Honoring the impact of African-American literature

Lincoln Public Schools hosted an African-American Read-In on Feb. 9, featuring LPS staff, students and community members reading excerpts from their favorite African-American literature and sharing their personal stories about the authors.

The hour-long event, held in conjunction with Lincoln City Libraries, was intended to explore African-American history and the contributions of African-Americans in the world of literature and the arts.

LPS Director of Library Media Services Chris Haeffner offered opening remarks for the crowd assembled in the district office board room. She spoke about the power of stories.

“We celebrate this day based on the simple idea that stories connect us. They connect us to our history, to our past, and they connect us to the web of ideas and inspirations that speak to us from their pages,” she said. “They teach us empathy and understanding. There are millions of stories, and each book we read, every book we digest, changes us.”

Cynthia Harris from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services shared the story of Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet.

“She was a trailblazer. She forged a path so others could follow. She overcame the obstacles put in front of her because of the color of her skin and her circumstances,” said Harris, who recalled first learning of Wheatley when she was eight years old.

Stewart Venable, a physical education teacher at Lincoln High School, read from the book “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” by Carter G. Woodson. Venable’s father first shared the book with him, then he passed on the same copy to his own son.

“After I did that I missed my book so I had to go buy another one,” Venable said.

Students from the TRACKS Empowerment Scholars program at Belmont Elementary School put on a powerful performance. They combined excerpts from the book “What Do You Do With An Idea,” by Kobi Yamada, with images of and words about various African-American leaders throughout history, including Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Lt. Col. Paul Adams, the namesake of Adams Elementary School in Lincoln.

Lincoln City Libraries will host a second African-American Read-In on Feb. 21, noon to 1 p.m., at the Loren Eiseley Branch Library, 1530 Superior St.

Published: February 13, 2018, Updated: February 13, 2018