Celebration honors poet with musicians, speakers

Dr. Joy Dworkin plays in Kufara Marimba during the Langston Hughes birthday celebration.

Dr. Joy Dworkin plays in Kufara Marimba during the Langston Hughes birthday celebration.

Jessica Ragan

On Feb. 7, Langston Hughes’ birthday celebration took place in Webster Hall Auditorium.

The program was in celebration of Langston Hughes, a famed poet, essayist and political activist.

The night began with Kufara performing three selections reflective of native Zimbabwe. Kufara is a local band made up completely of marimba and percussion instruments.

After a brief introduction, invocation and welcome, Kufara was introduced again.

For Joe Rossi and Tyler Williams, eighth graders from Memorial Middle School, Kufara was the “best” part of the program.

“It really captured my attention,” Williams said.

“Kufara was intriguing,” Rossi said.

Memorial Middle and Emerson Elementary School students then went to the stage to read selections of Langston Hughes’ poetry. In all, there were eight performances. The people who read after the middle school students were Alonzo Toney; Michael Rodgers, assistant professor of English; Willie Rogers; and Dr. Cliff Toliver, assistant professor of English.

Once again, Kufara was invited to the front to perform.

After Kufara finished its selection, Dr. Emily Bernard was invited to speak.

Bernard has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and is a professor at the University of Vermont. Bernard wrote and published a book, Langston Hughes: Fabulous in Friendship, about Hughes and his friendship with Carl Van Vechten. She was invited to speak at Missouri Southern’s 11th annual celebration because of her “fascination” with Hughes.

Bernard said her interest in Hughes was instilled in her when she was a child. Her parents “reared” her on Hughes’ poetry, essays and lifestyle. Hughes became an object of research when she enrolled in Yale and continued to be an interest throughout her life.

Bernard spoke on Hughes’ life and works. Mainly, she outlined his love interests, friendships and enemies.

“As always, it was a great celebration of Langston Hughes,” said Dr. Patricia Murphy, assistant professor of English. “I think Dr. Bernard did a fabulous job.”

Audri Manary, junior biology and Spanish major, agreed with Murphy.

“The music was energetic and the readings were very powerful,” Manary said. “I really liked the program.”

The celebration was presented by the Joplin Chamber of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern English department.