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Valerie Babb, Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Emory University, will join Ed Pavlić, Distinguished Research Professor of English and African American Studies, and Greg Taylor, the former and founding executive director of the NBA Foundation, for a conversation around Babb's new book The Book of James: The Power, Politics, and Passion of LeBron. This event is presented by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts as part of the center's 2024 Global Georgia public Events series.

Babb holds a joint appointment in the departments of African American Studies and English at Emory. The Book Of James was published in November 2023 by Hachette Book Group. The New York Times called it "a wonderful companion to James’ legacy, and an outright clinic on how to write about basketball, race, culture and America itself.”

Among Babb's other publications are A History of the African American Novel (2017) and Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture (1998), She co-authored the book Black Georgetown Remembered (1991), and developed and produced the video by the same name. From 2000-2010 she was editor of the Langston Hughes Review. She has been a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and is the recipient of a W. M. Keck Foundation Fellowship in American Studies. She has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad and presented a Distinguished W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Babb was co-PI for the $1 million Mellon Foundation grant that supports Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership project of the Willson Center and St. Helena, SC's Penn Center.

Pavlić's 13 published books range across (and at times between) genres: poetry, non-fiction, critical studies, and a novel. He twice served as director of the Creative Writing PhD Program in English (2006-2011, 2015-2017).

His most recent books are Call It in the Air (2022), a book-length documentary poem; Outward: Adrienne Rich's Expanding Solitudes (2021), a study of the poet's career; Let It Be Broke (2020) a collection of poems focused upon racial dynamics in contemporary life; and Another Kind of Madness (2019), a novel set in Chicago and coastal Kenya and tuned to the sound and structure of soul music, especially the songs of Chaka Khan.

As Executive Director of the NBA Foundation, Greg Taylor was responsible for the strategic development, creation and implementation of programs and partnerships that advanced the Foundation’s efforts to increase access and support for high school, college-aged, job-ready and mid-career Black men and women. Additionally, Taylor oversaw the administration of grants to national and local organizations to provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development. Taylor also guided the Foundation’s organizational goals, managed its operations and resources, and designed fundraising to yield long-term success. Working closely with the NBA Foundation Board of Directors, Program Officers, National Basketball Players Association and all 30 NBA teams, he formed impactful partnerships and oversees support for national and local organizations in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada. He also managed a team of program managers, administrators and interns.

In his previous post with the NBA, Taylor was Senior Vice President for Player Development, in which role he worked closely with players, from rookies to veterans, journeymen to superstars, helping them navigate the unique demands which arise in the lives and careers of NBA players in the 21st century.

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