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More than words: Students to recite, perform African-American literature at read-in

Westminster High School students Jordyn Curtis, left, and Taylor Lee perform "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou at last year's annual African-American Read-In at the Carroll Arts Center Feb. 26. (February 26 2015)_- Original Credit: Laura Doolan/submitted photo
Westminster High School students Jordyn Curtis, left, and Taylor Lee perform "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou at last year's annual African-American Read-In at the Carroll Arts Center Feb. 26. (February 26 2015)_- Original Credit: Laura Doolan/submitted photo (HANDOUT)

Students from local high schools will take the stage to read and perform some of their favorite works of African-American literature at the second annual Carroll County Public Schools African-American Read-In Feb. 25.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Carroll Arts Center, at 91 W. Main St. in Westminster, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

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"It's a national event sponsored by National Council of Teachers of English, celebrated throughout the nation as a regular part of Black History Month," said Janetta Jayman, supervisor of English and world languages for Carroll County Public Schools.

The event was created as part of an initiative to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month.

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Carroll County Public Schools' African-American Read-In is also sponsored by the Carroll County Branch of the NAACP and Carroll County Public Library. The organizations have worked with students to bring back the Read-In event, which was a big success last year.

"After last year's inaugural event, a lot of people were like 'we hope you are going to do this again next year.' So we are," Jayman said.

This year's arts-filled evening will kick off with a reception from 6 to 6:30 p.m.

The Westminster High School Jazz Ensemble will play, and attendees are invited to enjoy light refreshments provided by local businesses.

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Refreshments will include bottled water, chicken nuggets, tortilla chips and salsa, cookies, and other sweet treats.

Everyone will also receive an African-American literature reading list compiled by librarians from the Carroll County Public Library. The centerpiece of the evening, the performances by the students, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Jayman said about 50 students from area high schools will be participating. They've been working hard in preparation for the event, she said.

Jayman said the students will be presenting the readings in unique ways, from dance to musical interpretations.

"Students work with English teachers to decide on what they're going to read. The students have the opportunity to select and share a passage that moves them, and they get to choose their own type of interpretation. There are lots of different forms of interpretation," she said.

Korryn Hart, a sophomore at Westminster High School who co-emceed last year's event, will be emceeing again this year. She said she can't wait.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to get up there and give the acts a little push and get the audience excited. They really have great talents," she said of the students.

She said those who attend can expect to hear a variety of literature.

"Of course there will be classics that everyone's heard of, like Maya Angelou, but there will be some you haven't heard as well."

Last year, performances included the poems "Those Winter Sundays," by Robert Hayden, "The Average Black Girl," by Ernestine Johnson, "Let America Be America Again," by Langston Hughes, "The Revolution Will Not be Televised," by Gil Scott Heron, and a reading and dance interpretation of "Still I Rise," by Maya Angelou. The audience was also treated to a reading of the Jimi Hendrix song "Castles Made of Sand," and a scene from the Lorraine Hansberry play "Raisin in the Sun." There was also a special video presentation by Liberty High School students featuring their interpretation of "Million Man March," by Maya Angelou.

"The students and teachers at every high school work hard to prepare for this event," Lynn Wheeler, director of the Carroll County Public Library, wrote in an email. "This is evident in the students' earnest delivery of literary selections that resonate with them. There is no better way to pay tribute to the important work of African American authors."

Korryn said the audience can expect to get more out of the African-American Literature Read-In than just entertainment. She said the event is an important one for the community.

"It provides an opportunity for us to get some of the great work by African-American authors out there. We don't always hear a lot about African-American writers."

And as a bonus, she said, "hearing all this great work — it inspires you. And it's just so much fun."

"Last year I was very happy to see such great diversity in people who came out to the event," Korryn said. "Even though it focuses on African-American writing, it's a good experience for all cultures to enjoy."

Wheeler was among the attendees at last year's event.

"This was a delightful night last year and I'm looking forward to this year," she wrote in an email. "It is a delight to listen to students recite excerpts they have selected from inspiring works by African-American authors, poets and playwrights. We are honored to partner with Carroll County Public Schools, the NAACP, and many other sponsors to bring this very special evening to the community."

Jayman said she's hoping to get a good turnout to the event.

"This is a free community event for everyone. We're hoping everyone will come together to show their support of the students and to celebrate Black History Month and celebrate African American writers," she said.

If you go:

What: The second annual Carroll County Public Schools African-American Read-In

When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 25. If Carroll County Public Schools are closed on Feb. 25, there is a snow date of Thursday, March 3. If there is a late start on Feb. 25, the event will go on as scheduled

Where: The Carroll Arts Center, at 91 W. Main St. in Westminster

Cost: Free

For more information: Contact Janetta Jayman at 410-751-3057 or Kendra Hart at 410-386-1660.

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