On 11/11 at 11 a.m., Illinois College students gathered in Schewe 210 to hear beloved works by their favorite authors, and even original pieces written by themselves, that exhibit and celebrate diversity, along with the possibility of winning a gift card to Just Good Trade.
The contest was sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, for Diversity Week 2013.
Students read poetry and short stories concerning race, ethnicity, womanhood, equality, and other topics that reflect diversity. There was spoken word completely memorized, singing, role playing, and even banging on the tables to provide a beat for one student reciting their spunky, yet thought-provoking poem.
The students involved were Brittany Spaulding, Clare Frachey, Aaron Haggerty, Katia Swane-Barzowski, Taylor Brien, Jameelah Harrison, Julian Nelms, Geeleeyaw Moore, Kelly McCormick, and Ciara Sweatman. Each student was judged on their reading choice and how well it exhibited diversity, vocal variety, pace, eye contact, connection with the audience, articulation, effective pauses, and passion for their piece.
Though each student exhibited these qualities, the winner was Jameelah Harrison with a perfect score from the judges. She and Julian Nelms presented their original work, “Coloring.” Harrison sang and spoke with conviction on racial issues, and left the room breathless as the audience hung on her every word.
“My spoken word piece was inspired by one of my professors,” said Harrison. “I wrote it to applaud him on his diligent work with minority students, especially those who are upheld to some type of negative stereotype. You never know a person until you truly get to know them – which means you must understand their story. It takes a special kind of person to truly understand another’s every circumstance.”
It can be hard to make time for other activities and events during this busy time in the semester, but for Harrison, this was a matter of extreme importance.
“I wanted to participate because I understand that until we speak about the truth of such issues on diversity, nothing will be changed…”
All of the people involved – students, faculty members, readers, and the audience – gave an hour of their time to acknowledge what words can communicate about cultures, and how we should appreciate them. In doing so, we are making a decision to value what makes us all different.
Illinois College has been given the gift of students from different backgrounds with different perspectives and different stories, coming together in the name of learning. We sit in classes every day as professors teach us about the world, but perhaps, one of the best ways to learn about the world is through one another.