Monday, February 22, 2010

The African American Literary Showcase


(students viewing and listening at the exhibit)

What a good time we had on Friday involving all of the 150 or so 5th graders at Woodland Elementary school in a mixed media exhibit focusing on several poets from the Eugene B. Redmond (EBR) Collection.

This “African American Literary Showcase,” as we called it, gave us an opportunity to expose students to African American poetry, nearly 100 of Redmond’s photographs, and audio commentary and recordings of the poets reading. The exhibit provided us with a clearer sense of what mixed media programming with the EBR Collection and African American poetry in general might look like.

Beginning around 9:45 a.m., a group of about 25 would arrive to a room at the elementary school where we had setup images of poets from the EBR Collection and poems by the featured authors, which included Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Margaret Walker.



As students arrived in the room, they would pick up one of the mp3 players that we provided. After providing them with brief instructions on how to use the devices (of course, these young folks were already well-versed in how to operate mp3 players), they were allowed to roam the exhibit freely.

We had created audio clips of a short introduction on poets and then commentary of the poets reading and music added as background. For example, in the following clip, our black studies contributor Shelley Houk introduces Gwendolyn Brooks, and Brooks can be heard reading her poem “We Real Cool.” Our contributor Henderson added the instrumental music in the background.

Each of the audio clips on the mp3s included a letter that corresponded to a letter near the photographs of the poets. We had the label “B – Maya Angelou” next to her image, and students would shuffle through the mp3 players until they got to that label. They would then listen to our introduction on Angelou and a recording of her reading “Still I Rise.”

Students would tour the exhibit for about 20 or so minutes. They seemed to really enjoy it. It was fascinating watching them going through the processes of reading, listening, and viewing. I had been wondering how to get students, especially elementary students, more fully engaged with African American literature, and an exhibit like this one gave us some clearer ideas.

Related content: Eugene B. Redmond and the EBR Collection

1 comment:

jward said...

This is cool, and you have backing for the direction you are taking from the MLA President. See MLA Newsletter, Spring 2010.
When I listened to Brooks reading "We Real Cool," I focused on the musicality of her delivery rather than the words. We need to know where the young focus their attention --to words, to music, to words and music. The implications for pedagogy are important.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
Professor of English
Dillard University