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Friday, February 17,1995
Linguist Encourages African-American Speech
BY ADAM GUSMAN
A linguist, professor and author told
students about the need for a national policy
on language Thursday in a presentation
about the African-American language.
Geneva Smitherman, professor of En
glish and director of the African-American
Language and Literacy Program at Michi
gan State University, is the author of “Black
Talk: Words and Phrases From the ’Hood
to the Amen Comer.”
Smitherman pointed to the Conference
on College Composition and Communi
cation, where English teachers gathered to
create a national language policy.
2IJTVC Graduate Students Named Medical Fellows
. BY CHRISTINA MASSEY
Two UNC students recently completed
a medical fellowship program sponsored
i~~ by a major pharmaceutical company.
Cheryl Farmer and Wesley Schooler
:■ were among 34 participants in the 1994
1 Fellowship Program in Academic Medi
■ cine for Minority Students sponsored by
' Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
The purpose of the medical fellows pro
v gram is to encourage minority medical
• students to pursue careers in medical re
>; search, said William Dunnett, public af
> fairs manager for Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
FROM PAGE 1
“One of the things I have always taken
delight in about him is that he’s a thinker
and an intellectual,” said Athas, who has
been at the University since 1968. “I learn
from his experiences that I don’t have.”
Kenan still tends to view UNC from a
student’s point of view and said it was
different being a teacher at his alma mater.
Bom in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was raised
by his great-aunt on a farm in Chinquapin
in Duplin County. He had aspirations as a
child to be a scientist. He was impressed by
UNC’s physics department and planned to
get a degree in applied science or engineer
Although he had dreams of writing,
specifically science fiction, it wasn’t some
thing he expected to become a reality.
“Growing up in a rural Southern town,
you don’t think of writing as a possibility. ”
Being black played a big part, too, be
cause he had no direct role models.
“It never occurred to me that I could
actually pursue it,” he said. “It took a long
time after I had even studied writing offi
cially to even think about publishing.”
Everything changed for Kenan when he
took his first creative writing course as a
sophomore. Kenan’sbiggest influence was
Max Steele, head of the English depart-
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The three languages the policy suggested
studying would include the standard lan
guage spoken by Northern, middle-class
whites—which Smitherman referred to as
“the language of wider communication”
—but also a foreign language and a form
of speech native to the student’s own cul
ture or heritage.
Smitherman told an anecdote of a white
female friend who visited her church, where
the call-and-response tradition was prac
ticed. Seeing other churchgoers shouting,
“Go on!” and “Amen!” Smitherman’s
friend blurted out, “Now that’s a good
“That was not quite the appropriate
language for that situation,” Smitherman
“Minorities account for nearly 50 per
cent of the U.S. population, yet they make
up only 4.1 percent of the faculty popula
tion at medical schools across the coun
try,” he said. “This program encourages
minorities to enter fields of medical re
search in an attempt to decrease their
underrepresentation in medical fields.”
Farmer said she was glad she had par
ticipated in the program.
“It was an honor to participate because
it is a very select program,” shesaid. “Igot
to meet a lot of people in both the industry
and in academics.”
Schooler could not be reached for com
ment at the time and Kenan’s professor.
“He challenged me to think of writing as
more than science fiction,” he said. “He
was the first persontogetme looking at my
cultural background as a potential source
of literary inspiration.”
That Christmas he was inspired and
literally read book after book, his favorites
being by Toni Morrison, Anthony Burgess
and Yukio Mishima. “That semester with
Max, coupled with that intensive holiday
of reading, jarred me into anew vision of
what literature can do,” Kenan said.
After graduating with an English de
gree rather than one in science, he got
several New York contacts from Doris
Betts, his other honors English 99 profes
sor. He found a job at Random House
Publishing as an office temp and then
worked his way up at Alfred A. Knopf
Publisher from receptionist to the senior
editor’s assistant to assistant editor.
At the time he was editing his first book,
by Sharlene Baker, also a student in UNC’s
creative writing program, his own first
novel was being published. “A Visitation
of the Spirits” was published in 1989.
While working at the publishing com
pany he had his most productive period of
writing. He worked 100 hours a week for
the company and then worked on his own
books in his free time. Kenan remembers
many nights when he never went home.
UNIVERSITY & CITY
She said some of the components of the
African-American language that first de
veloped as a bond of solidarity and a means
of communication among slaves had come
from elements in the original African lan
guages spoken on the continent.
“It’s the result of a mixture of African
language patterns with English words and
patterns, a combination of two linguistic
traditions,” she said.
The sounds “r” and “th” did not exist in
some African languages, so the sounds
disappeared or changed, Smitherman said.
For example, more became “mo’,” and
south became “souf.”
Despite its deviation from the English
As part of the program, Farmer and
Schooler each received a $6,000 grant to
use on a research project under the guid
ance of a biomedical researcher.
