“Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done – together.”
— Toni Morrison
On March 10th, AC students and faculty participated in an African American Read-In. Though this was AC’s first year participating in the event, it was originally established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English in 1990. The NCTE describes the event as “groundbreaking effort to encourage communities to read together, centering on African American books and authors.” It has reached more than 6 million participants.
At our event, we invited readers and audience members to attend in person or via Zoom. Each reader chose a short text to share. Authors ranged from Sojourner Truth to Lucille Clifton, Ralph Ellison to Jalil Muntaqim. Whatever text was chosen, a highlight was hearing the readers explain why they chose a particular text. Some of these explanations were personal. Readers described first encountering a text before they really understood it and only later coming to fully appreciate it, or they spoke of finding inspiration and solace in what they chose to read. Others spoke of how their texts connected with historical or current events, whether the large-scale rethinking of colonialism that began in the middle of the 20th century or the current fight against systemic racism. A couple of the readers had even personally met the authors they read.
Like all literature — poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. — these texts may be “important” on paper, but they only truly live when we read them and make them meaningful to our own lives. Texts by Black authors historically have been marginalized. When we read them together in a shared event like this, we show how central they are, both in an American context and globally. Thank you to all who came and shared in this event.