Carroll County students usher in Black History Month with African-American read-in

Race and ethnicity were motivations for 59.6 percent of hate crimes in 2017.

The average African-American genome is 73.2 percent African, 24 percent European and 0.8 percent Native American.


These facts and others, taken from the UNCF K-12 Disparity Facts and Statistics, hung behind myriad Carroll County high school students as they read poetry, speeches, sang songs and presented artwork at the fifth annual African-American Read-In Monday evening, Feb. 4 at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster — a collaboration between Carroll County Public Schools, the Carroll County Public Library, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Carroll Arts Center.

“Mama may have, papa may have, but God bless the child that's got his own,” sang Liberty High School student Zoe Rush.

Rush looked out to the audience with soulful, searching eyes before her honey sweet voice spilled out into the mic. She wore her hair in a buoyant side ponytail, with a white flower to match her flower-peppered dress and cropped denim jacket.

“He just don’t worry about nothin’, ’cause he’s got his own,” she swooned. “Yes, he's got his own.”

Only 7.7 percent of art exhibitions are of African-American artists and their work, read the projected screen. Among racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., African-Americans have the highest poverty rate, at 27.4 percent.

Students read a combination of works from famous writers and political figures such as Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou and Walter Dean Myers; and a few original pieces they created themselves.

Big lips, big butts, our hair, our music, said Jasmine Adetunji, a South Carroll High School student, reading from her original piece “French Kissed by the Sun.”

“The media loves everything about black people — except black people.”

Adetunji wore her hair in long braids with clear beads hanging at the ends. She wore colorful red, white and green pants and a matching blazer.

“I was born French-kissed by the sun,” she read. “Even though you can’t see it now, my fro will keep growing and my skin will keep glowing.”

The event has grown since it began five years ago, CCPL Communications Director Lisa Picker told the Times on Monday before the show.

“There are jazz musicians from [Francis Scott Key High School], students are masters of ceremonies for the event, greeters, speakers, stage crew,” Picker said.

“It varies every year what students choose to do,” she said. “Music, rap music — everything from poetry to dance interpretation — the kids are amazing. They are so talented.”

Jean Lewis, president of the NAACP’s Carroll County Chapter, said the annual event is the perfect opportunity for students to learn more about African-American literature and appreciate what people have done.


“It’s such a diversity of different kids,” she said. “There’s not just African-American students. We fill the whole room with people, and you see the same people come back year after year to watch it.”

“We’re excited about kids reading in our communities,” said Picker. “Whenever we can get kids engaged with reading, it’s a good thing.”