In conjunction with the OU Presidential Dream Course “The Tulsa Race Massacre: 100 Years Later,” OU is hosting a virtual poetry reading titled “Poet as Witness” at 7 p.m. on April 15.
The reading will feature Quraysh Ali Lansana, an American poet and activist, who will read his “poems, short stories, and anecdotes exploring the Black American experience,” according to the event’s flyer. The works featured in the reading “focus on the struggles and triumphs of Black Oklahomans of the past and present.”
Rilla Askew, associate professor in the Department of English and co-professor of the Presidential Dream Course, said Lansana is an excellent reader, and that one of the most important parts of the experience is hearing the poetry spoken.
“(Lansana) reads them in such a way that you live inside of it,” Askew said. “We love to read the poem on the page, but hearing the poet read it, there's some real power in that.”
Askew said the poems Lansana will read relate to the historical era we are living in.
“This is a complex, fraught era where we speak of having a national reckoning on race, coming out of the incidents of last summer, right up to this day in time, understanding that we're not past the things that happened 100 years ago,” Askew said.
Askew said she feels it is vital to understand history through the lens of art.
“We need to understand its history, yes, but we also need to feel it viscerally through art, and that does happen through poetry,” Askew said. “It’s really not just history, but the moments we are living through now.”
The event is taking place virtually at 7 p.m. on April 15, and those who would like to attend the event can sign up here.