New Rutgers organization raises awareness of black literature


blacklitdimitri
Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Photo Illustration | PuBLACations: Black Lit and Chill was founded after its president, School of Arts and Sciences senior Kelsie Thorne, realized she could not easily name many African-American authors.


A new organization at Rutgers is seeking to promote awareness of black literature during a time of racial tension in the nation.

PuBLACations: Black Lit and Chill plans to promote a broader understanding and awareness of black literature by focusing on novels, poems and other texts written exclusively by black authors.

“We value the unique and telling insight of black authors and the rich history that inspires and influences their writings, and hope that we gain exposure to and knowledge from texts that may not otherwise be studied within the classroom,” said Kelsie Thorne, who serves as the organization's president.

The School of Arts and Sciences senior said she plans for the club to serve as a distinct niche at the University, catering to students who seek a safe and inclusive space. The group can also serve as a thoughtful forum to discuss black literature, art, history and current events.

Thorne said puBLACations: Black Lit and Chill, a club revolving around black authors, is important to have on campus because of the rich, insightful and entertaining literature that is often untapped.

Thorne noticed she and her peers were unable to list many prominent, successful black authors off the tops of their heads.

“That was really a detriment to myself,” she said. “I wanted a space where we could cultivate a knowledge of prominent black authors.”

Fawzan Lari, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the book club will provide a safe space to explore centuries of black thoughts and feelings.

Lari said that although black students make up less than 10 percent of the Rutgers—New Brunswick population, there is a large and important black presence  on campus. 

“Black greeks do incredible service and cultural work, black organizations throw huge events and reach a large majority of black (students) on campus, and (there are) black students excelling in academics and athletics,” he said.

The book club will provide self awareness and knowledge of black culture, black economics and black pride, Lari said.

“It’s essential to optimize the self-love and knowledge of self in our amazing black student population,” he said.

Thorne said since black authors use a lot of historical and contemporary references which influence their work, it brings a new sense of experiences and emotions her and her peers can relate to.

“The lived experience of a black person is usually drastically different from any other race, and it’s really refreshing to read work by an author who you can identify with and who can really articulate some of your experiences,” Thorne said.

Lari said the club is necessary for making Rutgers revolutionary.

“Arguably the greatest student Rutgers has ever seen was its first Black valedictorian, Paul Robeson,” he said. “A true Renaissance man, he set the standard for a lot of the revolutionaries we hold dear today.”

Robeson was the third African-American to attend Rutgers, and made strides for the black community by joining the Rutgers football team and glee club, and was accepted to both Cap and Skull and Phi Beta Kappa.

By recognizing the greatness of Robeson’s legacy, and allowing the black students who are following in his footsteps today opportunities Robeson never had, Rutgers could make itself “truly revolutionary,” Lari said.

“There’s no other club like this, and (the club) is just another way to cultivate black culture, black art, and educate people of any race,” Thorne said.

Lari said this club is a revolution in itself because of the steps made since Robeson was on campus in 1919. 

“Just for the simple fact that there were no minority organizations on campus when Robeson was here to now our book club being the newest of hundreds, our black students are a revolution themselves," he said.


Sophie Nieto-Munoz is a School of Communication and Information senior majoring in journalism and media studies and Italian. She is an editorial assistant for The Daily Targum. You can find her on Twitter @snietomunoz for more.


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