Black Politics and Culture in Four New MEC Library Exhibits

An exhibit featuring newspapers and magazines from 2008-2009  capturing the inauguration of President Barack Obama was among four small exhibits that opened Monday, May 8 in the lower level of the MEC library. The exhibits, which will be up until the Fall, showcase black political and cultural writing and activism globally. They were celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the room for archives and special collections, where two of the exhibits are housed.

“We are entering a different period in the history of our country but we can always look back,” Alexei Oulanov, the acting Chief Librarian and Chair, said at the ceremony. Provost Augustine Okereke told the assembled students and guests that reading the books of scholars and other important figures was part of “experiential learning.

The MEC Library exhibit also presented select books by the scholar and novelist Isidore Okpewho. His work has been widely translated and he was honored with several international awards, including the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) in Humanities for the year 2010. Okpewho was considered a foremost scholar of oral literature in Africa.

The third exhibit showcased items from the collection of books on African American culture donated by Esther Cooper Jackson, who is almost 100 years old now. Jackson is a longtime social activist who has been a pioneering civil rights leader, a community activist, and an editor. For 25 years (1961-86), Mrs. Jackson was managing editor of Freedomways: A Quarterly Review of the Freedom Movement. The influential journal was widely viewed as a political and cultural compass for social activists.

“She was just a true inspiration,” Professor Brenda Greene said of Jackson on Monday. Dr. Greene, the chairman of MEC’s English Department and the Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature, also praised the scope of the exhibit. “You’re really bringing together all the components that symbolize what our college should be about,” Dr. Greene said.

The fourth exhibit features the work of Dr. Frederick Monderson, the author of more than 30 books, numerous articles, and educational videos related to African and African-American History and Culture. His other activities include teaching and curriculum development for reading in African and African-American History and Culture.