New York, Maryland, Texas, Las Vegas, Louisiana and other locales.

The event covered the acronym F.R.E.S.H., which is the genres of fiction, romance, exotica, spiritual and health. Included were children’s books, murder mystery, history, relationships, memoirs. 

“The weekend has been wonderful, fabulous and historical. We are looking forward to next year,” said Donna GrayBanks, founder and director of the festival. 

It closed on Jan. 11 with the book festival at the Midtown Cultural & Education Center in Daytona Beach, where authors showcased and sold their work and participated in workshops. 

Cassandra Cherry Kittles accepts an award for the Daytona Times presented by Daytona Commissioner Paula Reed as Percy Williamson looks on.

Its purpose 

The main goal of the event is to promote literacy. The diverse event also occurs in the heart of Daytona’s Black community. 

“It’s extremely important to be literate. I am a nurse and I realized a lot of patients aren’t taking the right dosage of their medication or correct medication because they can’t read it. They don’t the difference between medications with similar pronunciations. Reading is detrimental for your health, mental health and well-being,” said Jhordynn, an author who just goes by one name. 

Noted author Andre Polite, “Reading is extremely important and fundamental, especially in African American and melanated communities. When you think about us in regards to reading, comprehension and education, it’s a direct correlation to our Black males.”

Polite continued, “If you can’t read at fourth or fifth-grade level, they are preparing for you to be in prison by the time you’re 18. We need to be proactive getting our young men and women educated at home. The school system isn’t designed for us to be successful. It’s important that we take education, reading and literacy seriously.” 

One of his recent works is “Star Seeds: The Children of the Ancients,” which depicts man’s origins and history through the Dogan tribe of Mali. 

Literacy and outreach 

Jhordynn’s latest book is “InterVention,” which addresses mental health in Black and Christian communities. 

She went further on literacy and mental health.

“Literacy is the beginning of knowledge. If you’re efficient with literacy, the more knowledge you have and you can better help someone with a mental health issue. If you’re not, you cannot pick up on signs of depression, suicide and more,” she told the Times. 

Getting published 

Authors shared information on how to write books and get work published. 

“The biggest thing is having the discipline and focus to finish the project. You want an outcome and goal and title before you even start,” said Polite.

“You need access to an editor, illustrator or formatter for it to be printed, whether print, e-book however you want. Self-publishing gives you total control while going with a publisher they control the content which often takes away from your vision.” 

Jhordynn added, “Do your research. If going with a publishing company, it is important to read the fine print. You can also go the self-publishing route.” ‘Positive energy’ 

Authors recognized the event’s importance as well as other book festivals and similar events. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us authors to learn and get information as well as make connections,” said Jhordynn. 

Polite echoed, “It’s been phenomenal. It’s a lot of positive energy. I learned a lot and got to mix and mingle with authors, filmmakers, producers, presenters and overall good people. Good vibes, good people.” 

The meet and greet for the authors and filmmakers took place at the Midtown Center on Jan. 10 headlined by local R&B, soul, jazz and poetry artist Amy Alisa. There was also recognition of the sponsors, awards and dinner. 

Films on Jan. 9

STAR 94.5 FM’s Jo Jo O’Neal hosted both events. 

The F.R.E.S.H. Book & Film Festival opened on Jan. 9 with the Community Film Festival at the Peabody Auditorium. 

Author, filmmaker and director Booker T. Mattison showed his films “Ungubani (Who Are You?),” “The Gilded Six Bits” and “Habeas Corpus.’’ 

“That night was historical,” Gray-Banks said. “We had a lot of local people who attended that have never been to the Peabody Auditorium.”

Headline authors included Mattison, Victor McGlothin, Angie Ransome Jones, Troy D. Johnson, Keith Childs, Andre Polite, Derek Triplett and Keith Kareem. 

Other participants 

At the festival, Daytona Times and Florida Courier photojournalist Duane Fernandez released his book, “Lies Uncovered: The Truth About the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School.’

The book is also a documentary that details the horrors that occurred at the school.

Fernandez also owns blog and Hardnotts Photography & Video. 

Other authors and participants were Rekia Beverly, Mike Pyle, James Daniels, Shontell Woods, Carolyn Sanders James, Sheri Shields, Donald Simpson, Elizabeth Savage, Tamiya Davis, Sandy Anderson, Booker T. Williams, Melinda Falgoust, Angie Bee and Angie Bee Productions., Bartee Productions, L.D. Robinson (Ladero Press), Dr. Delicia Haynes, Barbara J. Henderson and James Brown Photography.


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