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The Chesapeake Forum welcomed native son Kwame Alexander to the Chesapeake Conference Center on April 5 as part of its 2023 Speaker’s Series. The graduate of Chesapeake Public Schools is today an internationally known poet, speaker, educator, and #1 New York Times Bestselling author of 37 books.
Alexander was just back from Hollywood earlier that day where he and members of his family had attended the premiere of the Disney Channel’s new TV series titled The Crossover, based on Alexander’s bestseller by the same name. He is the show’s executive producer.
Alexander’s “The Crossover” novel is the winner of the 2014 Newberry Medal, an “Oscar” of sorts for authors. It tells the story of twins in middle school who are basketball standouts. Their father is a former NBA player with some health issues, and their mother is a no-nonsense school principal – at the boys’ school.
Alexander told the audience the book was inspired by his relationship with his own father, Dr. E. Curtis Alexander, who was in the audience. Dr. Alexander was a basketball star and has himself authored numerous scholarly books, mainly on Black History, and he speaks nationally and locally on the themes in his books.
Kwame Alexander entertained the audience with his storytelling about growing up in Chesapeake and how he persevered through disappointments to become a national and noted author. Those in attendance included students from two Chesapeake schools and I.C. Norcom in Portsmouth who are reading his popular books for youth in their classrooms.
He said his bestselling Crossover novel took five years for him to write and re-write and finally have published after having it rejected several times by publishers. He refused to accept the book’s rejection and was prepared to self-publish, if necessary.
Since every word in the Crossover novel is part of a poem, Alexander said one of his biggest challenges of taking the book to television was “trying to figure out how to bring the poetry to the screen.”
Alexander also spoke about his work in Ghana where he opened a library and health clinic which is named in honor of his late mother Barbara Alexander, also an educator.
His awards are numerous to include three NAACP Image Award Nominations, The Loretta Scott King Author Honor and The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.
He spent time before and after the program which included a reception to greet well-wishers in the crowd and pose for pictures.