Classes across campus this week are reading Danez Smith’s work in advance of Smith’s visit to campus on September 30. Smith was selected as the Campus Read author for 2016-17 because their poetry speaks so powerfully of the need for racial and social justice.
In a list poem called “Alternate Names for Black Boys,” Smith supplies “guilty until proven dead” and “monster until proven ghost” as possible alternate names. Students readily catch the echo of the American promise of “innocent until proven guilty” and see how this poem cries out for changes in American hearts, American media and the criminal justice system.
On Tuesday, Dr. Monique Bourdage’s Youth, Media and Culture class used Smith’s poem, “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” as part of a unit on racial representation in children’s literature. Dr. Bourdage explains, “’Dinosaurs in the Hood’” directly addresses stereotyping, the burden of representation, and the need for fully realized characters of color.” The class will pair Smith’s work with excerpts from Eve Merriam’s 1969 book “The Inner City Mother Goose” and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2009 Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.”
Smith will visit with classes during the day on Friday, September 30 and then give a poetry reading at 7pm in the Finnish American Heritage Center.
Campus Read is sponsoring two follow-up events on campus in October:
- On Thursday, October 6 from 7-8 p.m. in the Chapel, Criminal Justice professor Richard Gee will facilitate a Night of Learning and Action around the issue of private prisons and racial injustice. Students will hear a short presentation and then send letters to their elected officials.
- On Thursday, October 20 from 7-9 p.m. in the Library, Communications professor Monique Bourdage will facilitate a Zine Making Night for students to publish their own original poetry.