Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thanks and Goodbye to the African American Read-In and friends of my soul

My thanks to the Dallas African American Read-In (AARI) for allowing me the privilege of serving you for the last ten years.

Suddenly last summer, my time with the Read-In was ended. The Read-In was removed from my supervision.  I do not really know why.  Months later I was invited by the new head of the Read-In to lead a committee for the event I had successfully started and directed for ten years previously. I appreciated the invitation but I respectfully declined the reduced role.

I do not expect to be in attendance this year. My great hope is that the African American Read-In will go on to greater success with staff, resources and support.

Over ten years ago my dream was to implement a major Read-In or literacy event on behalf of Dallas County Community College District.  It was not easy to hold on to the dream.

At the national level the African American Read-in Chain was established by Dr. Jerri Cobb Scott and the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.  Thank you Jerri for your support over the years.

In the beginning, the city-wide Dallas African American Read-In was nothing more that a dream. There was no staff, no budget -no path to follow - just a dream. I believed it was possible and started working to make it a successful reality.  I worked for years to make it come true.

Early on, I was encouraged by the first link in the developing Dallas Read-in Chain -- book publisher (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, now) Holt McDougal.  Later joined by Random House and Scholastic, that first year they helped us provide books for all to read or learn to read. Quickly realizing that giving books was important  to me, Holt became a ten-year literacy friend and partner.  Thank you Holt McDougal.
Since there were no funds from DCCCD, the African American Read-In had to begin with other outside funding. I had to raise money and find resources.

I will always be thankful to (GTE, now) Verizon Communications - our first major Read-In sponsor. With the help of Sherrye, a co-worker at DCCCD in the Foundation office, we made a presentation to (GTE, now) Verizon Communications. They became the title sponsor and remained so for the first three years of the AARI  journey.

Thank you Verizon Communications. Without your generous financial support, the African American Read-In might have remained a dream without fulfillment.

Thank you Sherrye.  We talked to Verizon together.  They said, "Yes."

Others joined in to help - Tammy stepped up first.  Thanks Tammy.  Thanks to everyone.

That first year many did not believe we would be successful.  After all, there was nothing to suggest that the public would come out in large numbers on a week-end in February to support a reading and literacy program. Yet, that very first year the Majestic Theater was packed, and hundreds were turned away.

For ten straight years the theater was full, with many outside unable to get in and participate. Nonetheless, they also received books and were encouraged to read.  Everyone got instructions to host their own read-in with family, friends and co-workers.

The AARI became a regular kick-off event for African American history month. It also became the largest community event sponsored by Dallas County Community College District and the largest and most successful Read-In event in the nation.

After a few years, the Majestic Theater began to feel like home for the Read-In. Thank you for making it so.

Thank you Allison. You contributed much over many years.  I will remember you always.

Thanks to Monique and Anyika  for your committed service over the years in preparing the annual program.

Thanks to all of our many outstanding volunteers, readers, cast, performers, sponsors and partners in this dream.

Thanks to Kathy, Public Information and numerous DCCCD staff members who volunteered, worked and supported the Read-in.

Thanks to Chancellors Bill Wenrich, Jess Carreon, and Wright Lassiter, Jr. for their support of the Read-In.

Thanks to all the friends of my soul who made the African American Read-In such an overwhelming success.  I cannot name all of you.

Finally community, thanks for the many precious memories of this dream that came true because of you.

Joy comes in the morning.