Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black Studies Contributors Attend Sonia Sanchez Seminar

This week, two of our core Black Studies contributors, Cindy Lyles and Danielle Hall are attending "Continuous Fire: A Seminar on the Poetry of Sonia Sanchez." The seminar is hosted by the Furious Flower Poetry Center directed by Joanne Gabbin at James Madison University in Virginia.

Since her emergence during the black arts era of the 1960 and 1970s, Sonia Sanchez has remained a leading literary and cultural force. Through workshops and discussions led by prominent scholars, the seminar provides educators and advanced graduate students with an overview of African American poetry with special focus on Sanchez's works.

The idea that two of our students could and should attend the seminar was first proposed by Trudier Harris, J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English emerita, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A leading scholar in the field of African American literature, Harris approached me at the College Language Association conference in April and generously offered to cover more than half of the expenses for any two students from SIUE that my colleague Candice Jackson and I would choose to participate in the seminar. Black Studies funds would cover the remaining travel expenses for our students.

Professor Jackson and I needed little time to decide on selecting Cindy Lyles, a graduate student in the English Department, and Danielle Hall, a graduate student in historical studies. Both young women have quickly become leading black studies contributors.

In preparation for Black Studies 2011-2012 programming, Cindy and Danielle had already been selected to serve as coordinators for public humanities projects related to the Eugene B. Redmond's collection of photographs and cultural artifacts related to African American poetry, including extensive materials related to Sanchez. The training and information that Cindy and Danielle are receiving at the seminar will equip them with skills and knowledge to make far-reaching contributions to our programming and outreach efforts this fall.

Our two young scholars and contributors have already sent me several messages explaining how much they are learning and enjoying the experience. At the end of the first full day of workshops and discussions, for instance, I received an thrilling update.

"There is no one word to describe the amount of love, peace, support, knowledge, scholarship and divine solidarity that abounds within the assembly of minds here," wrote Danielle. "It is a scared and transformative space. I doubt anyone will leave in the same way they came. It exceeded my expectations, and it’s only DAY 1."

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