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Juniata Celebrates African-American Literature with Read-in

(Posted February 2, 2004)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. ? Juniata College students will celebrate such authors as Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth and James Baldwin at a public reading event called Lift Ev?ry Voice at 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1, in the Ellis College Center ballroom, to be followed the next day by a daylong African-American read-in event, featuring readings and talks by Juniata faculty and Huntingdon community members starting at 9 a.m., Monday, Feb. 2 in the Ellis College center lobby.

Both events, the public reading and the read-in, are free and open to the public.

Lift Ev?ry Voice is a longtime Juniata tradition. Now in its 10th year, the reading event features students from Juniata?s African-American Literature and World Literature courses who choose the material they will read.

?I?ve participated several times as a reader and on the planning committee and it gives me great joy to be a part of something that encourages cultural awareness and appreciation,? says Denique Conner, a senior from Rochester, N.Y.

Paul Berry, a junior from Hagerstown, Md., will read several poems by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. ?His poems and writing are amazing,? says Berry, who was named for the poet. ?The sense of pride displayed throughout his literature makes me feel good inside. His work not only stands the test of time, but blacks everywhere have embraced his writing.?

Steve Knepper, a sophomore from Blairs Mills, Pa., will read an excerpt from ?Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl? by Harriet Jacobs. ?She is a powerful writer who presents an emotionally stirring narrative,? he says.

?Too often many people think of American literature as being separate from African-American literature,? says Judy Katz, associate professor of English, who has organized the event with Cynthia Meriwether-DeVries, assistant professor of sociology, and Rosalie Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion.

The daylong read-in on Feb. 2 is part of the 15th annual National African-American Read-in Chain, a national reading movement originated by the black caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English. The event starts at 9 a.m. with four to five student readings by members of two Juniata student clubs, the African-American Student Alliance and United Cultures of Juniata College.


Each 30-minute time slot of the read-in will feature a theme, with material selected that is relevant to their chosen theme.

Highlights of the day include a 9:45 and 10 a.m. reading of a Zora Neale Hurston play by Huntingdon Area High School students. At 10:30 students from DeVries? Minorities course will perform readings based on identity.

At noon there will be a storytelling session with Grace Fala, associate professor of communication, followed by readings from 20th century poetry by Peter Goldstein, professor of English at 12:30 p.m.. At 1 p.m. Katz will present readings on liberation, followed at 1:30 by a discussion of African-American song lyrics by James Tuten, assistant provost.

At 2 p.m., there will be a session on the art and literature of the Harlem Renaissance by Judy Maloney, lecturer in art, followed by a 2:30 p.m. presentation by Lorraine Mulfinger, associate professor of chemistry and director for science outreach. Mulfinger?s presentation will feature excerpts from biographies of George Washington Carver ,and Sean Decatur (a biochemist). She also will read President Bill Clinton?s apology to the participants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Between 3 and 4 p.m. there will be another presentation on identity and a presentation by the college?s student services department. At 4 p.m. there will be readings from the work of children?s author Virginia Hamilton by JoAnn Wallace, dean of international programs.

The read-in will conclude with readings of children?s literature at 5 and 6:30 p.m. by the Juniata Instructors of the Future, the college?s organization for students in education. At 6 p.m., Juniata chaplain David Witkovsky will present readings on African-American spirituality.

?It would be wonderful to start another Juniata tradition and organize the read-in every year,? Katz says.

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