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Press Release

Independence Blue Cross is Presenting Sponsor for Celebration of Black Writing Week

Arts Sanctuary festival May 25 - June 4 aims to increase literacy, promote reading and writing

Philadelphia, PA - March 9, 2011 - Independence Blue Cross (IBC) and Keystone Mercy Health Plan are the presenting sponsors for Art Sanctuary’s 27th annual Celebration of Black Writing, a festival to be held May 25 through June 4 at various venues throughout Philadelphia, including Temple University.

The festival — the only one of its kind in the country — brings acclaimed authors and scholars from the literary world to meet, teach, and interact with an audience of thousands through lectures, readings, workshops, panel discussions, family activities, and various performances. More than 100 authors help participants read — and write — about diverse facets of African American life.

“Art Sanctuary holds a very special place in our community, having educated and nurtured many aspiring artists, writers, and others, and improved the lives of thousands of others through promoting the appreciation of the arts,” said Daniel Hilferty, president and chief executive officer of IBC. “We’re proud to support this annual celebration and to partner with such an exceptional and innovative organization.”

“This festival caps our program year. It unites our community, deepens the region’s rich literary life, and creates new readers and writers,” said Lorene Cary, author and founder and executive director, Art Sanctuary. “Each event is designed specially. For example, a young filmmaker’s documentary also features his former professor, or comic book writers and graphic novelists explain how to translate concepts into pictures.”

As part of the festival on June 2, Art Sanctuary will present the Lifetime Achievement Award to J. California Cooper, an award-winning author of 17 plays and several short story collections, including Homemade Love, the 1986 winner of an American Book Award. Previous lifetime awardees have included Chinua Achebe, Terry McMillan, Charles Fuller, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez, and Nikki Giovanni.

The Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony, says Cary, is a “cross between the Tony Awards and the biggest black family reunion you’ve ever seen.” The Lifetime Achievement Award event is held at the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia and is open to the public, as is every Celebration of Black Writing event unless otherwise noted.

This year’s theme, “Word Play: Let’s Have Some Serious Fun,” was created to recognize unique styles of writing such as comic strips haikus, blogs, and novels. With a break for the Memorial Day holiday, the events include the following:

Wednesday, May 25
3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Radio kick-off with WURD
628 South 16th Street

Friday, May 27
6:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Open mike: comedians, storytellers
628 South 16th Street

Saturday, May 28
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
“Can You Hear God Crying?”
Music Liberation Orchestra
Events for families affected by incarceration
Church of the Advocate, 1801 W. Diamond Street

Wednesday, June 1
7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Red carpet screening of filmmaker Ed Shockley and Rise Academy School short film about father/child relationships
628 South 16th Street

Thursday, June 2
6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony
Honoree: J. California Cooper
Tribute by Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra
Church of the Advocate, 1801 W. Diamond Street

Saturday, June 4
All-day festival (10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
Workshops, panels, live performances, outdoor book fair, and more.
Temple University

About Art Sanctuary

Founded in June 1998, Art Sanctuary’s ongoing mission is providing access to excellent arts in the community that “transforms individuals and unites groups.” Art Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, please call 215-232-4485 or visit

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, Independence Blue Cross and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.3 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross’s HMO and PPO health care plans have consistently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Keystone Mercy Health Plan

Keystone Mercy Health Plan, a member of the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, is a Medical Assistance (Medicaid) managed care health plan serving more than 300,000 Medical Assistance recipients in southeastern Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Keystone Mercy Health Plan is a mission-driven company dedicated to helping members get care, stay well, and build healthy communities. For more information, visit

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