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Artist Sekou Sundiata will meet with students and other members of the Lafayette and Easton communities in poetry circles and community sings Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 27 and 28. The events will provide an opportunity to learn more about Sundiata’s latest creative endeavor, The America Project, in which Lafayette students will participate as it takes shape on campus during the artist’s residency this year.

Poetry circles will be held 4-6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, in the Marlo Room, Farinon College Center, and at the same time Tuesday, Sept. 28, in Interfaith Chapel, Hogg Hall. Community sings will be held 7-9 p.m. each day, with Monday’s event at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 330 Ferry St., Easton, and Tuesday’s in Interfaith Chapel.

Open to everyone, the events are public forums for conversations and inquiries about American and global citizenship, culture, democracy, memories, dreams, disappointments, desires, and other issues. In the poetry circles, participants will listen to and read out loud poems that take up the subject of America. Each person will be asked to read aloud a poem selected from provided materials. At the community sings, participants will listen to and sing songs about America and explore their mythic, emotional, and intellectual content.

The America Project combines art and civic dialogue. “It is a contemplation of America’s national identity, of its power in the world, and of its guiding mythologies,” says Sundiata, whose work includes poetry, performance, music, and theater. “It explores how America defines itself in a new era characterized by unprecedented global influence and power. It is about an adventure, a quest to find a vision of what it means to be both a citizen and an individual in a deeply complex, hyper-kinetic society.”

Students will blend creative impulses with critical and intellectual work in collaborating with Sundiata on The America Project. They will gather potential topics, interview community members, and provide other materials for the final project. Some students will also perform in the piece.

For information on The America Project, contact William J. Carpenter, assistant professor of English and faculty liaison to Sundiata (x5227 or or his student assistant, Haunani Yap ’06 (x3150 or

Sundiata’s residency and the development of The America Project are part of the class of 2008’s year-long exploration of human security, civil society, and liberal learning. Members of the new class began their intellectual odyssey during the summer with two common reading assignments, David K. Shipler’s book The Working Poor: Invisible in America, and Elaine Scarry’s essay “The Difficulty of Imagining Other People.” Before coming to campus they exchanged questions, insights, and ideas about the readings and other topics with each other, Lafayette faculty, and other members of the campus community via a special web portal.

The first-year students continued their exploration of these themes during New Student Orientation. Faculty teaching First-Year Seminars are exploring creative ways to link the themes to their seminars and incorporate activities related to Sundiata’s residency.

“I take it as a civic responsibility to think about these things out loud, in the ritualized forum of theater and public dialogue,” Sundiata says. His residency is cosponsored by Imagining America, a consortium of colleges and universities sharing a commitment to public scholarship. It will serve as a model for similar endeavors by other consortium members.

The residency will include, among other things, linkages with classes, community events, and citizen interviews. Sundiata will return to campus Oct. 19-22 to work with selected students in shaping The America Project, and Nov. 3-5 to guide rehearsals of an early version of the production. The America Project is part of the keynote address at the Imagining America national conference Nov. 6 at the University of Pennsylvania.

During the spring term Sundiata will deliver a major lecture, and his residency will culminate with the staging of The America Project in Lafayette’s Black Box theater.


Categorized in: Academic News