Despite some impact from the faltering economy, there will be a prominent slate of African American programming at this year’s BookExpo America. In separately organized events, former bookseller and now author, Clara Villarosa, will once again host the African American Book Publishing Professionals Program; and the African American Pavillion will move to the main floor of BEA with more than 50 exhibitors and a lively slate of awards, panel discussions, seminars and personal appearances by a wide range of authors and publishers.

Villarosa, the longtime organizer of the AABPPP, said despite having problems finding the usual number of sponsors, the program would go on as usual. The event will be held on Thursday, May 28 beginning at 1:00 p.m. (Room 1A07 at the Javits Center) and will feature a panel on the impact of such social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook on black book promtion, and, in the afternoon beginning at 3:30 pm, another panel on African Americans and comics and graphic novel publishing. Villarosa, whose new book Down to Business: The First 10 Steps to Entrepreneurship for Women (Avery/Penguin) will be published in Sept., will give the keynote.

“Social networking is being used by so many authors—starting with self publishers—to promote and sell their books that mainstream publishers got on the bandwagon,”said Villarosa, who emphasized the success of African American self-published authors over the past 15 years. The graphic novel panel will feature such authors as Eisner-winner Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), Jeremy Love (Bayou), Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics) and Kids Comic Con founder Alex Simmons. Villarosa said, “Comics and graphic novels have been legitimized; it’s a form not to be ignored.”

Villarosa said that with publishers cutting back on expenses, the program has been scaled back slightly and will the luncheon will be skipped. But there will be a full afternoon of panels, “attendees encouraged me to keep producing the program,” she said.

Separately organized by Amber Books publisher Tony Rose, the African American Pavillion will move to the main floor this year. Rose said he didn’t see any effect from the economic downturn and expects to have at least 55 exhibitors in the Pavillion. “We seem to find a new crop of authors and publishers each year who really want to participate,” said Rose. The keynote speaker will be former reality-show contestant Omarosa, author of the self help title Bitch Switch: Knowing How to Turn it On and Off (Phoenix Books).

In addition, the Pavillion will host a press conference by actor Wesley Snipes on Saturday to promote a new film, Zulu Mech l. There will also be panels on children's books with Wade and Cheryl Hudson of Just Us Books, and on the Up South arts festival featuring journalist turned novelist Farai Chideaya (Kiss the Sky) and moderated by Atria senior editor Malaika Adero. Radio host Tom Joyner will host a panel sponsored by his Tom Joyner Foundation, which has raised more than $55 million for historically black colleges. As always the African American Pavillion will offer a festive mood with food, music, book signings and a crowded slate of seminars and events including a seemingly endless list of speakers and awardees—among them a lifetime achievement award for Kassahun Checole, publisher of Africa World Press and the Red Sea Press, who has been in poor health over the last year.

Rose said BEA officials like the lively festival atmosphere around the pavilion, which is why it has been moved to main floor. “BEA officials see that we bring fun, books and culture to BEA," Rose said. “We make the show floor exciting and I think we can bring even more people than ever. We’re a viable part of BEA.”

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