Read-a-thon celebrates Hispanic culture, community

Lynne Siprelle, Staff Writer

This past Thursday, the English Department held a Hispanic Heritage/HM Community Read-a-thon in Olshan Lobby. The read-a-thon focused on the theme “e pluribus unified,” which translates to “out of many, unified.” The theme is a play on the United States motto “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many, one.”

English Department Chair Vernon Wilson said he came up with the phrase “e pluribus unified” while planning the event. “I want to stress the idea that our community, like our nation, is comprised of many, many different elements, but when it is at its best, those myriad elements form a beautifully unified whole,” Wilson said.

The read-a-thon took place F, G, and H periods and was open to students and faculty. Students were encouraged to bring poems to read out loud, but could also choose poems from a provided selection.

“The idea is to bring poetry to the community in a more immersive way,” English teacher Kimberly Traube said.

The summer was tumultuous on a cultural level for many Americans and thus for much of the school, Wilson said.

The idea when planning the read-a-thon was “Let’s offer people a space to think about where we are as the HM community and what’s going in the world,” Wilson said. “Poetry can speak to that or reflect that or counter that or in some way work with that in mind.”

“I thought that it was a comfortable forum to express my ideas,” Harrison Haft (11), who read a poem he wrote about suburban teenage culture and the oppression of LGBT teens, said.

Although Wilson had hoped to hold the read-a-thon closer to the summer, it was pushed to October due to scheduling difficulties, he said. Since the read-a-thon then fell at the same time as Hispanic Heritage Month, it included poems by Hispanic authors.

These poems spoke “directly to the experience of being Latino or Latina in the US as well as more broadly in terms of grappling with questions of identity and how we come together as a community,” Traube said.

Caroline Kaplan (11) read “Cayucos” by Eduardo C. Corrall at the read-a-thon. Kaplan said she chose “Cayucos” after it caught her eye in a packet of works by Hispanic writers her English teacher gave her.

“It was a very inviting audience which was lively and loud with claps,” Kaplan said. “I thought it was really nice to hear poems from people that weren’t in my class because you rarely ever get to hear what your classmates are doing if they’re not in your own class.”