Tidewater Community College’s 15th annual Literary Festival celebrates diversity through words and music with former MSNBC co-host Touré as keynote speaker.

All events are free and open to the public.

The festival, sponsored by TCC’s Office for Intercultural Learning, begins with Touré’s keynote address titled “Hip-hop and the War on Drugs” on April 4 at 8 p.m. in the Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk. A book signing and reception will follow his talk.

“We have spent this academic year exploring diversity and inclusion through various cultural lenses,” said Jeanne Natali, director of Intercultural Learning. “The literary festival gives us the opportunity to use an inclusive space for diverse artists to come together to help our students find their individual voices through the arts.”

Touré is a longtime entertainment writer and cultural critic and is the author of a recent biography of the musician Prince. His opinionated banter made him a popular co-host on “The Cycle.” The Brooklyn-born writer is at work on another biography with rapper Nas.

Touré will be preceded by internationally renowned master storyteller Charlotte Blake-Alston at 7 p.m. Blake-Alston combines African folktales with music. Her solo performances are often enhanced with traditional instruments, such as the djembe, mbira, shekere or the 21-stringed kora. 

Others performing at the festival are:
 

Laurie Baefsky

April 4
12:30 p.m., Black Box Theatre, Academic Building, Chesapeake Campus

Baefsky is executive director for ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities. Housed at the University of Michigan, the organization focuses on promoting the intersection of the arts within the university, nonprofit and governmental sectors. The performer and arts educator has appeared on flute and piccolo with the Minnesota Orchestra, Utah Symphony, New World Symphony, and as a tenured member of the Virginia Symphony.
 

Charisse Minerva Spencer

April 5
12:30 p.m., Pungo Auditorium, Virginia Beach Campus

Charisse Minerva weaves together song, rhythms, verse and theatre with a style that is developed from a diverse career in the arts and sciences, having received degrees from both the Medical College of Virginia and Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Minerva also regularly teaches workshops in dance, drum and meditation, revitalizing the ancient contemplative practices into modern cultural forms. She performs her original works throughout the Hampton Roads area, and across the nation and around the globe. Minerva considers herself a social, environmental and cultural activist.

Kevin So

April 6
12:30 p.m., Multipurpose Room, Portsmouth Campus Student Center

The Chinese American singer produced eight independently released CDs, including his latest “Leaving the Lights On,” which confronts identity, relationships, history, family and racism.
 

Jae Sinnett

April 7 
7 p.m., Roper Performing Arts Center

A drummer, composer and band leader, Sinnett has written more than 150 compositions and scored music for five documentaries. Sinnett is in his 26th year as jazz producer and host for National Public Radio affiliate WHRV-FM 89.5 in Norfolk. He hosts the popular shows “Sinnett in Session” and the “R&B Chronicles.” 
 

Readings by TCC students and faculty

April 5
Norfolk Campus, 12:30 p.m., Student Center, 5th Floor
Portsmouth Campus, 12:30 p.m., The Forum

April 7
Chesapeake Campus, 12:30 p.m., Academic Building, Room 4317
Virginia Beach Campus, 12:30 p.m., Student Center

For more information, call TCC’s Information Center at 757-822-1122.