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Juniata Students Organize Program Celebrating African-American Literature

(Posted March 31, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The Juniata College English Department will present "Lift Ev'ry Voice," a program that showcases dramatic readings of literature by African-American writers, at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4 in the ballroom of Ellis Hall on the Juniata campus. The program is an expressive way of sharing literature with the community, while celebrating the heritage of the authors. The program, which began in 1995, continues an annual tradition of celebration at Juniata College.

The performance is free and open to the public. Free refreshments will be provided during the program.

"I hope the experience of hearing these works of literature, read with passion and power, will delight the audience."
Judy Katz, associate professor of English

Students are entirely in charge of producing the program. They handle all aspects of the production, including developing the program, writing articles, rehearsing the readers, compiling the music, decorating the room, publicizing the event, and baking cookies. The program reflects their commitment and dedication to sharing African-American literature with the community.

Megan Bachinski, a senior from Lowell, Ind., is reading an excerpt from bell hooks's autobiography, "Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood." "Hooks's writing has intrigued me since I read her rhetorical analysis in a Communication course." Bachinsky says. "Her ideas often focus around, but are not limited to, race, gender, oppression, and power. I chose this particular chapter from 'Bone Black' because it speaks to the virtues of self-realization and is extremely poetic and personally moving."

"Lift Ev'ry Voice gives people a chance to hear powerful literature," said Anna Sowash, a senior from Athens, Ohio and a coordinator of the program. "It allows the performer to express themselves through their reading because each piece they read they pick, so there the work has meaning to them which they wish to share with the audience."

According to Judy Katz, associate professor of English and program coordinator, "The African-American literary tradition is a profound and dynamic part of our literary heritage in America, but it has often been ignored. This program is a way to recognize and celebrate African-American writers and their amazing and enduring contributions to American literature. In addition, it gives students the opportunity to work cooperatively and creatively with each other to produce a meaningful cultural event. And it gives the audience a chance to hear some extraordinary literature."

"I hope the experience of hearing these works of literature, read with passion and power, will delight the audience," Katz adds.

The name of the program, "Lift Ev'ry Voice," comes from the poem and song composed by James Weldon Johnson and Rosamond Johnson in 1900. The song is now widely known as the "Negro (or African-American) National Anthem."

The roster of readers include: Megan Bachinski, a senior from Lowell, Ind.; Alec Brown, a junior from Huntingdon, Pa.; Kasey Brough, a senior from Gardners, Pa.; Elizabeth Buenzli, a freshman from Nazareth, Pa.; Jon Guyer, a junior from Huntingdon, Pa.; Erica Harp, a freshman from State College, Pa.; Dan Popernack, a senior from Hummelstown, Pa.; Ossama Riaz, an international student from Pakistan; and Sarah Ruggiero, a sophomore from Bangor, Pa.

Written by Sarah Ruggiero



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.