Celebrating 26 Years of African American Literature

Celebrating 26 Years of African American Literature

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The National African American Read-In has been an ongoing celebration for 26 years. It is an event that brings together communities to share a book, poem, or a song that represents African American literature.

Texas A&M University-Kingsville students, faculty and staff gathered at the pavilion in front of the Student Union Building on Feb. 18 to read continously and be part of a 5-hour celebration.

Dr. Christopher Hinojosa, English lecturer at TAMUK, said the purpose of the Read-In is to get everyone at TAMUK and across the nation to participate and acknowledge literature.

“We are trying to get as many people together at the same time on the same day to be reading words by, for, or about African Americans,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, communities and interested citizens will join their voices to make literacy a significant part of Black History month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins across America.

“This is a chance to show unity and show what place African Americans had in both the history and the literature of the United States,” Hinojosa said.

He said people need to celebrate African American literature as a sign of respect and recognition.

Jenni Vinson, language and literature lecturer, said that across the academic community of linguistics, once upon a time people thought that the African American voice didn’t have any intelligence to it.

“We are finding that the things that they wrote 600 years ago even when they were in a state of enslavement has academic merit,” Vinson said.

Vinson said there is a lot to learn from African American literature.

“We have a lot to learn from what was penned down by our African American brothers and sisters,” Vinson said. “We want to make sure to go back and learn what their voices were, even when they were in a point of enslavement.”

A lot of the literature does tell how they felt coming out of enslavement, she said.

“We are never going to be able to walk in their shoes, but by reading their literature we’ll gain an understanding and maybe soften our hearts,” Vinson said.

Vinson said she, along with the department of language and literature, promotes African American literature on a yearly basis and every February they make sure that they are part of the National African American read-in at TAMUK to join the national voice.