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Lift Ev'ry Voice' Reading Event Honors African-American Literature

(Posted March 19, 2012)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The Juniata College English department will present the 15th annual "Lift Ev'ry Voice" program, a reading event produced by students to showcase African-American literature, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 23 in the ballroom of Ellis Hall on the Juniata campus.
The event is free and open to the public.

Titled "A Jazz Coffeehouse to Celebrate African-American Literature," participating students will perform expressive readings by authors to reflect their commitment to sharing the African-American literary heritage.

"To read and perform, students must interpret and feel deeply, they become the work they're reading, they inhabit, even if briefly, the soul of the writer who wrote those words."
Judy Katz, associate professor of English


"To read and perform, students must interpret and feel deeply, they become the work they're reading, they inhabit, even if briefly, the soul of the writer who wrote those words," says Judy Katz, associate professor of English and program advisor for the event.

The name of the event itself reflects pride in African American heritage and a celebration of culture. "Lift Ev'ry Voice" comes from the poem and song composed in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and Rosamond Johnson and has become widely known as the "Negro National Anthem."

Senior Eden Kassa, of Manassas Park, Va. and a program coordinator, feels pride in being a part of the event because it gives a voice to those who are seldom heard in Juniata classrooms.

"It is not only about the poetry but also about the authors and all the individuals who went through hardship in order to write and make it available for us to see through them," Kassa says.

Some of the authors featured in this year's event include Audre Lorde, Cornelius Eady, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Natasha Trethewey, as well as other authors.

This year, the student coordinators of Lift Ev'ry Voice have decided to include a jazz theme to the traditional coffeehouse poetry reading, continuing to celebrate African-American cultural creativity.

"I think the jazz theme makes it fun and interesting, and the event itself will be a great way to get people on campus to come show their support for all the readers and the production team," said program coordinator, Kendra Kester, a junior from Robesonia, Pa.

Katz remarks about her intentions and passion for Lift Ev'ry Voice, "I love African-American literature, a literature I did not read or learn about in my college or graduate school education, but that I came to because of my desire to teach literature that reflected and represented diverse American and human experiences," she says. "African-American literature does what all great literature does -- it tells us and shows us what matters and what it means to be a human being."


Among the student readers at Lift Ev'ry Voice are: Cristin Albert, a junior from Bethel Park, Pa.; Maggie Albright, a senior from Altoona, Pa.; Crystal Bittinger, a senior from Huntingdon, Pa.; Jewel Daniels, a junior from Bloomfield, N.J.; Sarah Davis, a senior from Chevy Chase, Md.; Monae Dewitt, a junior from Baltimore, Md.; Sharon Dubosky, a sophomore from Spring Mills, Pa.; Shannon Harrington, a senior from Pittsburgh, Pa.; Megan Illig, a junior from Homer City, Pa.; Jessie Kaplan-Bie, a junior from Lexington, Mass.; Eden Kassa, a senior from Manassas Park, Va.; Kendra Kester, a junior from Robesonia, Pa.; Kristin Michalak, a senior from Stonington, Conn.; Diane Nguyen, a sophomore from Bensalem, Pa.; Ellen Santa Maria, a senior from Wallingford, Pa.; Megan Smith, a freshman from Scranton, Pa.; Zalina Smith, junior from Baltimore, Md.; and Carlisle Walker, a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Attendees are requested to bring their own mugs as an effort to promote sustainability although some will be provided.

Lift Ev'ry Voice is cosponsored by AASA, Health & Wellness, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Written by Maggie Albright, a senior from Altoona, Pa.

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