African-American poetry in the spotlight at Freedom’s Hill Church
Poetry that celebrates African-American history will be the focus of an event at Southern Wesleyan University’s campus in Central. The poetry reading will be at Freedom’s Hill Church on Wesleyan Drive, April 14 at 6:15 p.m. This event culminates the African American poetry workshops held at Southern Wesleyan University and in the surrounding community during the last month.
The event will showcase original works of poetry from workshop participants and two poets-in-residence, as well as music from members of Southern Wesleyan’s chorale. Original poetry written specifically for this site will interpret components of African history, slavery in America, personal stories of both slaves and abolitionists and the history of Freedom’s Hill Church, an 1848 anti-slavery church and the first Wesleyan-Methodist church in the South.
An open microphone time during the poetry reading will be from 6:15 to 7 p .m., followed by a poetry reading and program at 7 p.m. A reception will follow in the prayer garden of Freedom’s Hill Church and tours of the church will be available.
This event is sponsored by The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. Six different sites throughout the state that celebrate African American history have been chosen.
“It is an incredible honor to have our historic site chosen for such a wonderful cultural event,” said Marian Vischer, professor of history at Southern Wesleyan University and Freedom’s Hill Church programming director. “This is an opportunity to share the story of Freedom’s Hill with our community and throughout the state. It will give greater visibility to Southern Wesleyan University and to what we’re doing to celebrate historic preservation, the history of anti-slavery in the south and African American history.”
The other five participating sites are Boone Hall Plantation, Benjamin Mays Homestead, Fort Moultrie, the Avery Center and Voorhees College.
Poets-in-residence Charlene Spearen and Ray Heath from the University of South Carolina conducted a workshop for fifth graders at Central Elementary School on March 23, held two workshops for Modern World Literature and Creative Writing students at Southern Wesleyan University on March 30 and conducted the final workshop at Littlejohn Community Center on April 9.
The series will conclude on May 21 at 7 p.m. at Liberty Square in Charleston with a reading by the poets in residence along with other notable South Carolina poets. There will be performances of WISTERIA, a celebration of African American women of the Midlands and Lowcountry featuring the poetry of Kwame Dawes and the musical compositions of Kevin Simmonds.
All poetry generated from the series will be compiled and published in a book, which will be available at the final event.
Jairus Dayton-Garris, African American Tourism Development Manager for the SCNHC, said it is thrilling that the various site directors leapt at this opportunity.
“Our goal is to empower people in the communities to develop programs that enhance local cultural life and help to preserve the history of African Americans in this state,” said Garris. “This project is exactly the kind of project the Heritage Corridor likes to be involved in.”
Established in 1996 as a National Heritage Area, the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor extends 240 miles across the state, from the mountains of Oconee County, along the Savannah River, to the port city of Charleston. There are less than 30 such heritage areas in the United States. It is a grassroots initiative designed to use natural, cultural and historical resources to provide economic development through tourism.
The South Carolina Poetry Initiative is a new statewide program based at the University of South Carolina English Department. It was organized to promote and celebrate the poetic arts and build a more diverse audience for writers in the state.