Poetry and stories written by local authors, along with Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and writings of Texas Rep. Sefronia Thompson were read for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s Third Annual African-American Read-In.
Held in the multipurpose room of the Mesa Building, it featured Reagan Magnet Elementary music teacher and poet Loretta Diane Walker, author and educator Teffanie White and writer Cynthia Conner Goyang.
It was organized by Myra Salcedo, senior lecturer in the Department of Literature and Languages at UTPB.
This is the third year Walker has participated in the read-in. She has a new book coming out in September and she’s working on a collection called “Ode to My Mother’s Voice.” She said her mother is seriously ill, so she’s trying to write about the experience with her and the memories and emotions that it has stirred.
“It’s just a good opportunity to talk to students,” Walker said. “Anytime that I can share with students it’s a wonderful opportunity, no matter what age. That’s the main reason I’ll keep coming back as long as they invite me.”
White, who is an instructional coach at Richard Milburn Academy in Midland, read from “Solo” by Kwame Alexander, her book “Dirt,” and “The I Can Alphabets.”
“I keep coming back for the same reason,” White said. “Every time the babies are here to listen, to share with them I think it’s super-important and also as a legacy, as a right, sharing the message that at some point that this was not allowed. …”
“Dirt” is being made into a movie and she is going on a book tour abroad.
“It’s been a surreal process. I got to talk to the people writing my book as a script. People might have a different view and interpret your words differently and then the visuals that go with that might be completely different, so it’s … been an interesting process,” White said.
She added that she is working on another book called “1918.” It’s called 1918 because the number is a recurring time in the main character’s life and world.
“It became very different because now it’s 2018,” White said. “I went back and made some political-historical changes.”
Goyang read from her book “Just One Touch” and one she is working on called “Three Nights in Manford.” She said the book is about an African-American barber shop owner, a police officer and a young pastor who has been sent to Manford for “an occasion such as this — a black man has been killed by a white police officer.”
“‘Three Nights’ is a story of how that city responds to the killing of that black man. It’s surprising, though, the way that it turns out. There are lots of twists and turns within ‘Three Nights in Manford.’ It will be a surprise to every reader … how it turns out.”
The book marks somewhat of a change for Goyang.
“‘Just One Touch’ was a Christian historical book. This has a completely different personality. It stays within the idea that the Lord is our healer, our answer to our problems, so in that way it kind of stays along the same line,” she added.
Goyang said she got the idea for “Three Nights in Manford” from current events.
“Of course I am African-American, so I’m sensitive to what’s going on but then I also have a son who is a Midland police detective and I’m a Christian, so I see things from each of the standpoints and so from thus I write,” she said.
She said she is still in the process of writing “Three Nights” and has about 7,000 words to complete the manuscript, so she’d like to say it will be out by this time next year.
Students enjoyed the various aspects of the read-in.
Sophomore Andrew Sanchez said he enjoyed “Just One Touch” because it was something he is familiar with. The book is about a woman who has suffered from an illness for 12 years and when she touches the hem of Jesus’ garment, she gets better.
“I thought it was really great,” Sanchez said.
Freshman Zavian Rice said the read-in was an inspiration and it was neat to gain an understanding of where the writers were coming from.