Volume 97 Issue 3 News

Lift Ev’ry Voice Celebrates Black Literature

by Laura Snyder

On Nov. 12 in the Ellis Ballroom, Lift Ev’ry Voice will host a program featuring the works of black and African-American poets, prose writers, musicians and artists. Each piece will be performed by a member of Lift Ev’ry Voice or a volunteer.

Professor Judy Katz, who recently retired from the English department, created Lift Ev’ry Voice, which is held every other year. “Professor Katz saw an opportunity to broaden the campus community’s knowledge of African American literature and culture through performance,” said Amanda Page, assistant professor of English and instructor of Lift Ev’ry Voice.

Maris Wilson, a junior, is excited for her and her classmates’ performance. The class meets weekly to discuss different aspects of planning the event, like marketing, design and planning, and contacting volunteers. Wilson said, “Because the class is so small, we kind of work on all three of these tasks together.”

The students organizing the program this year are Tzipora Crandell, DeMauray McKiever, Jason Lesser, Douglas Pierce, Klaus-Peter Profus, Rebecca Weih and Maris Wilson.

The students decide what goes into the program. “Each reader chooses a piece that has a special meaning to him or her. Then we come together multiple times to practice performing each piece, which allows every reader to think through their unique interpretation,” said Page.

Tzipora Crandell, a junior, said, “This year, we’re focusing on music and poetry, because we’re trying to pick a theme that enclosed a general idea but that still had a lot of vagueness so that people could put into it what they want to.” This is a volunteer-driven program, so the class wanted to make sure that they chose a theme that would allow for creative interpretation.

“It’s voluntary, so anyone can come and read, so we’ve got a backlog of different things that people could read or perform if they want to. But we also allow people to introduce anything that they want to do,” said Jason Lesser, a junior. The class is very open to new suggestions and ideas for literature that is featured in the program.

Wilson described one of the goals of the program. “(We want to) give the people helping out to have a platform to use their voice and express their thoughts.” This program gives volunteers a rare opportunity to share literature that is given less attention in a typical academic setting.

Page’s class expects this program to be very successful. Wilson said, “This program helps highlight authors that students might not be aware of.” Although the lineup is not yet complete, this year will feature a mix of popular and Lesser known writers and artists that Lift Ev’ry Voice feels do not get enough representation on campus.

“We expect a really large turnout,” said Lesser. Lift Ev’ry Voice has been very successful in the past, and a lot of attention has been given to this year’s event.

Students are encouraged to participate even if they area unable to volunteer. Crandell said, “We’d love to have more people there to create a really fun atmosphere.”

Finding volunteers who could fit the event into their schedules has been one of the biggest challenges in planning Lift Ev’ry Voice. “The struggle is finding people who are willing to devote their time to it, but once we got the word out and set up a table at Ellis, we found a lot of people willing to help us out and devote their time,” said Wilson.

The class was eventually able to recruit enough volunteers. Crandell said, “Recruiting-wise, we just went around and asked if people were interested. A lot of people were, and not many knew what it was. So when we get closer and have our dress rehearsals with everyone, I’m really excited to see what the show is going to look like.”

The class dedicated the entire semester to planning this event, and the attendance, which is expected to be large, will reflect their hard work.

This course is unlike any other because students are given a chance to put their ideas into action. “The practicum is meant to give students a way to appreciate literature in a more interactive way. By organizing the event, students think through the themes of the literature but also the transformative impact art can have on our lives,” said Page.

This class project allows students to broaden their experience with African-American literature while sharing that experience with an audience. “I’ve never heard of a lot of them, so I’m really excited to get more exposure and see this whole event come together,” said Crandell, who has been looking forward to this program since the beginning of the semester.

Wilson is also excited for the performance and what it means for the Juniata community. “The biggest outcome we have is that we want to help create a community at Juniata,” said Wilson.

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