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Campus News / News

More Discussion at This Year’s ‘Read Aloud of Black American Voices’

02/01/2017 2:36 pm

Michael Perry

ROCKFORD, Ill. — The English Department at Rockford University hosts its eighth annual “Read Aloud of Black American Voices” this month. The event’s organizer is taking a more experimental approach and increasing focus on engagement for 2017.

Michael Perry, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, says he’s lining up some guest readers from the community for the public event, but ultimately he hopes to encourage a two-way dialogue.

“We’ll focus in on some passages, and then we’ll use that as a springboard for wherever the discussion takes us,” said Perry, adding, “My goal is to shine a light on a different aspect of African-American literature, and hopefully get more people to engage.”

“Read Aloud of Black American Voices” will take place in Fisher Chapel on the Rockford University Campus, 5050 E. State St., on the following dates and times:

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017

  • Noon – 1 p.m.
  • 3 – 4 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017

  • 3 – 4 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 24, 2017

  • Noon – 1 p.m.

The Fire Next Time - James BaldwinPast events have featured a variety of African American works, including poetry, prose, and lyrics. This year’s selection is  James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, which became a national bestseller and an instrumental voice to the civil rights movement after it first published in 1963.

Following a tumultuous year that yielded police-involved shootings and saw racial and religious tensions stirred up during a bitterly fought battle for the presidency, Perry says Baldwin’s book couldn’t be more appropriate.

“This particular text is pretty timely. It was a conscious choice,” he said. “That was explicitly my goal here – find something that was timely, that would get more interest.”

Perry received funding from the Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement to distribute 50 copies of The Fire Next Time throughout campus in early December, a move he hopes will bring “more buy-in from the community.”

People may choose passages of their preference to read aloud, and Perry is avoiding a topic-specific approach so any aspect related to the book can be up for discussion. Based on the first two “Read Aloud” events on Feb. 9, he says the format may evolve.

“I don’t have a political agenda. I’m not going to be teaching. I’m not going to be lecturing,” Perry said. “I’m not going to be up there telling people how to read it or what to think. I’m going to point to passages and have a discussion that engages.”

For more information, please contact Professor Perry at