By Cameron Rogers
Hood students were treated to a lecture and book-signing by a member of the Little Rock Nine, Carlotta Walls LaNier, this last Wednesday evening.
The lecture, which occurred from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. with another 30 minutes for questions, detailed the difficulties she had while growing up in the Separate but Equal era. She openly talked about the challenges she faced while attending the first federally-mandated desegregated school, even with American soldiers escorting her to and from classes.
Mrs. LaNier also spoke of her appreciation for the attentiveness and emotional investment that many of the audience members had throughout her presentation. “Such a warm welcome from all of you,” she said shortly after receiving a standing ovation for walking onstage.
The presentation received an overall positive response from the attending Hood students, many of whom complimented the powerful emotions displayed and evoked by Mrs. LaNier throughout it.
Zachary Helmold, a freshman at Hood, said, “It was really captivating. I got to experience her personal chat at 3:45 p.m. today, and I enjoyed being able to see the actual emotion behind her book. I thought the book was very well-written, and that she connected it well with her lecture.”
Similarly, Amber George of the Class of 2016 voiced her approval for the lecture following its conclusion. “I thought her speech was empowering, well-spoken, and culturally-driven,” she said.
The presentation was planned-out and prepared by the First-Year Reads Program at Hood, which selects culturally-relevant and thought-provoking books for freshmen students to read before their first year begins.
“We try to make it relevant,” Dr. Martha Bari said about the program.
Dr. Bari is the head of the First-Year Reads Program, and is directly involved in the process for choosing each book and organizing lectures by their respective authors. She said that both of these can take great lengths of time, with the presentation by Mrs. LaNier requiring four months of preparation to organize, and the book selection often requiring a year to finish.
Although Dr. Bari had only met Mrs. LaNier the day of the presentation, she said that she was very impressed by her generosity and manners. “She was down-to-earth, and treated everyone equally. I admire that.”
In November, the program will put out a call for nominations for the first-year read for the Class of 2019. Typically, current events influence what the designated book will be based off of its subject matter.
Dr. Bari stated that she does not believe that one book can change the reading habits of anyone, but that she hopes to inspire creativity and critical thinking in students with the program. “There are amazing opportunities here, if you just grab them.”