Albion’s Big Read Celebrates Kickoff

Students in the Albion community participating in the Big Read Parade in Holland Park to celebrate Albion’s 5th Annual Big Read program. The Albion Pleiad will write about each Albion Big Read event throughout its new series, the Albion Big Read Program (Photo taken by Gabrielle Henriksen).

The Albion Big Read celebrated its fifth annual kickoff parade in Holland Park on Saturday. Holland Park, also called Westward, has an important history which contributes to the diversity of the Albion community. 

“Westward was the name of a segregated school on once plotted land,” said Nels Christensen, who plays an avid role in making the Big Read what it is each year. “[The town of Albion] boycotted it, shut it down and got an integrated elementary school.” 

Big Read director Jess Roberts added that this occurred in 1953, highlighting the significance of that being the year before Brown v. the Board of Education. 

Following the establishment of an integrated school system, the historical park had not been renovated. In an effort to further bring the town of Albion together, councilwoman Glynn Reed recently worked to transform the run-down park, furnishing it with new playground equipment, painted restrooms and exercise equipment for seniors.

For this reason, The Big Read kickoff was held in the historical park.

Students in the Albion community and college pose in front of Holland Park to kick off the Big Read parade (Photo by Gabrielle Henriksen).

Every year, the Big Read planning committee works to not only set up events like these but also to choose a book for the Big Read, ideally one that has some level of relevancy for the town of Albion. This year, Roberts selected three books for the committee  to choose from, including Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, Mycroft Holmes, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. The committee ultimately chose Pride.

“This year, when we picked Pride, people, I think, loved the characters. I think they recognized powerful connections between Bushwick, which is the area of Brooklyn that the novel is set in, and Albion,” said Roberts. “One of the sentences that captures that in many ways is that narrator Zuri says, ‘My neighborhood is made of love.’ I think that resonated with a lot of people who are on the committee.”

Throughout October,  seven total discussions regarding Pride will take place throughout the city of Albion.

“The expectation is that the people who show up at those discussions want to be there. And that they’re interested in talking about themselves, and their community, and maybe the book,” said Roberts. “But there are people who’ve come to the discussion who haven’t actually read the Big Read book and they’ve been wonderful parts of the discussion and there are people who come who haven’t finished it yet, and there are people who come [that] have read it multiple times.” 

Held from June to August each year is the eight week Big Read Youth Leadership program. The program allows eighth to tenth grade students in the  Albion community to read Pride and spend a week preparing to lead the discussions held in October. Student volunteers from Albion College and former Big Read youth leaders help with the program as well. 

Albion College men’s basketball team holds up the Big Read banner in support of the program (Photo by Gabrielle Henriksen).

“The young people who are a part of the leadership program, what they get is feeling pleasure out of something associated with reading reading books,” Christensen said.

The Big Read not only focuses on building a stronger community but strives to help students embrace their true selves. 

“Part of the joy {of the Big Read}  is the product of the community that [those involved} make and get to experience. I think for all of them, this is a place where they can be their fullest selves,” says Roberts. “That’s our big goal.”

Copies of Pride are distributed throughout Albion for those who want to pick one up and participate in the community-building events.

About Irene Corona-Avila 48 Articles
Irene is a fourth-year student and a prideful Georgia Peach from Atlanta. She is a biochemistry major with a minor in . Aside from running and writing, you can find Irene dancing freely or talking up a pun. She's currently reading a book on gravity, but she can't seem to put it down.

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