The election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president was a common theme for speakers at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center’s annual Read-In Monday.
Part poetry slam, part cultural expression and oozing with energy, this was the event’s seventh incarnation. Bloomington-area high school students can perform works of their own or read from the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, Maya Angelou and others.
I.U. School of Education professor Stephanie Carter, who initiated and runs the event, said it’s not difficult to get students interested.
“The kids already know what to expect,” Carter said. “It’s not a lot of drumming up that I have to do because they already want to do it and we always run overtime because they want to read, and it’s always a new person that wants to read.”
Bloomington High School North student Tinesha Alexis performed a work of her own in which she talked about overcoming stereotypes, respecting her body and not listening to naysayers. A group of students led the crowd in a rendition of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Author and pastor James Anyike read from his book, “African American Holidays,” and told the students he wished more income generated by African-American workers was spent in predominantly African-American communities.
Still, Carter said it’s an event which is designed to bridge cultural boundaries.
“It’s not even just about African-American youth,” she said. “Particularly in Bloomington I think it’s important because there’s such a small percentage of African-American youth in the schools. This is really something they look forward to, too, but I think more than just them, I think all of the students really enjoy it.”