Poets, authors inspire students


Myra Salceddo

The first author to arrive at the African American Read-In, Teffanie Thompson , meets the first student to arrive, Vivian Vega in 2017.

Staff Reports , Staff Reporter

There were moments of laughter, introspection and even tears from some of the students, poets, faculty and staff who attended the Second Annual African American Read-In. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin is the only West Texas higher education institution to have participated in this national event. UTPB joined universities in Dallas and Houston in bringing acclaimed authors and poets together to read from their original works in a four-hour, come-and-go open microphone event on Feb. 22. The UTPB event is listed with the National Council of Teachers of English.

UTPB African American Read-In Moderator and Senior Lecturer Dr. Myra Salceo opened the reading marathon with Teffanie  Thompson White’s “love letter” to her readership whereby White addressed the adult literacy rate in the United States as being at the eighth-grade level, which barely qualifies as literacy. White said that hearing her “love letter” read by Salcedo, was “magical. No one else has read that to be before.” Salcedo described White’s novel Dirt as containing magical realism, ancestral history, and the realities of slavery.”

Loretta Diane Walker, national 2016 Phyllis Wheatley Poetry prize winner, spoke of her own mother’s struggle with diabetes, and amputations, resulting in some sniffling in the audience. UTPB students, some who had read the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett in UTPB English courses, were riveted to the words from Walker’s poem “The Help’s Daughter,” as her mother was employed as domestic “help.”

“Our family was not prepared for the changes my mom would endure [when she was undergoing dialysis]. While she was in the hospital, I was reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I was up late one night Facebook surfing and a friend of mine posted he was also reading The Help and wanted a response to a question on page 169,” she added. “What does it feel like to raise a white child when your own child’s at home being looked after by someone else? It took me about a week, but my response was the poem. Before my mother became a daycare supervisor, she used to do domestic work. We did not have babysitters. Events of the past and present started unraveling in my heart, thus “The Help’s Daughter.”

Just One Touch author Cynthia Goyang had students on the edge of their chairs when she emoted reading from her novel of an ailing woman struggling to touch the hem of Jesus’ gown as she read from her 2013 novel. She is engrossed in writing a second novel.

Fifty-one students signed the attendance sheet for the event, although most plead shyness in reading works at the microphone. Nonetheless, a few students (inspired by the published authors) took to the microphone and read short poems or rap songs.

During the final moments of the event, UTPB Dr. Rebecca Babcock (Chair of the UTPB Literature and Languages Department, and William and Ordelle Watts Professor) read the poem the “Theme for English B” by the late African-American poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes. She noted that renowned educator Jonathan Kozol was fired from his job for reading the poem. Kozol was fired during the civil rights era from Boston Public Schools for reading Hughes’ poem.

Salcedo also read Coretta Scott King’s letter that was struck down from the U.S. Senate Floor on Feb. 7 due to its containing disparaging remarks concerning Jefferson “Jeff” Sessions. Salcedo said that women should not be silenced, and the King legacy of words, letters, and speeches, should not be silenced.”

The UTPB Success Center, which provides tutoring and academic assistance to students, sponsored the event, provided a free buffet and free laminated bookmarks. The UTPB Department of Literature and Languages also sponsored the event.

Students read from works including Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauduah Equiano” recounting his experience aboard a slave vessel (1775-1795), poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835 by Cedric May, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

Opinions expressed in this story are not necessary the perspectivies of the University.