While it might take place during the shortest month of the year, many schools and cultural institutions ensure participation in Black History Month. But one college’s experience was particularly in-depth this year.
Lehman College hosted a celebratory initiative for the month: “Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters.” It began last fall when the Library of America published an anthology of Black poetry, “African-American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song.”
Aside from the anthology’s release at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, Lehman’s Leonard Lief Library was the only city institution hosting Lift Every Voice programming last month — and was one of just 50 to do so.
According to Robert Farrell, a librarian at Leonard Lief, hosting Lift Every Voice allowed the college to play a part in a larger cultural zeitgeist — hearing and celebrating art and poetry from underrepresented populations.
“Libraries are very focused right now on making sure they represent the communities they serve and finding ways to diversify their collections so that people see themselves and hear their own voices,” Farrell said, in a release.
Many of the month’s programs focused on Black language and music, including three book discussions and one reading from Black poet Tyehimba Jess — whose book “Olio” won a Pulitzer Prize. It may just be one book, but Robert Kavanaugh, who founded the One Book, One Bronx initiative, hopes Lift Every Voice programming can help shift the conversation around American art and literature as a whole.
“When you think of American literature, you understand that Tyehimba Jess should be in that conversation,” Kavanaugh said, in a release. “And Toni Morrison, as well as Robert Frost and John Steinbeck.”
Getting children to read can feel like an uphill battle sometimes. But when there are fun incentives, it becomes a bit more enticing.
St. Margaret of Cortona School hosted its third annual read-a-thon last month. Over the course of two weeks, students tried to read as many books as they can while collecting donations for the school.
But that wasn’t the only thing spurring the students on in their endeavor to read as many books as possible. Milestone donation numbers resulted in different rewards for the students to enjoy. At $5,000, students could attempt to duct tape principal Hugh Keenan to the gymnasium wall — sideways. They surpassed the goal and taped Keenan to the wall successfully Feb. 12.
The students also surpassed the second milestone of $15,000 raised. As a result, Keenan shaved his head Feb. 26, and immediately following, both he and regional superintendent John Riley had slime dumped on them.
In total, St. Margaret’s students raised more than $25,000 during the read-a-thon. And while Keenan might have needed to sacrifice a head of hair because of it, it still meant a lot of good would be done for the school.
“The read-a-thon is a wonderful and simple way to get our students reading (and) raise money for important programs and improvements while having fun and increasing school spirit,” the school said, in a release. “We are very proud of all of our students, and so happy that we will be able to enhance their instructional environment.”