In the first Dissertation Corner of 2018, Jenna Houston speaks to current dissertation student Alice Stokell.
by Amy McCarthy
Live jazz music fills the air and guests are chattering, armed with a glass of wine. York St. John University has transformed its Arts Foyer into a guided history of 1930s Harlem, New York.
Last year a group of second year English Literature students on the ‘Literature at Work’ module created resources based on the Harlem Renaissance and now their work is on display for staff, students, and members of the public to see. The exhibition includes film, models, photography, and slide shows. To promote Black History Month, the students have the opportunity to talk about their work and express their enthusiasm for the cultural movement.
Although the students created their works of art separately, together the pieces complement each other to display the rich culture of Harlem. One of the works on display is a York/New York trail, where famous Harlem Renaissance landmarks are matched up to locations in York. The brochure is displayed on one of the walls and is accompanied by a short film in which the creators follow the trail they made around York.
Below the York/New York trail is a 3D model of key landmarks from the Harlem Renaissance. Accompanying each building on the miniature version of Harlem is a plaque listing the pop cultural references relating to the locations used.
Visitors also cannot help but admire the beautiful collages occupying some of the boards at the exhibition. These wonderfully creative pieces combine vintage styling with a contemporary artistic edge to inform the audience about key areas of culture. One golden frame discusses music of the Harlem Renaissance while a few smaller frames look at the works of the great literary mind Langston Hughes.
At the exhibition launch, the crowded room was testament to how student work is valued. The launch night was a huge success, bringing members of the university and the public together. Attendees left feeling better educated about the Harlem Renaissance, and hopefully inspired to pick up some literature from the era.
The ‘York/New York’ Exhibition will be displayed in the Arts Foyer at York St. John University until the end of October.
Every October, Black History Month is celebrated all over the UK, and has been for the past thirty-five years. This is an opportunity for us all to acknowledge and celebrate diversity, and learn more about our shared histories and cultures. At York St John this year, academics working in Literature, History, American and Education and Theology have come together to launch the official YSJ Black History Month Twitter account. If you’re not already following is on Twitter, please do so!
The Twitter account is a celebration of black histories and cultures, and aims to highlight black achievement and accomplishment. If you follow the account, you’ll see a range of topics to explore. One of the most popular elements has been the playlist collated by lecturer in Literature (and resident DJ) Dr Fraser Mann. From ground-breaking pieces by Goldie and Massive Attack to classics from Soul II Soul and Neneh Cherry, there is a fantastic selection of music to (re)discover.
Students have been getting involved with the project as well, tweeting their favourite lines from poetry (work by Langston Hughes and Claude McKay has been particularly popular) and offering some reflections on learning about black literary history and the Harlem Renaissance. History students have noted how their study of William Cuffay and black Chartism also has a wider resonance with Black History Month.
It’s been great to see this project grow over the past few weeks as more and more followers choose to get involved with the Twitter account. We hope this continues to grow. Black History Month is hugely important for everyone. It allows to focus on a positive present and future whilst acknowledging some of the horrors of the past. We hope that @YSJBHM continues to allow our YSJ community to reflect on this and to raise awareness about these important issues.
If you have any queries about Black History Month, please contact Dr Anne-Marie Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org)