Lecture inspires

Last Monday evening, I had the pleasure of hearing Faith Ringgold share some of her experiences as a black female artist and writer. Ringgold has achieved renown for her use of the story quilt as a media for communication of ideas. Her visit here was cosponsored by the NIU Campus Activities Board-Fine Arts Committee, the School of Art, the Student Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Illinois Arts Council.

This lecture was free of charge to the public and was advertised in several places both on and off campus. I went because of my interest in children’s literature, but I came away from this event feeling that my horizons had been expanded. Ringgold used humor and slides of her painted story quilts as a vehicle for pointing out some of the difficulties of being black and female in the world of art in the United States today. Her marvelous imagination was evident as she shared some of her writing and talked about the painted images on her quilts.

Just before Ringgold’s visit to DeKalb, her recently published children’s book, “Tar Beach”, was awarded the 1992 Coretta Scott King Award and was chosen as 1992 Caldecott Honor Book. This charming book tells, among other things, of what it was like to grow up black in Harlem in the 1930s. Ringgold’s presentation offered what I have heard referred to as cultural substance, as does her book.

On the same day that I attended this lecture, I heard Marilyn Monteiro’s voice on WNIJ_FM and later read in the Northern Star some quotes from her talk as part of a panel discussion on being black in DeKalb. Ms. Monteiro is entitled to her opinion, and she is probably accurate when she describes DeKalb as lacking diversity, even within its “Euro-American culture.” I don’t mind that she calls DeKalb “ruralish,” because the longer we live here, the more we appreciate that aspect of DeKalb. But I almost got the impression that Monteiro was hoping that something like the event I have described in this letter would be available to the people in the DeKalb community who are in need of “more diversity.”

Ringgold’s lecture was well attended, but there would have been room for more people there. It seems a bit ironic to me that there were very few people of color in the audience, and Monteiro was certainly not there. But then, maybe she feels that it is mostly the “Euro-American” people in DeKalb who need the experience of culturally diverse programs such as this one.

Marie Sorensen


Library & Information Studies