Black History Month reading event draws Rep. Danny Davis, others to Triton College
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis reads from a speech by Frederick Douglass at the Read-In Monday at Triton College. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 9:44AM
RIVER GROVE — The impact of reading on one’s life was shared Monday afternoon at Triton College.
Triton’s Black Heritage Council had their African-American Read-In. Students, staff and others met in one of the library’s meeting rooms — some to listen, some to share what books or poems they’ve read and what kind of impact it has made in their lives and why.
The event is part of the college’s Black History Month celebration.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) was among those who attended. He read passages from a speech penned by Frederick Douglass, titled “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” His deep, resounding voice filled the room as he read.
“Reading is just vital — vital for understanding, vital to opening doors of opportunity,” Davis told the crowd after he had finished. “There’s no such thing as nothing to do when you are reading.”
He also said the love of reading in some cases have been replaced by counterproductive behavior. “There are things that we have allowed to creep into our society,” he said.
He cited the explicit language used in rap music as an example. “I couldn’t bring myself to say that (rap music lyrics) in the presence of women and children,” he said.
“Some people accept it as normal,” he said. “Before I could do that I think I’d get my tongue cut out.”
A love of reading, he added, must be passed on.
“We have to be taught, otherwise we don’t learn,” he said. “My mother used to say ‘Do right because it’s right to do right.’”
Members of the audience also participated.
Chris Burton of Chicago at one time belonged to a gang and was involved in illegal activity. He said he developed his love of reading in an unconventional way.
“I wasn’t big on reading growing up,” he said. “Sadly when I went to prison I started to pick up a book.”
He recently wrote a book about his experiences, titled: “Unlucky Bastard: Life’s Transformation through Revelation.” It chronicles his life and is an effort to change the minds of those who are traveling down the negative path he use to travel.
He said through reading he found redemption and has become a minister. “Life in the fast lane will only lead you to fast destruction,” he said.
Kofi Ohemeng, who is studying biology at the college, read a passage from the poem “Black Identity” by Langston Hughes. He said the poem deals with how African-Americans sometimes see themselves only in terms of skin color.
“(African-American) People tend to not face their identity in terms of how they look at each other,” he said.
Larissa Garcia, a librarian at Triton, helped organize the program and was satisfied with the turnout and participation. It was the second year she had helped with the event, which has been held for more than 10 years.
She said the event was geared toward getting students involved and show that the library is more than a room full of books.
“This is one of the events where we have students come up and read,” she said. “Any attempt to get students involved in, we’re really excited about it.”
Antwan Standberry, vice president of the college’s Black Heritage Council, thought the event was wonderful.
“They were able to listen and provided an access to express themselves and use it as a gateway to further their education,” he said.
Jerome Shumatel, who is pursuing a Culinary Arts degree at Triton, has had his share of setbacks in life, but attending the program encouraged him to continue to work towards getting his education.
“He (Danny Davis) gave me a lot of insight,” he said. “Don’t worry about people trying to give you something, get up and get it because it’s waiting for you. It’s (program) given me that passion to help someone else.”