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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Black History Month: Read-in held to celebrate African American writers

The African-American Read-In is a collaboration between the UH Libraries, the UH Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the UH African American Studies program and the UH Department of English. | Kaylee Dusang/The Cougar

For 27 years, the National African American Read-In has taken place in libraries, bookstores, churches and professional organizations across the country to celebrate diversity in literature. For the second year, UH Libraries has joined in the read-in as well.

The M.D. Anderson Library hosted its second annual read-in Tuesday, where students, faculty and staff read excerpts of their favorite works by African-American writers at the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion.

Participants read a diverse array of literature including poems, song lyrics, a movie review and a speech on one’s family ancestry.

Andrea Malone, the foreign language and ethnic studies librarian, and one of the hosts for the event, said that event organizers let people choose whatever genre of work they wanted to read.

“It just opens it up to so much more that we don’t normally hear about when you’re thinking of African-American authors,” Malone said. “You think literature, but there is so much more to the words that have been said than just a piece of literary work.”

Mea Warren, the natural science and mathematics librarian, and Any’a Hunt-Lewis, the library computer lab support manager, were participants at this year’s read-in. Warren said they had a diverse group of people and readings presented.

“I think, especially now, this is something really important to celebrate,” said Warren. “All the cultures that we had, and it being Black History Month I thought it was a good opportunity to participate.”

Hunt-Lewis said she was surprised by some of the readings chosen, such as “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston, which was poorly received after its initial release in 1937 for its rejection of racial uplift literary prescriptions.

“I didn’t think anyone would do that one,” Hunt-Lewis said. “I actually love that book, so it was shocking to see what people came up with.”

The read-in takes place in public schools and public libraries across the nation, and Malone said they wanted to bring the event, which celebrates literary diversity, to the university.

“We found not a lot of universities participated in this,” Malone said. “So we wanted to be one of those who brought new stuff to Black History Month.”

Although this event was advertised only to the campus community, Chauncy Glover from ABC 13 showed up to read the poem “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.

“We were really excited that he said yes, and that he was here,” Malone said.

Malone said they are not sure if this will become an annual event, but they are talking to the library administration to see if they can host another African-American read-in next year.

“I liked it, it was fun to hear what people enjoy in African history and things of that sort, so it will be something nice to have seen every year,” Hunt-Lewis said.

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