BLUE BELL – Montgomery County Community College will continue a year-long celebration of African American poetry by hosting an online community poetry reading, featuring poet laureates from Montgomery County and Philadelphia.
âAmplifying Our Voices Through Diasporic Black Poetryâ will be held online Wednesday, February 17, from 6 to 7 p.m. Montgomery County Poet Laureate David Gaines and Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson will read original works of poetry.
The winning poem from the college’s Lift Every Voice poetry competition will also be featured, and original artwork commissioned for the event will be unveiled. The event is free and open to the community.
Fran Lassiter, Associate Professor of English, and Amanda M. Leftwich, Student Success Librarian, won a grant last fall as part of a Library of America initiative, “Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters â.
They are using the grant to host college programming dedicated to enhancing appreciation of the extraordinary range and richness of the 250-year-old African-American poetic tradition.
Lassiter and Leftwich said Gaines and Mayson were selected because they were esteemed poets of the region. Gaines, the 2020-2021 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, is a writer, actor, and educator born and raised in Philadelphia.
As a product of a traditional Baptist household and child of hip-hop culture, Gaines uses his poetry to analyze and explain how the performances of religion and gender intersect in his personal life and in the larger black community.
Mayson is the 2020-2021 City of Philadelphia Poet Laureate. Her work highlights and honors the immigrant experience and amplifies the stories of ordinary people. Her writings focus on the experiences of immigrants in the United States, the struggles of those facing conflict in Liberia, and the daily lives of ordinary people, especially women and girls.
âWe wanted to have individuals with a connection to the community who were established poets,â Lassiter said. “They are known in the poetry community, so we are delighted that they are sharing their work with us at the event on 17.”
Reading poetry will provide a chance to ask questions of published authors, they said.
Poetry reading continues a year of celebration of African American poetry. In October, Lassiter and Leftwich used the grant to host the online roundtable, âBlack History and Memory: A Discussion on Black Diasporic Poetryâ. Then the two hosted âCreating Black Diasporic Poetry: A Workshopâ on February 3, featuring artist and poet Sonsiris Tamayo.
The MCCC celebrates African-American culture and history every year at the Pan-African Festival organized by the Black Student Union. The annual festival was first created over a quarter of a century ago to recognize the contributions of Malcolm X, as well as those of the African Diaspora, of the peoples of Africa around the world.
âLift Every Voiceâ is presented by Library of America with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Emerson Collective. Its main objective is to engage participants in an exploration of African American poetry, the perspectives it offers on American history and the struggle for racial justice, and the universality of its imaginative response to the personal experiences of Black Americans over three centuries, according to the program’s website.
Montgomery County Community College