Leonard Pitts Jr.
Renowned writers to speak on campus
American journalist and author Gene Fowler said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
If that’s the case, the campus community will welcome this month – Black History Month – three writers who have bled mightily in the cause of their work: author Nadine Cohodas, journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. and culinary historian Jessica Harris.
Cohodas will speak at 7 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the F.K. Bemis International Center, while Pitts’ talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 in the Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts. Harris will keynote the Soul Food Dinner on Feb. 26 in the Sensenbrenner Student Union Lounge.
Cohodas, who grew up 25 miles north of Green Bay, has written several books about race, politics and music, including “Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone” and “Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington.” Simone and Washington were both prominent African-American singers in the mid-20th century. Cohodas’ talk, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” will focus on how Washington and Simone’s musical talents reflected the civil rights movement. Rare footage of the singers’ television appearances will be shown.
Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with the Miami Herald, is often remembered for a defiant open letter he penned in 2001 to the 9/11 terrorists, a work that became wildly popular. Other provocative columns, however, have resulted in harassment and death threats, particularly from white supremacists.
Pitts’ talk, “The Water in the Glass,” is part of the Norman and Louis Miller Lecture in Public Understanding series, which promotes unity, communication and tolerance among different cultures, religions, ethnicities and traditions. Bob Pyne (Peace and Justice Center) says: “Leonard Pitts Jr. has been a powerful and highly visible spokesperson for these values for many years. He speaks not as a moralist, but as one of us, while calling us collectively to live out our shared ideals.”
Harris, of Queens College, City University of New York, has written 11 cookbooks about the foods and foodways of the African diaspora, plus numerous magazine articles. She also established Dillard University’s Institute for the Study of Culinary Cultures.
All three events are open to the public. Cohodas’ and Pitts’ talks are free, while admission to the Soul Food Dinner is $25 for adults and $15 for St. Norbert students and children.