An African American read-in was held in the W Building on Feb. 26, 2019, organized by Dr. Geri Harmon, Assistant Professor of English.
The shared works consisted of famous writers and African American activists like James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth, and Maya Angelou, as well as original works by some of the participants. Students had the option to either read something original or perform a preselected piece.
The read-in, which consisted of a small and diverse group in terms of race, gender, age, and major, was organized as part of a national initiative by the National Council of Teachers of English, established in 1990 to encourage literacy during Black History Month, and has reached over 6 million participants around the world, according to the NCTE website.
Harmon stated that giving students a platform to share their favorite works by writers and poets that look like them and speak to their personal experiences will help them become more successful people.
“It’s important that, on a campus, we hear voices from different groups. This is Black History Month. We need to be celebrating black contributions to America, and the best way to do that is through literature,” Harmon said. “Since we have a diversity of students, we have to have a diversity of voices from the past.”
Dr. Adam Fajardo, Assistant Professor of English, said that talking about literature pushes people to have difficult conversations about the world around them.
“With literature, it’s a little bit safer sometimes to talk about something in a novel or in a poem, rather than opening up and being vulnerable about any of [their] personal experiences,” Fajardo said. “For people who aren’t yet ready to talk about that, maybe we can talk about it in literature first and train ourselves to have those kinds of conversations.”
Taneisha Allen, an English major, shared her own original poem at the read-in, giving herself a platform to share her personal feelings.
“I enjoy getting out of my shell. I have to force myself to do things that scare me,” Allen said.
“Sharing my original works with others encourages me to create more content.”