About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Monday, February 6, 2012

National African American Read-In

I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the 23rd Annual National African American Read-In today at Auburn University. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long before leaving to teach a class, but I really enjoyed the excerpts from Charles Blockson (Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile) and Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God—classic!) that I got to hear. Created by the National Council of Teachers of English, the program encourages reading as an instructive and revealing activity while also promoting the appreciation of African American literature, during Black History Month and beyond.

I read from Trudier Harris’s “Cotton-Pickin’ Authority,” an essay from her collection of autobiographical pieces titled Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South (2003). Harris is a native Alabamian and reflects on growing up in Tuscaloosa in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In “Cotton-Pickin’ Authority,” she raises the particular topic of inter-generational conflicts, what she calls the “then” generation (of those who barely got to go to school and had to work in the cotton fields) versus the “now” generation (of kids who had the luxury of going to school all day instead of picking cotton). The older folks invoked cotton-pickin’ authority at every turn, whenever it came to letting the younger folks know how good they truly had it. It’s very funny and very insightful about a way of living during an interesting time of change in the South.

What I liked most about the Read-In is that I got to use it as an opportunity for my lit students to sit in and learn about some writers they had never heard of. For a few extra points, I’m asking them to think about why something they heard might be worth exploring in more depth. I hope they really let their minds work on this one. :-)

This event was just one of hundreds occurring at various, colleges, universities, libraries, and other organizations across the nation throughout the month of February. Be on the lookout for a Read-In where you live, and join in this celebration of African American literature and history. See the National Read-In’s official site for more info!

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