Literary legacy lives on through students’ public reading of Black authors

Students eat cake and listen to a public reading | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Kaysea Suzana | Staff Writer

In the cozy hall of room 220 at the Green Library, the A Litany for Survival: Public Reading series unearthed the importance of African American authors Audrey Lorde and Toni Morrison.

The event hosted on Feb. 20, spanning from 2 – 4 p.m., was led by Drs. Donna Weir-Soley and Shawn Christian. 

The series showcased the impactful works of famous African American authors Audrey Lorde and Toni Morrison.

The two late novelists are critically acclaimed as trailblazers for African American voices as they often wrote about the Black experience.

The event began with Weir-Soley’s opening statement regarding the importance of legacy, and the inheritance of the voices left behind for students in books.

“We are keepers of literary legacy. It is our job to make sure it does not die,” Weir-Soley said.

Encapsulating the fervor of literary interest, Weir-Soley continued with the spirit of the novelists’ ambitions. 

“They help us to remember our voice when we are in danger of forgetting. We are not alone, we have their legacy with us.”

Before segueing to Christian, Weir-Soley mentioned her own personal experience with encountering the works of Morrison and Lorde. Weir-Soley elucidated her college years and the struggles she had faced when competing against fellow students, and the revelation she gleaned from the novelists’ works.

“Don’t compete with anyone. You don’t know what advantages they have. Life isn’t a playing field, you just do your best to catch up.” said Weir-Soley.

Christian followed up with his own spin on the importance of legacy and reading, mentioning that “Reading is about community”, and that “legacy is a trajectory for all of us.”

Adding on to his previous statement, he explained, “Legacy is a pathway for all of us to follow. A pathway that the authors we’re speaking of today had also presented to them.”

Utilizing the large screen in the room, a series of TikToks were then shown to the audience, varying from interviews of Lorde and Morrison about the emotional journeys of their writing to the handling of previously underrepresented voices.

Lastly, students had signed up to conduct a public reading, where they were able to read out loud their favorite works of Lorde and Morrison. Morrison’s Sula, Beloved as well as Lorde’s Sister Outsider, A Burst of Light, The Collected Poems, were all attentively listened to. Present at the reading were also free servings of cake and bottles of water as well as books to be borrowed for the reading.

Melissa Texidor, adjunct lecturer, English major, and participant reader mentioned her views on the importance of participating on the literary legacy.

“If I can participate and give a platform to Black women who have usually had their voice suppressed, I feel more inclined to participate.”

In terms of optimistic views on future students’ engagement with literature on the African Diaspora, Christian commented on his excitement on the ranging diversity.

“An increasing diversity– that is not a new phenomenon, but it is now more accepted. Caribbean, Jamaican, Afro-Cubans and Dominicans…the next generation will get inspired in seeing themselves. It will be a generational connection.” 

Sophia Sanchez, teaching assistant and English graduate, had commented about the student’s impact on the importance of maintaining legacy, and her own personal experience with the topic.

“‘Praise the past. Praise what we lost. Praise Cuba. Yes, look to the past, and love what you can. But, we can view it with a critical view, to look at it– the wonderful aspects and the things that can be cut off. I think legacy is important to present with a critical view.”

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