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University of Iowa News Release

April 18, 2005

'Free Within Ourselves' Celebrates Black Art, Literature April 30

"Free Within Ourselves," a celebration of black arts and literature that organizers plan to make an annual event, will bring to Iowa City two nationally renowned black authors and two multi-talented black artists on Saturday, April 30, for talks, exhibits and readings.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the University of Iowa's Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories at Madison and Market streets, north of the Iowa Memorial Union. The celebration begins at 1 p.m. with an artists' panel featuring Jean Berry and Madai, who will discuss their creative work. An art show and reception will follow at 1:30 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m. authors Terrie Williams and Yolanda Joe will read from their latest books, answer questions and sign books.

The authors will also be featured on WSUI's (AM-910) "Live from Prairie Lights" program on Friday, April 29, at 8 p.m.

Organized by Venise Berry, UI associate professor of journalism and mass communication, and Vershawn Young, assistant professor of rhetoric, the event grew out of a group they formed called the Black Culture Network (BCN). BCN's mission is to enhance diversity at the UI, in Iowa City and throughout surrounding communities and the state of Iowa. BCN seeks to encourage education, research and outreach in an effort to improve the quality of life for African Americans and other minorities in Iowa City and surrounding communities.

Terrie Williams of New York City is the author of successful self-help books including "A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony through the Seven Living Virtues" (Warner 2002), which follows up her "Stay Strong Simply Life Lessons for Teens" (Scholastic Incorporated 2001) and "The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today's Fast-paced Business World" (Warner 1994).  Through the Terri Williams Agency, she has handled promotional campaigns for Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Time Warner, HBO, AT&T and Essence Communications.

Yolanda Joe of Chicago is the author of several bestselling African American women's novels including "My Fine Lady" (Dutton 2004), "The Hatwearer's Lesson" (Dutton 2003), "This Just In" (One World/Ballantine 2001), "Bebe's By Golly Wow" (Doubleday 1998) and "He Say, She Say" (Warner 1998). She also writes acclaimed mysteries under her grandmother's name Ardella Garland, including "Details at Ten" (Pocket 2002) and "Hit Time" (Pocket Star 2003). She is a graduate of Yale and the Columbia School of Journalism and a former news producer.

Jean Berry of Des Moines earned her bachelor's degree in art from Drake University. She has worked for Percival Gallery in Des Moines and owns a matting and framing studio. Her work embraces a variety of media, but her favorite style is charcoal drawings on white paper. Other creative elements with which she likes to work include pastels, watercolor and collage with found objects.

Madai of Fort Dodge holds a bachelor's degree from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake and has studied at the Chicago Art Academy. He is the associate curator for the Blanden Memorial Art Museum in Fort Dodge. His style involves a hybrid technique combining elements of steel plate printing with painting to create visions in rustic metal and wire.

"Free Within Ourselves," is supported in part by a grant from the Year of the Arts and Humanities. UI President David Skorton's determination to increase public awareness and support of the rich tradition of arts and humanities on campus and throughout Iowa led him to declare academic year 2004-2005 the Year of Arts and Humanities, a time to celebrate that rich tradition and forge cultural linkages between the academic community and communities around the state. The Year of the Arts and Humanities is supported by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice-president for Research and the Graduate College.

In addition to the "Free Within Ourselves," BCN plans to promote other activities that enhance diversity. It also plans to partner with other Iowa and Iowa City venues to increase participation in a variety of fun and educational events. Some of those plans include the creation of a book club whose members will select, read and discuss up to six books a year from a variety of genres.

Another goal is to teach young people the card game of bid-whist in an effort to build participation in the black cultural legacy for the future.

For more information about "Free Within Ourselves" or the Black Culture Network, contact Venise Berry, 319-335-3361,, or Vershawn Young, 319-335-0186,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Venise Berry, 319-335-3361,, or Vershawn Young, 319-335-0186,