About this event series and reading group

The Center for the Humanities and Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative are excited to be partnering with One Book One Bronx and Literary Freedom Project in collaboration with the Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College, City University of New York, who will host a series of eclectic programs and reading groups as part of a nation-wide initiative, Lift Every Voice: Why African American Poetry Matters. Lift Every Voice is a yearlong national public humanities initiative sponsored by the Library of America and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that seeks to engage participants in a multifaceted exploration of African American poetry, the perspectives it offers on American history and the on-going struggle for racial justice, and the universality of its imaginative response to the personal experiences of Black Americans over three centuries. Details and a listing of related events can be found here at the Lift Every Voice website.

Our collaboration with One Book One Bronx/Lehman College will bring audiences closer to the intersection of Black language and music. Programs will focus on The Last Poets, Sun Ra, and Audre Lorde, among others, and will include a lecture by poet and scholar Tara Betts on African American poetry and music, and a performance by Pulitzer Prize Winner Tyehimba Jess from his book Olio.



One Book One Bronx: Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Dates and Time: Tuesdays, from 7:00-8:30 PM (EDT)
2/2: pgs 1-60
2/9: pgs 61-150
2/16: pgs 151-227
2/23: Tyehimba Jess will join the conversation

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Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess's Pulitzer-prize winning second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.

One Book One Bronx is a new style reading group that inspires, encourages, and delights readers. Every week, we meet to discuss one book that reflects the people of the Bronx.

Black Language and Music with
Tara Betts, Sequoia Maner, and Tony Bolden

Date and Time: Wednesday, February 17th, 7:00 PM
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Join Dr. Tara Betts, Sequoia Maner, and Tony Bolden who will share and consider a few poems from African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song. They will also talk about the overlapping riches of Black language and music. These two expressions are not only valuable in the classroom, but in how they document the experiences of individual poets and Black people.

The Last Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Umar bin Hassan, and Felipe Luciano

Date and Time: Monday, February 22nd, 7:00 PM (EDT)
Presented by Lehman College

Join Lehman College scholar Hank Williams in conversation with The Last Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Umar bin Hassan, and Felipe Luciano, along with Woodie King Jr, former head of the New Federal Theater and producer of albums featuring two different iterations of The Last Poets in the early 70s. The Last Poets are several groups of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement's black nationalism. The name is taken from a poem by the South African revolutionary poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over.

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Tyehimba Jess Reading & Conversation

Date and Time: Tuesday, February 23rd, 7:00 PM (EDT)
Tyehimba Jess joins the One Book One Bronx discussion and will participate in a dialogue on Olio.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and Olio. Olio won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.”

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Haunting Refrains: Sampling Practice in Black Poetry and Music with Harmony Holiday and Hanif Abdurraqib

Date and Time: Wednesday, February 24th, 6:00 PM (EST)

How is the technique of sampling, pervasive in Black music, used in poetry and literature at large? Does poetry sample music, does it sample other poetry, does it do either well or effectively or do poets need to catch up to music in this regard? And what is the relationship between sampling practice and free improvisation in both poetry and music? Poets, writers, and cultural critic Harmony Holiday and Hanif Abdurraqib will discuss this, looking at their own work and that of poets whose work they admire, as well as music they love that helps answer and refine these questions. They’ll also read some of their work if time allows.

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Black Cuir Revolutions: Reflections on Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and the Bronx (
part of the Audre Lorde “Great Read” at Lehman College)

Date and Time: Thursday, February 25th, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM (EDT)

This panel discussion celebrates Black History & Women's History Months, with perspectives from the American Hemisphere/ Global South. Four speakers Grisel Y. Acosta, Juliana Costa, Ochy Curiel, and Tanya L. Saunders will offer their perspectives on being black & queer/cuir in the Americas, focusing on what it means to be revolutionary, and how to contribute to current revolutions with Black Queer/Cuir experiences. The event will include a reading and discussion of Audre Lorde’s “Learning from the 60s” in conversation with influential black quir voices from the Caribbean and Latin America. In English, Spanish and Portuguese with interpreting for English speakers. Please join us for an afterparty after the event: an interactive performance, “Palabreando,” hosted by Lyrical Bliss and BocaFlojaQuilombo.

