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Annual Asanbe symposium March 23 to feature A. Van Jordan

Austin Peay State University's annual Asanbe Diversity Symposium, featuring a lecture by A. Van Jordan and related activities, is Thursday, March 23.

Jordan, who received a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College, Asheville, N.C., is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.

His first book, “Rise,” won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and was a selection of the Academy of American Poets book club.

Jordan's second book, “MacNolia,” is a suite of poems that imagine the life of MacNolia Cox, the first black finalist in the National Spelling Bee Competition.

The Asanbe Diversity Symposium celebration will kick off with a reservation-only luncheon with Jordan and other special guests. To be held from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Iris Room of the University Center, the luncheon is $9 per person, with checks payable to the APSU Department of Languages and Literature. Due to limited seating, luncheon reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis, and the deadline for reservations is Monday, March 20. To make reservations, contact Dr. Dwonna Goldstone at 221-7886 or, or Wanda McNabb at 221-7891 or

Jordan's lecture, “Space, Time and Race: From MacNolia Cox to the Present,” will be presented at 1 p.m. in Gentry Auditorium, Kimbrough Building. It is free and open to the public.

Also free and open to the public, the panel discussion, “Overcoming the Legacy of Jim Crow,” will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Gentry Auditorium. Joining Jordan on the panel will be several faculty members.

According to a recent talk by Susan Stamberg on National Public Radio's “All Things Considered,” Jordan uses a variety of forms and voices to portray Cox's life in “MacNolia.”

In an interview in “Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts,” when asked why he included stories of various historical figures, like Richard Pryor, in “MacNolia,” Jordan said, “I felt like (MacNolia's) story was a part of a larger story. It was emblematic of the story of most African-Americans, but if I tried to explain it to someone who wasn't black, they may not immediately get the significance of a kid being cheated out of spelling bee. If we factor in this other element of racism, it's not just a lesson about how to lose, it's a lesson about why you lose. That's a real turning point for most black people. We usually learn that lesson at some point, and it changes our whole outlook on life. I wanted other African-American historical figures to be on this timeline with MacNolia, so we could see how she fit in.”

The annual symposium at APSU was established in memory of Dr. Joseph Asanbe, the University's first professor of African and African-American literature. Born in Nigeria, Asanbe earned his master's and doctoral degrees from Indiana University. After joining the APSU faculty in 1987, Asanbe often expressed his vision of APSU as a more diverse university where all people are respected and valued.

The Asanbe Diversity Symposium is sponsored by the APSU Department of Languages and Literature. Co-sponsors include the Office of Academic Affairs, African-American Studies Program, Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, College of Arts and Letters, APSU Department of History and Philosophy, Honors Program, International Studies Program, School of Education and the Women's Studies Program.

For more information, please contact Goldstone, assistant professor of English and chair of the Asanbe Diversity Symposium Committee, at (931) 221-7886 or at -- Dennie B. Burke