By Emma McFarland

The Northwest University English department and Sigma Tau Delta, hosted the National African American Read-in last Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 3:30 p.m. over Zoom. Students, faculty, and staff shared poems and excerpts from works by African American writers. Assistant professor of English Clint Bryan, who sponsors the read-in each year, writes that “By participating in this event sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English, we link arms with people in all 50 states and the territories to highlight Black brilliance during Black History Month.” This event encouraged students to celebrate Black excellence through dedication and interest in writers of color during Black History Month and throughout the year.

Along with staff and faculty attendance, many students joined and shared readings. Chris Toavs, a member of Sigma Tau Delta, read from Tracy K. Smith’s poem “My God, It’s Full of Stars.” Several staff and faculty members from departments and programs including English, were in attendance.

Assistant professor of history Eve Wade, offered historical context as students and faculty shared readings. She made an insightful comment about the importance of oral history in African American culture in the Zoom chat.

“Poetry is ONE of the areas where African Americans can still express the highs and lows of Black life without scrutiny… just as the ‘spoken word’ movement etc. remain popular today,” Wade said.

When asked to share about the impact of this event on the Northwest campus, Bryan wrote:

“This past year has been understandably rocked by racial strife yet significant gains in terms of public awareness of systemic injustice. This event represents a step in the right direction—centering Black voices that otherwise can be discarded or downplayed. No matter how many public figures mischaracterize Critical Race Theory principles—including in the Church of all places—I am grateful that love for my multi-hued neighbor flows out of my love for the One True God. Racial reconciliation is integral to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

If you are interested in engaging with writings by African American authors, several students shared recommendations during the read in. Some of these authors include Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frederick Douglass, Tracy K. Smith, Paul Lorence Dunbar and Amanda Gorman.