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On Friday, February 21st in Ellis Ballroom, Juniata College’s English Department hosted “Lift Ev’ry Voice: Dancing in the Streets.” “Dancing in the Streets” comes from a song performed by Martha & the Vandellas. During the event, poems, songs, and a folktale by African American artists were read and performed by over a dozen students. Audre Lorde, Frederick Douglas, Maya Angelou, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper are just a few of the writers whose works were read.
“Lift Ev’ry Voice” is a program to celebrate African American writers. The event alternates yearly with “Unlock Your Voice,” which focuses on women writers. Both events were introduced by Dr. Judy Katz from Juniata’s English Department. Beginning with “Unlock Your Voice” in 1996, Dr. Katz introduced “Lift Ev’ry Voice” not long after. However, after many years with the programs, Dr. Katz has retired, marking this as her last “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” but also Dr. Amanda Page’s first.
Since I was involved with planning the event since the fall semester, it was great to see the ballroom decorated along the block party theme that we decided upon. A city skyline spread across the back wall of the ballroom, and strings of lights added an upbeat glow to the walls. Paper records and musical notes decorated the walls, and large posters depicting jazz, motown, hip-hop, and gospel music were dispersed around the room. All the readers did very well, and the event was a lot of fun. I’m sure that I will get involved next year, too!
I came to Juniata College after fourteen years of Catholic education. While I would not change my elementary and high school environments, I can’t deny that I was fairly sheltered.
When I registered for classes over the summer, I chose World Literatures because it sounded interesting and because I need the class for my English degree. My high school had a great English department. I read a variety of books ranging from Greek Drama and Shakespeare to Jane Eyre and The Scarlet Letter. I even had a teacher who only taught novels that appeared on banned books lists. However, the majority of the literature that I was exposed to was Western in nature.
World Literatures is a class that focuses on literature that is not Western. As can be expected at Juniata, the class is fairly small and is very participation-oriented. The emphasis on participation means that, after I read and analyze the literature, I am also exposed to the reactions and insights of other students. While reading novels and short stories from different cultures, we are challenged to think about cultures outside our own. Questions of assimilation, adaptation, and colonization are only a few of the topics that are discussed. Does a culture lose anything when its stories are written down? Is easy access to a culture a good thing? Can we read too far into a work of literature and infer things about a culture that the author did not mean to convey?
The kinds of questions raised cause students to think critically and deeply about new information. To me, that’s what Juniata College is all about, learning how to think about topics outside of our comfort zones. To feel guilt about cultural misconceptions, to gain interest in the literature of a different culture, and to identify values present in other societies all make me think that with one class at Juniata I have grown ethically, intellectually, and personally.
As you may know, this past weekend was Juniata College’s Family / Homecoming Weekend! So many events were happening on campus: sporting events like football, volleyball, field hockey, and alumni rugby games; a performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Juniata’s theatre department on Friday and a performance by the Asphalt Orchestra on Saturday; activities like a market place, Club VLB, a class competition, and a book sale to celebrate Beeghly Library’s 50th anniversary; and alumni events like reunions, panels, and more.
On Friday, I attended the English Alumni Career Panel. The four alumni who sat on the panel were great. They were both insightful and friendly and I really enjoyed the hour-long panel and everything else that they had to say after it had formally ended. Later that night, the Juniata Activities Board did a great job of turning the lobby of the von Liebig Center for Science into a club. As an English POE, I usually just go into VLB to get coffee from Jitter’s, but I’m pretty sure that those strobe lights were not always there.
Saturday was a very nice day for a football game. It was a great game, even though we lost. Thanks to the book sale in Beeghly Library, I finally have a copy of The Scarlet Letter and also a third version of The Iliad. Having all the families on campus meant that a lot of parents were able to meet many of their student’s friends.
Prior to coming to Juniata, I noticed that everyone whom I talked to described the Juniata College community by saying “it’s like a family.” One notices that this holds true after a few weeks on campus. However, seeing alumni walk around Juniata, laughing, having a good time, and reminiscing about their time at Juniata is just further testament to the fact.