Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Romaniello hosts African American read-in

Ashley Allen, Assistant Director of the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, reads at the African American Read In on Friday.

On Thursday, Feb. 27, students, professors and faculty gathered in the Brew to participate in an African American Read-In. Selections of poetry, nonfiction and fiction were read throughout the day by both professors and students to celebrate Black History Month.

The event, planned by the Reading/Writing Center’s (RWC) Dr. Jacob Romaniello, hasn’t been hosted on Augustana’s campus in five years.

The African American Read-In was created by the National Council of Teachers of English as a way to celebrate Black History Month.

“This event showcases one aspect of the Reading/Writing Center’s mission, to promote multivocality,” Romaniello said.

“I don’t think the Augustana College community fully recognizes how much the RWC emphasizes the importance of voice in academic writing.

Tutors are strong advocates of code-mixing and code-switching, which authors of ‘They Say/I Say,’ Graff and Birkenstein, also champion.”

Kam Williams, Augie’s Director of Disability Services, was excited to participate in the event as it gave her the chance to show off two of her favorite poets.

“African American Read-In, it’s been national for years, and so of course when he asked me, I said, ‘absolutely,’” Williams said.

“It’s a perfect way to read Langston Hughes. I’m a poet myself, and then my wonderful brother as well.”

During her time slot, she read both a piece from her brother’s novel and a poem by Langston Hughes, whom she praised as one of the most influential poets in her life.

“He rang true to me when I read my very first poem by him, which was ‘A Negro Speaks of Rivers,’” Williams said.

Romaniello was also impressed by the selections those who signed up chose to read:

“I enjoyed the deeply personal selections people shared this year. Some poetry was written and read by Augustana’s very own, and others read poetry by close family members and friends.”

Retired professor of African American Literature, Dr. Paul Olsen, was also excited to select a few of his favorite pieces of literature.

He explained how he wanted to share short but powerful pieces that encapsulated the historical struggle of African Americans.

“The American black experience is still a struggle,” Olsen said. “I don’t think we have to fight a tax in deliberate mission of the black experience. We have to fight apathy: ‘Who cares? It ain’t me.’ So this kind of thing does that. It’s small, but really important.”

While this was the first Read-In event Augie has hosted in five years, but both students and faculty alike believe events like this need to go beyond Black History Month.

“It is a beautiful way to celebrate the many contributions that African Americans have had to society — not just our society but worldwide,” Williams said. “It sheds light on poets, authors, literaries [who] contributed beyond Black History month, but to life and to literature. It’s important. Our history is everyone’s history.”

“It didn’t matter if ten or a hundred people showed up,” Olsen said. “It’s important.”

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    Paul olsenMar 6, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Edit correction in e-Observer: “attacks” not “a tax” in the e-mail version. Thanks. PVO

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Romaniello hosts African American read-in