Allen University receives NEA The Big Read Initiative

Update:  3/6/2013 11:30 AM CST BY TOM JOYNER FOUNDATION





Dr. Charlene Spearen

Chair, Humanities Division

Allen University



Located in Columbia, South Carolina, Allen University, a Historical Black University, under the guidance of Bishop Richard F. Norris, Chairman, Board of Trustees and Dr. Pamela Martin Wilson, President, received a National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read Grant. Only 75 awards were given during the 2-12-2013 cycle and Allen University is extremely proud of receiving one of those awards. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Allen University’s The Big Read project Pulling in the Horizon: Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God as a result of presenting over 31 enlightening and entertaining events throughout Columbia, Sumter and the Lowcountry has received a Columbia City Proclamation from Mayor Steve Benjamin and City Council declaring March The Big Read month. The core of each event is to address, in innovative ways, our nation’s literacy crisis. Each Big Read project must last approximately one month, and Allen University has chosen the month of March as its The Big Read month. Starting March 1st, a series of public events will unfold in the form of panel discussions, author readings, theatrical readings, film screenings, arts-based workshops for children, teens and adults, musical performances, and much more.

The campus-wide Big Read at Allen University will include a total of 9 events; the rural library consortium Big Read will include 23 events; and there will be 6 community based events. Events will range from reading discussion groups to public events. Events will be held in varied locations to include schools, libraries, museums, public buildings, public spaces and senior citizens centers. As an effective way to engage children, teens, adults and senior citizens intellectually, emotionally, and creatively, the university and its partners will focus on the themes that are woven throughout the book. Events will include the writing and presenting of poems; the creating of visual arts pieces; the writing of letters to specific characters in the book; the hosting of trivia games; the presenting of lively music jam sessions; discussions of faith; exploration of natural disasters and its impact on marginalized communities; innovative lead discussions centering on childhood literacy; and even the sharing of food via a good old fashioned southern barbecue. Key note speakers will include the 2011 National Book Winner in Poetry, Nikky Finney and 2009 Emmy Award Winner, Kwame Dawes. Each of the targeted audiences and communities will gain a greater understanding of the Hurston’s mastery of language, folklore, and the history of black autonomy in the post-Civil War South. Allen University recognizes the extraordinary importance and value of reading and improving the literacy of children, teens, and adults.

Allen University’s effort to improve literacy will provide for a diverse range of activities and events that will encourage a spectrum of our citizens to read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and to be engaged in other Big Read activities. In creating and implementing its Pulling in the Horizon initiative, the university remains faithful to the goals of its founders and to its historic mission and purpose as expressed in its motto, “We teach the mind to think, the hands to work, and the heart to love.”

Allen University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Allen University.

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