The Virginia Hamilton Conference, held each April at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and attended by students, teachers, and librarians who work with youth, is the longest-running event in the United States to focus exclusively on multicultural literature for children and young adults. Honoring author Virginia Hamilton (winner of the Newbery Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Hans Christian Anderson Award among others), the conference “reflects a commitment to promoting cultural awareness and affirming cultural pride while addressing the array of issues which surround the concept of culture,” according to the conference website.
For me, the conference feels like a family celebration. I attended many of the early conferences while an undergraduate and graduate student at KSU in the 90s, and then as a member of the VHC Advisory Board, I gained the honor of helping to shape each year’s slate of outstanding speakers and workshop presenters. At every VHC I reconnect with friends and colleagues whom I only see at this conference, hear inspiring and moving presentations on a variety of topics relating to children’s and teen literature–it’s guaranteed that at least one person’s speech will move me to tears–and leave with a renewed sense of commitment to reading and promoting teen books that reflect a variety of cultures.
All of that said, this conference is also very entertaining; this year we had great speakers and a storytelling performance by sixteen year old Julissa Reyes. Check out this video of one of her original poems: