Reading for Unity
Local Students Come Together to Promote Peace through Literature
Emma Irving, English, '17
Reading for Unity
Students from Widener gathered with writers from other Philadelphia-area universities on April 1 to read works around the themes of social justice, diversity and the power of writing.
“These are words that need to get into the air as much as possible to help break up the dense, toxic fog of all those other words—words of hate and fear, all the suspicious and simplistic us versus them-ing that, more than ever, seems all the rage,” Dr. Michael Cocchiarale, associate professor of English and organizer of the event, said in his opening remarks.
Eight Students, Four Local Colleges
Students from Widener, University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and Haverford tackle topics from social justice and diversity to immigration and women's rights.
Eight students from Widener University, University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and Haverford College read pieces from classic authors like Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison and introduced the audience to new voices in the literary community, including Fady Joudah, a Palestinian-American poet and Christy NaMee Eriksen, a Korean poet. The pieces dealt with a wide variety of topics related to social justice issues and diversity, including immigration, women’s rights, and what it means to be an American. As varied as they were, all pieces asked a common question: How can reading and writing create a more empathetic society?
“It was powerful to see students taking on an active role of promoting unity and praising diversity,” Jennifer Rohrbach, ’18, an English and creative writing major, said. “This reading gives me hope that our generation can start to solve these problems writers have been grappling with for decades.”
Dr. Ken Pobo, professor of English and creative writing, concluded the program as keynote speaker, reading from his own original poetry on a variety of themes from environmental concerns to the aftermath of the Orlando Massacre.
As I listened to all the readers that afternoon, I gained energy and hope for the future. Dr. Cocchiarale’s opening remarks stuck with me as I left the event, and they stick with me now: “Let’s hope the words we hear… change us—remind us that we live in a world filled with differences that should not just be tolerated but celebrated. Let’s hope these words drift out of the room and roll out across the country, and challenge us all to be more tolerant and empathetic—and more eager to do whatever we have to in order to ensure peace and justice for all in this country, and in this world.”