Newly retired English professor Dr. Coleman received York’s annual African American Read-in Chain award honoring a tradition that has been celebrated for 25 years.
Coleman, set to retire at the conclusion of the 2013/14 academic year, co-chairs the events of York’s African American Heritage Month, and was honored for his effort in making the read-ins at York a mainstay. The African-American Read-ins is to make the celebration of African American authors and literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities. The observances began with a retirement party at Jamaica’s City Rib restaurant for both Coleman and fellow retiring English professor Samuel Hux, and was offered a photo with President Marcia Keizs, comedian Dr. Bill Cosby, and author Frank Savage at a private reception.
The Greater Queens Chapter of The Links converged with York College to coordinate the read-ins, according to the director of Student Activities, Dr. Jean Phelps. Phelps, who also is treasurer of the greater Queens chapter, credits NY1 News anchor Cheryl Wills for securing Cosby as a guest. Wills co-chairs both the African American Read-Ins as well as the Art Committee of The Links.
“It’s hard to put it all in one memory,” said Coleman, reflecting on his memories as a professor at York since 1968. “It’s like a long, ongoing experience. I really enjoyed being with students in my freshman classes; English 125, Cultural Diversity 101 and English 200, when you see the eyes and minds just light up.”
Irshaad Ishmail, a 2013 Pi Eta Kappa inductee, was among the 15 students selected for the private reception with Cosby and Savage. Ishmail, an English major, recalled consulting Coleman after reading “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” for English 200 during the 2013 winter session.
“I asked a few professors and they said the best person to ask was Dr. Coleman,” said Ishmail. “Even though I wasn’t his student, he spent some time with me to show me the importance and irony within the language, the subtle words that only cultures who have been enslaved can really understand. He really changed my perspective on the way I view my people’s language and I saw my language very different for the first time.”
Over 900 people were in attendance for the event at York College’s Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center, and over 300 copies of Cosby’s and Savage’s works were sold the day of the event, according to college Bookstore manager Roz Sepulveda.