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All That Jazz: Lift Ev'ry Voice Lauds African-American Literature

(Posted April 5, 2010)

The Juniata College English department will present the 14th annual "Lift Ev'ry Voice," a student-produced program of dramatic readings of African-American literature. The jazz-themed coffeehouse will be held on-campus in the Ellis Ballroom on Friday, April 9 at 8 p.m.


The performance is free and open to the public. Refreshments are also free. In an effort to promote sustainability, attendees are encouraged to bring their own mugs, though others will be provided.

"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 place in American literature."
Judy Katz, associate professor of English



"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 place in American literature. We also celebrate and recognize W.E. B. DuBois's dream that African Amercans be 'co-workers in the kingdom of culture,'" says Judy Katz, associate professor of English and program advisor.


The program, which began in 1995, continues as an annual tradition at Juniata, during which students expressively share literature with the community, while celebrating the heritage of the authors.


"We hope to create more awareness for overlooked African American writers with a relaxed, fun and free coffeehouse atmosphere. By incorporating jazz into the program, we want to continue to celebrate African American cultural creativity," said program coordinator Maggie Albright, a sophomore from Altoona, Pa.


The name "Lift Ev'ry Voice" comes from James Weldon Johnson and Rosamond Johnson's poem and song composed in 1900. This song is not only rooted deeply within the African-American community, but was also adopted as the "Negro National Anthem."


Senior Johnniersi Harris, a program coordinator, feels the program will help to familiarize the community with African American literature, while conveying the importance of it to American culture. Harris plans to perform "Strange Fruit," by Lewis Allan and performed by Billie Holiday.


"It poetically captures a moment in history and immerses the audience into it beautifully," said Harris.


Additional African-American authors highlighted in the program include Rita Dove, Ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou and Eryka Badu, among numerous others.


According to Katz, the program would not be possible without the dedication of her students. "The program reflects the student commitment and dedication to the roots of African American literature," said Katz. "In addition, it gives students the opportunity to work cooperatively and creatively with each other to produce a meaningful cultural event. I also hope the experience of hearing familiar and unfamiliar literature, read with passion and power, will delight the audience."


The event is co-sponsored by the African-American Student Alliance.

Written by Sarah Ruggiero


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