RECAP: African American Read-In 2019 at Orange County Library Downtown (Orlando, Florida)

Over the weekend, Orange County Library System hosted their 3rd Annual African American Read-in that aligns in conjunction with the 29th Annual National African American Read-in. There have been more than 460 read-in events held in 40 states, since, the approval of this nationwide read-in event in November of 1989 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English. This nationwide Read-in aims to promote African American literature, especially children’s literature with a focus on getting young people more involved in reading.

Local leaders in the community that had a chance to share their favorite poem, story, or song during this event by reading out loud to an audience that ranged from the ages of babyhood to 65+ were Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County; Avido Khahaifa, former publisher and editor-in-chief at the Orlando Sentinel; WWE NXT superstars, Denzel Dejournette and Monique Jenkins; Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell of the Orange County Clerk of Courts; Jewel’s Family Success Center Founder/CEO, Dr. Jewel Fletcher; WESH 2 news anchor, Jazmin Bailey; Adrian Whitsett, news anchor of WESH WKCF Sunrise; Ricardo Williams, host of Nerd Nite Orlando; LaFontaine E. Oliver, President & General Manager of Central Florida Public Radio 90.7 WMFE; Chief of Staff of Orange County Public Schools, Dr. Bridget Williams; Ginger Gadsden, news anchor of News 6 WKMG; OCLS Friends of the Library Board Member, Jaylen Christie and Two-Time Fringe Festival Poetry Slam Winner, Curtis McKinnon.

All the above readers shared literature that highlighted different points of views in the African American community. If you missed this wonderful event or if you enjoyed it so much that you want to experience it again, take a look at our recap below of each reader.

Mayor of Orange County, Florida, Jerry L. Demings – Grandma’s Tiny House by Janay Brown-Wood

Avido Khahaifa, Former Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Orlando Sentinel – “The Negro Speak of Rivers” by Langston Hughes

Denzel Dejournette, WWE NXT Superstar – Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Monique Jenkins, WWE NXT Superstar – Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell, Orange County Clerk of Courts – “Lullaby (for a black mother) by Langston Hughes

Dr. Judith Fletcher, Founder/CEO of Jewel’s Family Success Center – Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Jazmin Bailey, Emmy Award-winning News Anchor – The Woman With The Oil by Jazmin Bailey

Adrian Whitsett, WESH KCF Sunrise Anchor – Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove

Ricardo Williams, Host of Nerd Nite Orlando – “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes

LaFontaine E. Oliver, President & General Manager of Central Florida Public Radio 90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV – 

Dr. Bridget Williams, Chief of Staff of Orange County Public Schools – “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes and “From Ladies First” by Queen Latifah

Ginger Gadsden, News Anchor for News 6 WKMG – “Invitation to Love” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Jaylen Christie, Director of Public Relations at Moxe & OCLS Friends of the Library Board Member – “Becoming by Michelle Obama

Curtis McKinnon, Two-Time Fringe Festival Poetry Slam Winner – “Gotta Believe” Poem by Curtis McKinnon 

During the read-in, the audience was also blessed with a talented performance by Orlando’s very own Ladies of Destiny. These Central Florida step champions gave us a bit of history into the performance art of stepping in relation to its roots in the African American community. These are a few fun facts they shared with the audience:

  • Stepping means using the body as an instrument to create an intricate rhythm and sounds through combinations of foot stomps, claps, and spoken word.
  • Stepping originated in Africa as popular hand and foot dances.

After educating us, the Ladies of Destiny performed a great step act, which is showcased below for your enjoyment.

Overall, we would like to thank the Orange County Library System staff; the emcee for the afternoon, Renita Hunt; all the leaders above and the media sponsor of this event, ONYZ magazine for making this event happen for the 3rd year during the month of February for Black History Month to promote diversity in the literary arts.

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