African American Literature series explores “Responses to Injustice”

CIU English Program Director Dr. Sandra Young opens "Responses to Injustice" series. (Photos by Johnathan Rabon, CIU Student Photographer)
October 02, 2020

By Joshua Ford

CIU Student Writer

When the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. James Lanpher, told his faculty members of his plan to do a seminar series on racial injustice, Professor Dr. Sandra Young wanted to be the first to make a presentation.

With her Ph.D. in English and specialty in African American Literature, Young saw the seminar as an opportunity to inform about a topic that she says doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

“I tell my students that African American Literature is really American Literature because it belongs to all of us,” said Young, who chairs CIU’s Liberal Arts Division and is the English program director. “Unfortunately, it’s a section of literary studies that people don’t get.”

The Oct. 1 seminar focused on viewing racial injustice through the words of short stories and poems by African Americans during the civil rights movement.

Caroline McDowell, a freshman, came to the event to learn more about people who come from different backgrounds than her and she left with a page full of notes.

“I think art and stories are incredibly powerful and meet the people in a way that telling the facts simply does not,” McDowell said. “So for me personally, hearing all of these poems and short stories really made everything hit so much harder than listening to a podcast or other things of that nature.”

The topics of the pieces were the Black experience with Jim Crow Laws, the violence they dealt with and what the Black man wants.

After all the pieces were read and discussed, Young recalled how she felt after the death of Trayvon Martin, describing what Black people feel when they experience the injustice in America.

“For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t matter,” she said. “It’s what injustice does to you. It squeezes the life out of you. Just like it did George Floyd.”

Brandon McClaine, a senior who is the president of the African American Student Association on campus, says there needs to be more conversations about the history of African Americans.

“I think that this is an important seminar to bring reconciliation. I think it’s important to stay enlightened,” McClaine said. “If you don’t know … sometimes books can help you learn and bridge that gap, and I think with racial unity, books or literature will present a different perspective.”

More seminars are scheduled for the fall semester.

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