By Meagan Gosa

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University celebrated African American literature and literacy during the African American Read-In virtual event on Feb. 11.  As part of Black History Month, the Languages, Literature, and Philosophy Department in the College of Liberal Arts hosted the read-in, with the theme of “Self-discovery.” 

The National African American Read-In (AARI) is the nation’s first and oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature and encourages communities to read together, centering around African American books and authors. It was established in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month.  

Dr. Zeba Khan-Thomas, an assistant professor of English, was the main organizer of the TSU event.  Dr. Khan-Thomas said that the theme “self-discovery” is appropriate for empowering participants to learn more about themselves through self-care practices, creative expressions, literary engagement, and community solidarity. 

“We want to focus on what we are doing to remain in tune with ourselves, heal ourselves, and cope on a regular basis,” said Khan-Thomas. “Our main objective is to explore how can we use our creative mediums and be writers of the African American literary canon. Most importantly, provide some of that motivation or inspiration for us.” 

Communities nationwide, including schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, and professional organizations are urged to host an African American Read-In event.

“Being able to share ideas and our thoughts, it shows other people our experiences, what we’ve gone through, and who we are despite challenges we face,” said Jasmine Sears, a history major, with a concentration in teaching, from Atlanta. 

Khan-Thomas said the readings started with negro spirituals from the 18th century, then moved into periods of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.