Annual celebration honors African-American poet

Auriel Brown

Friday will mark the 14th annual Langston Hughes Celebration at Missouri Southern.

The event, held in Matthews Hall, is co-sponsored by the Joplin chapter of the NAACP.

It will include a presentation from a guest speaker and poetry readings from students and faculty.

Mark Lloyd, admissions counselor, will be the master of ceremony.

The event allows the campus and community to come out and learn more about the Joplin-native poet.

“I think that because he is from this area students should definitely take the time out to learn about Langston Hughes,” said Dr. Doris Walters, professor of English. “No one can deny that he is certainly one of the finest poets of the 20th century, and certainly one of the finest African American poets.”

She said Hughes’ poems reach everyone.

“He didn’t want to communicate with only the elite, he wanted to be a poet and wanted to be enjoyed by a wider variety of people not just snobbish elite,” she said.

Walters said Hughes’ work has the ability to inspire others to take an interest in poetry.

“There have been times where I have gone away from Langston Hughes celebrations and have had people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t think I ‘d like poetry this much,'” Walters said.

She said she has been impressed with the turnout of the event in recent years. She said the event averages 400 to 500 people.

With students singing and reading poetry, the guest speaker of the evening will be Carmaletta M. Williams author of [ital]Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me: Langston Hughes in the Classroom[/ital].

Williams will focus on the relationship between Langston Hughes and his mother.

Walters selected Williams to be this year’s speaker after watching her give a presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

“There is a community of scholars who are experts on Langston Hughes and some of them have come as recommendations from past speakers,” Walters said.

She said each year she looks for different types of performers each year to bring variety to the program.

Walters said one of her fondest memories of the event was in 2002, when Dr. Michael Rogers, assistant professor or English and first speaker at the first Hughes celebration, dressed as and acted as Hughes.

This is one of few events done during Black History Month on campus, but Walters said it is scheduled for the month due to Hughes birthday.

“I would love to see more happen,” Walters said.

There will also be a drawing for children under the age of 12 for three picture biography books on Langston Hughes.