Tammy Thompson has made it her life's work to uplift underserved communities in Pittsburgh. She seeks to break down financial barriers for those struggling with poverty through her company T3 Consulting, as executive director of the nonprofit Circles Greater Pittsburgh, and as the manager of Catapult: Startup to Storefront, a business incubator in East Liberty. She also served as the executive producer for We Wear the Mask, a 2017 documentary highlighting the stigma associated with women living in poverty.
Now Thompson can add author to her resume with Spending Log, an instructional manual she wrote to help readers gain control of their finances by tracking their spending habits. On May 18, Thompson will mark the book's release with the Black Author’s Expo: A Celebration of Black Literary Excellence at Gallery on Penn in East Liberty.
“Instead of just having an individual book signing for myself, I realized that the city actually has a lot of amazing authors that no one knows about, particularly African-American authors,” says Thompson. “I decided I would have something where I could celebrate many of us and we could all get an opportunity to highlight our work and celebrate what I think is a pretty awesome achievement.”
The event will feature 18 local Black authors representing multiple genres, including fiction, nonfiction, self-help, and, to Thompson's own surprise, erotica.
“I had sent an email to the authors asking who would be interested in doing the reading and a couple of the ladies were like, 'Well, I don't know if mine is going to be appropriate to read out loud,’ and I was like, 'Oh, interesting.'”
Besides readings, the expo will also include a book sale, music, and food. An added bonus of hosting it at Gallery on Penn is bringing traffic to Catapult businesses set up in the space.
“We're having events there because it's a great way to draw people into the space, and the business owners in the space get to benefit from the foot traffic,” says Thompson, adding that it also gives local African-American owned businesses and artists a chance to connect with and support each other.
Catapult, which began in November 2018, aims to give minority-owned start-ups a chance to grow along with the gentrification of East Liberty, where residents in the predominantly Black neighborhood feel left out of the push for new development and incoming businesses. The gallery raises awareness of its efforts through a variety of events, including I Luv Ur Work, a recent one-day show showcasing work from Black female photographers.
Thompson hopes that the expo turns attendees on to some great local books.
“We want people to come have fun, we want people to purchase books, we want people to hang out and get to know the authors and hear music and eat food,” she says. “I think this is going to be a celebration of some amazing Black literary talent in the city of Pittsburgh.”