This year, members of the Baltimore Chapter of Continental Societies, Inc. celebrated Black History Month by participating in over thirty African American Read-Ins in area Baltimore city and county schools, universities, churches, homes and as part of one of the organization’s national initiative.
From family rooms to libraries, to classrooms, to a school bus and a university campus, the celebrations came in all shapes and sizes this year. As the chapter celebrates 60 plus years serving children and youth in the Baltimore metropolitan community, Charter Member Margaret Turner continues to express her excitement because the chapter was able to reach over 10,800 children, youth and other participants during the month of February 2016.
During the month of February, Continentals participated in Read-ins at several schools in Baltimore City and County: Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle; City Springs Elementary/Middle; Catonsville Middle; The Empowerment Academy; Grove Park Elementary Middle; Guilford Elementary/Middle; Harlem Park Elementary/Middle; James McHenry Elementary/Middle; Matthew A. Henson Elementary; Monarch Academy; Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy West; Powhatan Elementary; and William Paca Elementary. In addition, this year Baltimore Continentals planned individual African American Read-Ins to reach more people in venues which included: Coppin State University; Douglas Memorial Church; Great Blacks in Wax Museum; John Wesley United Methodist Church Saturday Academy; St. Vincent DePaul Head Start; and in several homes.
One of the most exciting Read-Ins was held on February 23, 2016 at The Empowerment Academy as Continental Book Buddies from the Education Committee celebrated Black History Month with guest Griot Stanley “Bunjo” Butler, director at the Walbrook Enoch Pratt Library and a member of the Griot Circle of Maryland and the National Black Storytellers.
Butler was very engaging and involved with interactive stories for the 120 students in grades pre-k through second that required listening. There was excitement and cheers as the students responded to Bunjo’s stories and antics as he acted out the stories.
The Continentals partnered with Sistas Thrilled About Reading Book Club of Baltimore to provide gifts for the students. They presented each class with a book entitled “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House” written by an African American author, along with African American Read-In drawstring backpacks and bookmarks.
For over 25 years hundreds of communities across the country and around the world have organized events in the month of February to make the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month. Over a million readers of all ethnic groups from 49 states, the West Indies, and African countries have participated. The goal is to make the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities. This celebration, conceived by the Black Caucus of National Council of Teachers of English and NCTE in 1989, involves tens of thousands of participants every year. Now in its 26th year nationwide, the African American Read-In continues to focus on literacy and Black literary culture. The Read-In includes readings of Black literature by local and national actors, civic personalities, poets, orators, griots, librarians, community members and community leaders.