The Frederick Douglass Institute’s annual Multicultural Read-in was hosted by West Chester University on Tuesday Feb. 3, 2009 in Philips Autograph Library, in the Philips Memorial Building from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. “The event was an opportunity for the students of West Chester to read their favorite multicultural works, or works that mean something to them” said Sheena Butler. Butler is a graduate assistant that helps in planning the event at West Chester.
The works that could be read were fairly open. Some students read poems, some read stories, some letters, and others read excerpts from larger works. The topics for the works that are to be read at this event are specific and vary from year to year.
This year’s topic was “Social Change, Do You Believe?” This topic is one that presented readings that had something to do with the social change the world has undergone over the course of the past few years; also of the changes that could be or are to come in the future.
Among the variety of works that were read included a piece from Natasha Trethewey entitled “Miscegenation,” a poem illustrating how Trethewey’s parents met at an all-black college and against all odds, eventually, were married. Also among the works were “Night” by Elie Weisel, the touching and courageous story of a little boy in Nazi Germany, and an excerpt from “Window Epic.”
The event was attended by an assortment of people. Teachers also took some time out of their lectures to bring their classes to the event. It was a place where teachers and students could enjoy some literature together in a relaxed environment.
Frederick Douglass was one of the most prominent leaders of the abolitionist movement in the decades prior to the Civil War. He published the North Star, an anti-slavery paper, and was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures on the subject of anti-slavery. He was also an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and he fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for African Americans.
The read-in is part of West Chester University’s Black History Month event calendar. The university holds this event every year, as they have for many years in the past, and therefore become somewhat of a staple in university life. It is a way for all students to appreciate the contributions of African-Americans to this country, and to their lives as well.
Carla Grabey, a student at West Chester, attended the event and was “very happy to be there” she said. “I have always heard about this event, but never had a chance to go, and now I am glad I did.” This seemed to be the general consensus of all those attending because there wasn’t a sound heard when the works were read by the students.
Readers and spectators alike were offered refreshments during the breaks between readings and after the readings were concluded.
Jenna Shepanski is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. She can be reached at JS618186@wcupa.edu.