This week featured dozens of African American Read-Ins across the country. Below NCTE members Michelle Rankin and Jennifer Watson give you a glimpse into two that they organized.
Thursday February 18
2016 African American Read-In at Cuyahoga Community College
By, Michelle Rankins
I’m so excited about the 2016 African American Read-In at Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus (Tri-C) because of the wonderful synergy this program has created on campus and within the community. This year, we’re celebrating the works of African American male writers and I’m happy to report that all of our readers are African American men from the campus and the surrounding community. Our readers include Dr. Alex Johnson, our college president; Dr. John Marr, dean of Academic Affairs; Mayor Brad Sellers of Warrensville Heights, OH; Phillip Morris, award-winning columnist from our local newspaper, The Plain Dealer, and last but not least, an awesome student, Arron Mitchell. Each speaker has selected a favorite author to discuss and their lists include Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, and John Edgar Wideman. We will also have an open mic afterwards.
It is so important for African Americans to tell our own stories. Unfortunately, African American literature is rarely taught in K-12 classroom save for Black History Month and quite frankly, this is not enough. Learning about one’s culture instills pride and dignity which is why this program is so important. I purposely sought out African American men as speakers so they can share their stories with our predominately African American student population.
This is the 2nd year that Cuyahoga Community College has graciously served as host location for the AARI. Through AARI, I’ve developed the best partnerships with our Student Life department, the Black American Council, and our community relations office. Off campus, these efforts are also supported by Karen Long from The Cleveland Foundation Anisfield-Wolf Awards, which recently celebrated 80 years of recognizing books that make important contributions to our understanding of racism and cultural diversity.
Michelle Rankins is a lecturer of English at Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus in Cleveland, OH. She’s an active member in NCTE and in the Black Caucus. This is her 4th year hosting an African American Read-In event in Cleveland, OH.
Tuesday, Februrary 9
3rd Annual African American Read-In at Octorara Area High School in Atglen, PA
By, Jennifer Watson
Tonight we hosted our 3rd Annual African American Read-In at Octorara Area High School in Atglen, PA. Our event tonight featured many more student-readers than we’ve had in the past, which made for a very communal environment.
We heard pieces from Langston Hughes, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ai, Claude McKay, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Toi Derricotte, Toni Morrison, Robert Hayden, and many more.
The truly inspiring part of the evening is when completely coincidental links between writers’ voices are heard! And even more inspiring, is when the full audience’s interest is piqued to go and find more works by these African American writers who were shared at the event.
The poem, “O Daedalus, Fly Away Home” by Robert Hayden was carefully paired with a Toni Morrison passage where Milkman raises questions about the “flying Africans”. The elementary-level book, All Different Now, by Angela Johnson, was shared by an elementary teacher, and reminded us all of the simplicity of “honeysuckle” and the scent of freedom. And the poem “Cross” by Langston Hughes was nicely introduced with the statement that the meaning of the evening seemed to be that “in all of the similarly-minded pieces, we are allowed to celebrate difference.”
Jennifer Watson teaches AP Literature & Composition, 11th Honors American Literature, and 10th Lit & Comp at Octorara High School.