Saturday, January 26, 2013

On the Road: Professor Evelyn Schreiber with Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou in Blacksburg, Virginia


Nikki Giovanni at the microphone;
Toni Morrison seated in the wheelchair on the right,
with Maya Angelou (less visible) in the
wheelchair on the left.
In Blacksburg, Virginia, on October 16th, 2012, James Madison University presented the Furious Flower Lifetime Achievement Award to two of America’s most recognized authors, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.   This presentation was followed by “Sheer Good Fortune,” a standing-room only tribute to Toni Morrison co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech and the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University.   The tribute to Ms. Morrison was hosted by Drs. Maya Angelou, Joanne Gabbin, and Nikki Giovanni. 

Professor Schreiber organized the tribute from the Toni Morrison Society and with twenty-three TMS members presented a choral reading of the Baby Suggs sermon in the clearing from Beloved (pages 88-89 Hardcopy). Society members wore black and donned yellow choral stoles with the TMS logo on both sides to create a special atmosphere for Morrison’s words.    


Maya Angelou's opening words set the tone for a memorable evening.  In all, over 30 participants (including Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Angela Davis, Rita Dove, Edwidge Dandicat, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, and India Arie), contributed celebratory readings from Ms. Morrison’s works.  Each selection was poignant and moving, leaving the audience overwhelmed by the beauty of Morrison’s words.   At the program’s end, Ms. Morrison responded with heartfelt pleasure.  She said that there are few times when she has been speechless and that this might be one.   “To have so many people answer the call to come together for one person and that one person is me, This is as good as it gets.”  She especially thanked Maya Angelou and mentioned that when she read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” she realized that a door was open for black writers and black women writers stepped through.  Black male writers were interested in “confrontation of the oppressed,” but black women were not as interested in this.  In fact, “when you get the white male out of the novel, real things open up.”   Morrison said that as an author, her work no longer belongs to her once it is published and comes back to her in “different voices.”   She enjoyed hearing the passages from her works expressed in so many different voices and especially thanked Angela Davis for reading from Desdemona, her a collaborative play with Peter Sellars, which “if I have to say it myself, is extraordinary!”  What an extraordinary experience for Prof. Schreiber who had the “Sheer Good Fortune” to take part in the Toni Morrison Tribute in Blacksburg, VA!

Professor Schreiber and members of the Toni Morrison Society in a
Choral Reading of the Baby Suggs Sermon from Beloved.

You can watch Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison at the event, here on YouTube.

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