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Poems as Songs that ‘Send’ Us:
‘Black Language & Music’ in Kevin Young’s African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

Date and Time: Friday, February 26th, 7:30-9:00 PM (EDT)

Featuring Rodney Terich Leonard, Lise Esdaile, Trapeta B. Mayson, and Monnette Sudler

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, in her 1967 occasional poem “The Chicago Picasso,” observed that: “Art hurts. Art urges voyages-/ and it is easier to stay at home, / the nice beer ready.” This notion invites the consideration of a lyric: Darling, you send me. Written in 1955 by the late singer Sam Cooke and released in 1957, “You Send Me” is timeless in theme and durability. How might a poem ‘send’ us? Leafing through Kevin Young’s repertoire of poets and poems, we’ll situate ‘sending’ as an effect responsive to desire and surrender. Mixing our thoughts, “Lift Every Voice” in mind, we’ll make an evening of our musings. Presented by Lehman College English Department, Lehman College Library, Lift Every Voice, One Book One Bronx, Literary Freedom Project, and the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

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Hanif Abdurraqib, photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism have been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released in 2019 by Tin House, and won the 2020 Lenore Marshall Prize. In 2021, he will release the book A Little Devil In America with Random House. He is a graduate of Beechcroft High School.

Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta is an associate professor at the City University of New York-BCC. Her first book of poetry, Things to Pack on the Way to Everywhere, is an Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize finalist, and it is forthcoming from Get Fresh Books in 2021. Recent work can be found in Best American Poetry, The Baffler, Acentos Journal, Kweli Journal, Red Fez, Gathering of the Tribes Magazine, In Full Color, Paterson Literary Review, MiPoesias, Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom, and Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood: The Lauryn Hill Reader. She is a Geraldine Dodge Foundation Poet, a Macondo Fellow, and the editor of Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity, an anthology that features over Latinx 30 contributors and subjects. Her work focuses on her Afro-Latinx and indigenous ancestry, queer identity, the punk and house music subcultures, her birthplace of Chicago, and the destruction of post-colonial neoliberalism in educational environments.

Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the chapbooks 7 x 7: kwansabas and THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Tara received her Ph.D. at Binghamton University and her MFA from New England College. In addition to performing her poems across the country and internationally, Tara’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including POETRY, Gathering Ground, Bum Rush the Page, Villanelles, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, The Break Beat Poets, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements and GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology.Tara has taught writing at Rutgers University, Binghamton University, and University of Illinois-Chicago. She is a Cave Canem alum.

Tony Bolden is Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at University of Kansas. He is the author of Afro-Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture and Groove Theory: The Blues Foundation of Funk. His current research includes a book project tentatively titled “Knee Deep: The Funk Ethos in Black Writing” and a collection of autobiographical essays based on his experiences working in black community-based art collectives in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Bolden is Editor of The Langston Hughes Review. You can learn more about his work on funk by visiting his website: www.phunkativity.org.

Ochy Curiel is a professor of Gender Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. She is an Afro-Dominican feminist, lesbian, anti-racist, and decolonial singer/scholar/activist who has been at the forefront of contemporary Afro-feminist movements throughout Latin America.

Lise Esdaile teaches writing-intensive courses at Lehman College. She has taught at the Eugene Lang School and the Bayview Correctional Facility for Women, which was part of Bard College's Prison Initiative Program. Her areas of interest include feminist/womanist literature and theory; African-American literature and theory; the African-American detective in film and fiction; and cinema studies, with a focus on horror and the intersection of literature and film.

