By Bradley Varnel
Brookhaven College will end Black History Month Feb. 28 with “Poems of Freedom,” a poetry reading commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
With faculty and staff offering readings from authors such as Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez and Francis E.W. Harper, among others, the event will chronicle the journey from slavery and segregation to civil rights and equality. “We’re looking at the road we’ve traveled over the last 200 years,” professor Naomi Stokes-Wesson, a participant in the reading, said, “and how far [Dr. King’s] dream has come.”
Hazel Carlos, English professor and director of the reading, said she hopes audience members will gain not only a better appreciation of the struggle for freedom, but an appreciation and understanding of poetry’s power and impact.
According to Carlos, poetry is far more than just flowery rhymes; it is a form of literature that has transformative power — power which many black writers harnessed during the struggle for equality.
“Poets respond to the times,” Carlos said. “They are actually in tune with what is going on during the time period that they are writing.”
By progressing from older to more modern poems, Carlos said she hopes audience members will recognize the progression of awareness and the increased demands for the freedom of succeeding generations of black writers.
Carlos said, “Seeing that, understanding that, and understanding that poets respond to the conditions of their time is important to know, because a poet can say so much in such a compressed space.”
Carlos encouraged students to attend the reading, which will introduce them not only to various black writers, but also to different cultural experiences. Carlos said, “College students in general need to try to expose themselves to different kinds of knowledge and experiences that broaden their understanding of other groups [and] cultures.”
‘Poems of Freedom’ will be held at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in K234.