By Amy Price
Brookhaven College students, faculty and staff snapped their fingers and danced to the beat of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Drop Me Off in Harlem” during the opening segment of the African American Read-In Feb. 2 in the Performance Hall.
This year’s theme for the read-in was “Drop Me Off in Harlem.” Hazel Carlos, English professor, was in charge of organizing the event. Carlos said the African American Read-In is a district-wide event held to celebrate Black History Month.
This year the read-in included the work of black poets from the 1920s, a time period known as the Harlem Renaissance. The read-in used jazz poetry, a style used by poets including Langston Hughes and T.S. Eliot, to convey a message of black pride.
Hurshel Burton, English professor, performed with an acoustic guitar and drums onstage. Narration was used to transition between the poems read by participants. “[The read-in] conveys the depth of the culture and history and how prolific the writers were,” Burton said.
Harlem Renaissance poems from “What is Africa to Me” to “Booker T. and W.E.B. Debate” to “Daybreak in Alabama” were performed with strong voice and Southern soul.
Student Dominique Clemons said he signed up for the event because it seemed interesting and he had never done anything like it before. He performed two poems during the show: “Booker T. and W.E.B. Debate” and “The Weary Blues.”
Clemons said he was not familiar with many of the poems but learned a lot about them as he prepared for the read-in.
Carlos said the read-in was meant to portray everything the Harlem Renaissance stood for: freedom, individuality, self-identity, love and beauty. “These themes address concerns of the time period,” Carlos said.