Plattsburgh State celebrated Black Poetry Day on Thursday to highlight the importance of African American literature.
Plattsburgh has been hosting a Black Poetry Day celebration for nearly 35 years. It was originally held in libraries around town and eventually moved to the PSUC. Black Poetry Day is celebrated on the birthday of the first African American poet, Jupiter Hammon.
Poet and Professor Camille Dungy visited PSUC as the day’s guest, reading some of her work to listeners in Krinovitz Auditorium. She said that she was very excited to visit PSUC.
“I love sharing my work with students. I want to teach students that poetry is a viable and necessary mode of communicating our hopes and fears,” she said.
Dungy talked about her own works and how it fits in with American society, as well as Black Poetry Day. Dungy will be reading from the 2011 American Book Award winner “Suck on the Marrow.”
Professor Tracie Church-Guzzio coordinated this event, and said not only do the poets that are invited read their works, but they are also invited to participate in some in-class work as well.
Church-Guzzio said that Black Poetry Day is so important because she believes that there is a lack of education on the contribution of African American art.
“We wouldn’t really have an American poetic form without the contribution of African American poets.”
PSUC history sophomore Conor Yankovich, said he believes black poetry is important. He said his favorite black poet would have to be Robert Johnson or even Kendrick Lamar. He said he likes the work because while they are used as songs, he feels that it is poetry in a way and he said it tells a story others might not have heard.\ “I think all forms of black art is important- music, paintings, writings. They can explain things that others wouldn’t necessarily understand,” he said.
Dungy said she believes more African American poetry should be taught in classes. She said not just African American poetry though, all forms of indigenous poetry should be taught. Whatever represents who we are, we should be reading.
“Many years ago, when Rita Dove was the Poet Laureate of the United States, I went to a Barnes and Noble to buy her newest book. I couldn’t find it on the poetry shelf, and when I asked about it the clerk told me they did have it and walked me to the African American literature section,” Dungy said. “She should have been categorized in the poetry section as well as the African American Literature section.”
Dungy spoke about the social injustice within the black community.
“If you live in a community that is not aware of social injustice that is all around us, then it would become your job to be the voice that helps to raise awareness,” she said. “Poetry is an avenue to help in this way.”
Dungy shared that she been feeling “immense pride,” saying noting the showrunner for the hit series “Luke Cage” was a college classmate of hers. She said that this really showed how words and hard work can create such a great and positive change.
“Through poetry we can direct our attention toward beauty and action, toward potential and growth,” she said.
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