Harmony Holiday

Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds, LLC, 2019) and the audio-book version of A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds, LLC, 2020), Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2017), Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014) and Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011). She founded and runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics and Mythscience a publishing imprint that reissues and reprints work from the archive. She worked on the SOS, the selected poems of Amiri Baraka, transcribing all of his poetry recorded with jazz that had yet to be released in print and exists primarily on out-of-print records and she is now editing a collection of his plays. Harmony studied Rhetoric and at UC Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She received her MFA from Columbia University and has received the Motherwell Prize from FenceBooks, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a NYFA fellowship. She is currently completing a book of poems called M a à f a and an accompanying collection of essays and memoir, Love is War for Miles, as well as a biography of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. Her work is deeply rooted by Black music, and collective improvisation with Black people, in the tradition of her father who was a Northern Soul singer and songwriter and introduced her to artists he worked with like Ray Charles, The Staples Singers, and Bobby Womack.

Tyehimba Jess is a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, and has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize and is a Professor of English at College of Staten Island.

The Last Poets are several groups of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement's black nationalism. The name is taken from a poem by the South African revolutionary poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over. The original users of that name were the trio of Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson.

Rodney Terich Leonard is the author of Sweetgum & Lightning (Four Way Books, 2021). His poems have appeared in BOMB, Four Way Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Cortland Review, HIV Here & Now, and other journals. A Callaloo poetry fellow, he holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University and lives in Manhattan.

Sequoia Maner is a poet and assistant professor of African American literature at Spelman College. Her writing has been published in The Feminist Wire, Meridians, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, and other venues. She is a co-editor of Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (Routledge 2020). She is at work on a manuscript regarding Kendrick Lamar's album To Pimp a Butterfly for the 33 1/3 series.

Trapeta B. Mayson is the city of Philadelphia 2020-2021 Poet Laureate. She is a recipient of a Pew Fellowship in Literature, Leeway Transformation Award, Leeway Art and Change Grant, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grants. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow and a 2019 Aspen Words Emerging Writer’s Fellow with the Aspen Institute. She is the author of She Was Once Herself and Mocha Melodies. Trapeta also released two music and poetry projects, SCAT and This Is How We Get Through, in collaboration with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist, Monnette Sudler. Her other publications include submissions in The American Poetry Review, Epiphany Literary Journal, Aesthetica Magazine, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry among others.


Dr. Tanya L. Saunders
is a sociologist interested in the ways in which the African Diaspora throughout the Americas uses the arts as a tool for social change. They hold a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Master of International Development Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Dr. Saunders’ books include Cuban Underground Hip Hop, as well as a recently published chapter in No Tea, “No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies.” For those of you who read/speak Portuguese, check out their essay Epistemologia negra sapatão como vetor de uma práxis humana libertária. Dr. Saunders is currently working on a forthcoming documentary short about Black Feminist Activism in Cuba.

Monnette Sudler loves music by classic jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and Bolo Sete. She continues to be inspired by her family, colleagues, and the communities where she has either lived or been of some service. Monnette grew up listening to Nat King Cole and the Motown sounds. Her first teacher was a positive influence that taught folk music of different eras, Paul Simon, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, and Mississippi Reds. Later Monnette was influenced by the music of John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, and Miles Davis.


Hank Williams currently teaches in the Departments of English and Africana Studies at Lehman College. His regular courses are Contemporary Urban Writers, Intro to Africana Studies, Fieldwork in the African American Community, and African American History. His research focuses on the Black Arts and Black Power Movements of the 1960s-70s and the intersection of art, politics, and sound.


African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song

A literary landmark: the biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, gathering 250 poets from the colonial period to the present. Edited by Kevin Young. Click here for more information about African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song.

Lift Every Voice is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Emerson Collective and is presented in partnership with The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Lift Every Voice coincides with the publication in September of AFRICAN AMERICAN POETRY: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, a major new Library of America anthology edited by Kevin Young, who also serves as principal humanities advisor on the project. Additional funding has been provided by the Department of Cultural Affairs.