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Dallas County Community College District began presenting its annual African American Read-In in February 2000 as part of a national celebration honoring African-American contributions in literature and writing. The inaugural event drew a capacity crowd of 1,750 at the Majestic Theatre and featured both community leaders and celebrities such as television and film actor LeVar Burton, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former Dallas Cowboy Daryl Johnston. The program’s special guest was George Dawson of Dallas, who learned to read at age 98 after a life filled with work and challenges and who became an author himself of “Life Is So Good.”
The celebration continues in February 2008, featuring award-winning children’s author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, whose artistic works in “Let It Shine” won the 2008 Coretta Scott King Book Award for best African-American young adult illustration. The Majestic Theatre again will be filled with children and adults who will share a special afternoon of reading and culture with one another. They also will remember the legacy left by George Dawson. Participants in the ninth-annual event will receive a book, tote bag and T-shirt, which encourages them to read at home. Corporate sponsors, community volunteers, eager readers and a core group of dedicated volunteers are critical to the event’s success.
As part of Black History Month in Dallas, the DCCCD African American Read-In is one of many in the area, but the event has achieved a high profile among community members. Guests like George Dawson — as well as celebrities whose commitment to literacy is well known — have drawn families to the program for an afternoon of sharing. The international observance was started by Jerrie Scott of the University of Memphis and the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English; it now is shared in gatherings everywhere by people of all races and ages who introduce each other to literary works of black authors by reading and discussing select, personally meaningful passages together. NCTE’s special programs division has commended Dallas as the standard for other cities to follow as they plan and host their own read-ins.
Continuing this noted program means promoting literacy as well as African-American literature among the diverse community of residents in Dallas. The event brings young and old together, helps families share the almost-lost art of reading together and unites participants in words and thoughts that are meaningful. Local artists and entertainers also perform during the program, expanding the cultural outreach of the read-in to the performing arts as well.
Dallas County Community College District continues to present the African American Read-In because the event reflects the educational and cultural missions of the institution. Diversity, equity and literacy are part of that effort, and commitment to the community completes the circle. This year, the program focuses on reading, believing and achieving.