TheBigReadCelebration2013Allen University has received a National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read Grant.  The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Allen University’s The Big Read project Pulling in the Horizon: Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God will be presenting over 31 enlightening and entertaining events throughout Columbia, Sumter and the Lowcountry.  The core of each event is to address, in innovative ways, our nation’s literacy crisis.  Each Big Read project must last approximately one month, and Allen University has chosen the month of March as its The Big Read month.  Starting March 1st, a series of public events will unfold in the form of panel discussions, author readings, theatrical readings, film screenings, arts-based workshops for children, teens and adults, musical performances, and much more.

The campus wide Big Read at Allen University will include a total of 9 events, the rural library consortium Big Read will include 23 events, and there will be 6 community based events. Events will range from reading discussion groups to public events and will be held in varied locations to include schools, libraries, museums, public buildings, public spaces and senior citizens centers. As an effective way to engage children, teens, adults and senior citizens intellectually, emotionally, and creatively, we will focus on the themes that are woven throughout the book. Events will include the writing and presenting of poems; the creating of visual arts pieces; the writing of letters to specific characters in the book; the hosting of trivia games; the presenting of lively music jam sessions; discussions of faith; exploration of natural disasters and its impact on marginalized communities; innovative lead discussions centering on childhood literacy; and even the sharing of food via a good old fashioned southern barbecue.  Key note speakers will include the 2011 National Book Winner in Poetry, Nikky Finney and 2009 Emmy Award Winner, Kwame Dawes. Each of the targeted audiences and communities will gain a greater understanding of the Hurston’s mastery of language, folklore, and the history of black autonomy in the post-Civil War South. Allen University recognizes the extraordinary importance and value of reading and improving the literacy of children, teens, and adults.

Allen University’s effort to improve literacy will provide for a diverse range of activities and events that will encourage a spectrum of our citizens to read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and be engaged in other Big Read activities.

Allen University, recognized as the first university in South Carolina founded by African Americans for the education of African Americans, is also the first university named after an African American and created out of the AME Church’s desire to educate newly freed slaves to ensure a well-trained clergy.