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The Power of the Written (and Spoken) Word

African American Read-In to celebrate literature as significant part of Black History Month

As part of the ongoing celebration of Black History Month, members of the WPI community are encouraged to attend the annual African American Read-in tomorrow in the campus bookstore.

Established in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English, the African American Read-In is the nation’s first and oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature, with a prominent goal of fostering an appreciation of literature as a significant part of Black History Month. WPI will join schools, libraries, bookstores, churches, and other community organizations around the country in hosting a read-in event, where attendees can shine the literary spotlight on their favorite African American authors, from Toni Morrison and Walter Dean Myers to Angie Thomas and Baratunde Thurston.

WPI has been hosting its own version of the African American Read-In for almost 10 years, according to Jim McLaughlin, assistant dean of student programs and director of the Rubin Campus Center. While the event is always held in the campus bookstore, a variety of offices have sponsored the program, including the International House and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, as well as collaborations between various academic departments. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to attend the event either as a reader—sharing excerpts or poems by their favorite African American authors—or as a listener.

This year’s event will be hosted by Billy McGowan, director of ESL programs at the International House. In addition to hosting, McGowan (a frequent participant in the read-in) will be doing a reading of work by jazz musician Louis Armstrong.

McLaughlin says his favorite part of the event isn’t just having the chance to enjoy passages of literature and poetry, but to hear members of the WPI community explain why those pieces are particularly meaningful to them.

“The program has always been a thought-provoking and valuable learning experience, and I’ve appreciated how the readings have stimulated conversations among participants,” he says. “I think it’s important that we have this event every year … it provides a great educational opportunity for all members of the WPI community.”

The read-in will be held in the campus bookstore at the Rubin Campus Center from 4 to 5 p.m.; all are encouraged to attend.

- By Allison Racicot