These two LI women are bringing the first Black Authors Festival to Sag Harbor


In a landmark celebration of culture and education, Sag Harbor is set to host its inaugural Black Authors Festival this coming weekend.

The event, which will happen Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Breakwater Yacht Club, is run by Darlene Williams and Verdel Jones, two women from Central Islip who have a passion for reading and writing.

“As an educator, I discovered 21% of adults in this country being illiterate and reading below a sixth-grade level — and a majority of them are Black,” said Williams, an award-winning author, business owner, and Harvard-certified rhetorician.

Jones, who is in her eighteenth year at Plainedge School District as the director of guidance & support services, shared the same sentiment. That’s what inspired her to start her own nonprofit, Share Inform Enlighten Inc., whose mission “is to empower families with information and resources through educational programs to improve their quality of life,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

About a year ago, they started brainstorming ways to improve literacy rates, especially in the Black community.

That’s where the idea of the Black Authors Festival came from.

“We want to promote literacy while having fun doing it, and have camaraderie among everyone,” the two said to Greater Long Island in a phone interview.

The festival will honor the following top Black authors: Kacy Duke, Dr. Steve Perry, Dr. Patricia A. Turner, Nicole Bolin, Ni’Cola Mitchell, Vivian L. King, Thelma Sias, and Regina Perry. You can read more about each honoree here.

The food will be catered by three-time Chopped champion and Long Islander Marc Bynum. There will be live musical performances from the Never Lose Touch Band that plays soulful classics, contemporary R&B, reggae and more. DJ Belal, the legendary DJ and Wyandanch native, will be performing at the festival’s after party.

Bringing the festival to Sag Harbor

So, why Sag Harbor?

In addition to enjoying the East End, the two said there is an historical reason why they chose the seaside village in the Hamptons.

“People like Langston Hughes used to go to Sag Harbor to write, and it was kind of a refuge for Black people,” said Jones.

“Paying homage to African-American history, and African history, here, in America, I thought it would be fitting to start off with our inaugural event at Sag Harbor location,” added Williams.

For that reason, members of the Eastville Historical Society and Southampton African American Museum will be on hand to inform the attendees of the rich African American history in the area.

“I don’t think enough people, not only Black folks, know about the culture and the history of Sag Harbor,” said Jones.

After their inaugural festival, the duo plans to take the show on the road to help enlighten and inform people across the states. They will be bringing the festival to Atlanta in March, and will move across the U.S. from there.

Tickets & sponsors

To purchase tickets for the Sag Harbor event, click here. Proceeds will benefit the Share Inform Enlighten nonprofit, which helped give $6,000 in scholarships last year through its programs.

The inaugural Black Authors Festival is sponsored by many big name brands, such as Reebok, Lucky Brand, Eddie Bauer and more. The media sponsor is Shades of Long Island, which is founded and published by Miya Jones, a Long Island journalist and diversity advocate.

Top: The Black Authors Festival founders Darlene Williams (left) and Verdel Jones (right). (Courtesy photo)

Our Local Supporters