African American Read-in - Penn State Altoona

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African American Read-In 2015

2015 African American Read-In Logo

The 2015 African American Read-In will be held on February 15 and 16

Theme: America 2015: We the People

Citizenship. Democracy. Nation. What does it mean to be an American, in a nation formed on the principles of freedom and equality, yet fraught from the start with contradictions and incoherencies regarding these very ideals? From Native peoples to enslaved Africans to immigrant groups from every part of the world, many people who call the United States home have necessarily engaged in complex and ongoing cultural negotiations of the meaning of nation and citizenship. And as Stephen Knadler explains in Remapping Citizenship and the Nation in African-American Literature (2009), “democracy and citizenship were [never] fixed ideas that white people created, owned, and finally, begrudgingly—extended to an ever increasingly diverse community.” Indeed, all of us—we the people—contribute every day to the shaping of who we are as a nation. African American literature, from its very beginnings to today’s writers and poets, continues to be an important site of the exploration of national identity in relation to issues of race, ancestry, and agency. The diverse voices of Black American writers, reflecting the variety of Black experiences in the U.S., argue that America is still very much a work in progress, and one which involves us all. This year’s theme invites participants to consider what it means in 2015 to claim, as Sonia Sanchez did in her “Poem for July 4, 1994,” “we the people.”