Cave Canem, a nonprofit group founded to nurture the work of African American poets, has won the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for service to the American literary community. This is the first time that the $10,000 prize has been awarded to an organization instead of an individual. Previous winners include Maya Angelou, Dave Eggers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and James Patterson. The foundation’s choice is a strong demonstration of its renewed commitment to supporting diversity.
Based in Brooklyn, Cave Canem was started 20 years ago by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady “to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape.” Its tuition-free writing retreats at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg support more than 50 African American poets every year. The organization also offers prizes, workshops, lectures and readings throughout the country.