This past Monday the Black Authors Tour made an appearance at Lawrence University. The Office of Multicultural Affairs sponsored the event with assistance from the Multicultural Affairs Committee. Lawrence is the first stop on a brief tour of schools throughout the Midwest. The primary focus of the tour is the four authors, Brandon Massey, Jamise L. Dames, Lois Benjamin, and Yasmin Shiraz. The presenting authors represented a variety of literary genres. Massey self-published his first novel, “Thunderland,” in 1999; it was then revised and republished in 2002 by Kensington Publishing. He followed up this success with a vampire novel, “Dark Corner,” which takes place in rural Mississippi. His new novel, “Within the Shadows,” will be released this June. Dames, a graduate student, began her writing career publishing her songs and also worked as a recording artist. In 2003, her book “Momma’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe” was a national bestseller. Dames continued her career as an author with the publication of “Pushing Up Daisies” in 2004. Benjamin’s literary focus is more academic: she is a professor of sociology at Hampton University in Virginia. She brought her academic training to bear in the writing of “The Black Elite: Facing the Color Line in the Twilight of the Twentieth Century,” for which she interviewed numerous well-known blacks. Shiraz’s writing is primarily journalistic. She is an entertainment reporter for numerous magazines including: Black Enterprise, Upscale, Impact, and the Electronic Urban Report. Shiraz has also written a book, “The Blueprint for My Girls,” with the sequel “The Blueprint for My Girls in Love” in progress. The authors, drawing from a wide variety of professional expertise, presented their own unique perspective on issues blacks deal with in academic institutions. It ranged from the challenges facing black men and self-esteem within the African-American community to the impact of hip-hop culture and the secrets of the black elite. As part of Lawrence’s celebration of Black History Month, the event was geared towards an open forum of discussion on topics relating to the challenges blacks face in school settings.