High school students to present 15th annual read-in in honor of Black History Month

High school students will commemorate the beginning of Black History Month with a read-in of literature and original writing.

Students from Bloomington High School North, Bloomington High School South and the Bloomington Graduation School will share poems or passages from black authors or original works about the black experience at the Neal-Marshall Black 
Culture Center.

The event is from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Feb. 6 and is free and open to the public.

This is the 15th annual high school read-in, said Stephanie Power-Carter, associate professor of literacy, culture and language education.

She said she expects 200 students to attend this year. Students have previously read works from authors such as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou; however, Power-Carter said the best part is when students read original pieces.

“To be honest, the thing that’s really powerful is when the students decide to write original works about the black experience in America,” Power-Carter said. “The poems really speak to everybody.”

Both the written and spoken word are significant in the history of black America because slaves had to learn to speak a new language but were forbidden from learning how to write. This is why oral history, through media such as storytelling and rap lyrics, is so important to black Americans. Unfortunately, much of this is not taught in schools, Power-Carter said.

“Yes, it’s the African-American read-in, but it’s also a place where we can educate,” Power-Carter said.

By reading poems and passages from black authors and sharing personal works, attendees can educate each other about the black community’s struggles and what it’s like to be black in the U.S..

This is especially important today because many of the kids learn about famous black American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in school but are not taught about any others, Power-Carter said.

“We don’t have a lot of racial diversity in Bloomington,” she said. “As a community it’s our responsibility to educate kids on the great things these people did.”

Power-Carter said the Neal-Marshall center accomplishes this by turning the read-in into an all-day event for participants, who arrive at 11 a.m. for the read-in.

Every student attendee and school library receives a book written by an African-American author. This year the books given out will include “Hidden Figures” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin,” the book Trayvon Martin’s parents wrote as a reflection on the fifth year anniversary of his death.

However, Power-Carter said she sees the read-in as a day not just for black Americans, but for all Americans because black history is part of our country’s history. Historical figures like Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth were writing in defiance of the status quo, which is something everyone can relate to, she said.

“It’s a celebration, but it’s really about education,” Power-Carter said. “I’m a firm believer that tomorrow when I take that stage I’m celebrating American history.”

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