For her project, Farmer compared the
cognition and brain imagery of children
with Neurofibromatosis-1, a central ner
vous system disease, to that of their sib
lings who were unaffected by the disease.
Children with this disorder have trouble
with visual and spatial orientation.
Farmer and her mentor, Dr. Robert
Greenwood, found that the children with
the disorder had a difference in the levels of
metabolic chemicals in the right hemisphere
oftheir brain and the left. Their siblings did
That same year, he was offered a job
teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in
Bronxville, N.Y. He deliberated before tak
ing the position but decided it would be
good to leave the publishing industry to go
into something less intense. He also began
teaching as an adjunct creative writing
professor at Columbia University in 1990.
His second book, “Let the Dead Bury
Their Dead,” continues the story of the
imaginary town he created in his first book.
The book, published in 1992, was nomi
nated for the 1992 National Book Critics
Circle Award and was the recipient of a
Whiting Writer’s Award.
Kenan took leave from Sarah Lawrence
this year to teach in his home state. He
taught last semester at Duke as a visiting
professor in creative writing. Kenan has
also written a young adult biography of
James Baldwin as well as reviews and
essays for The Nation magazine.
Professor James Seay, head of the cre
ative writing program and one of the pro
fessors who proposed that Kenan be in
vited to teach here, said Kenan was im
pressive. Seay said he admired all that
Kenan had accomplished with limited re
sources coming from a small town. “That
kind oftrajectory is phenomenal,” he said.
“And he’s not finished yet.”
Kenan draws on his own experiences
for his writing. He relies on his life growing
17 & 18
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standard, Smitherman stressed that the
African-American language had its own
system of grammar and pronunciation.
She also pointed out some words that
could be traced to their African roots. For
example, jazz is a word in the Mandingo
language meaning to act in an uninhibited
manner, and bug was analogous to an
other African word for the act of annoying
someone, she said.
Smitherman also stressed the power of
trying to please Miss Manners,” she said.
“They’re trying to move mountains.
“There are no superior or inferior lan
guages. Every language is sufficient for the
purposes we want to use them for.”
not have this difference in metabolites.
“We found that there was a variation in
expression of metabolites, and we are try
ing to find what these variations in expres
sion mean,” she said. “Our findings are
important because we were the first to look
Fanner said she, Greenwood and their
colleagues were continuing their research.
For his project, Schooler studied the
screening of monoclonal antibodies in pa
tients. with Paget’s disease,
hyperparathyroidism and osteoporosis.
Both Farmer and Schooler presented
the results of their research at a symposium
up in small town with much storytelling for
inspiration. He had a religious upbringing
and was close to folk culture, both ofwhich
are prevalent themes in his writing. “First
novels tend to be about a writer’s self,” he
said. “Somewhere thereafter, the writer
stops writing about himself and starts writ
ing about the world.”
Kenan’s new project is a nonfiction book
on African America. His goal is to pull
together buried histories in context with
the latter part of the 20th century.
“The book is a combination of inter
views with people and collections of strange
and unusual histories,” he said.
Kenan said he had been inspired to do
the project because he believed that among
African Americans there was an idea of
what it meant to be an “authentic Negro.”
“I think it’s a hurtful concept and a
misleading and misled concept,” he said.
“It buys into the national idea of a mono
lithic, single-thinking African mind.”
As with other writers, he is often de
fined by the groups he is a part of. Because
he is a black, gay male, he is often asked to
be a spokesman for those groups. “I can
only speak from my own experience and
for myself,” Kenan said. “My feeling has
always been that the most effective politi
cal message in fiction is the most subtle
political message in fiction.”
Richard Bernstein Susan
Bickford Anthony Cascardi
Craig Calhoun Jean Cohen
Kim Curtis Lisa Disch Nancy
Fraser Martin Jay Stephen
Leonard Kirstie McClure
John McGowan Dana Villa
Eli Zaretsky Friday, 3&7:30pm
Saturday 9:30, 1:30 & s:oopm
Free and open to the public
Bicentennial Video Moves
Ahead With Town Funding
Davis Stillson, a local television pro
ducer, will receive his request for $4,500 to
edit a tape of the town’s bicentennial cel
ebration. The Chapel Hill Town Council
approved the funding for the bicentennial
video at the Town Council meeting Mon
Stillson, who works with Lloyd Street
Studios Ltd., said he was pleased the coun
cil approved his request for the funding. “I
think making the tape is important because
more than 200 people from the five churches
who did the bicentennial celebration par
ticipated as dancers, actors or performers,”
Stillson said. “A lot of people put a lot of
effort into the celebration and it shouldn’t
Town Council member Joe Capowski
said the council unanimously approved
the funding for the video. “We had a major
celebration and this allows people to buy a
tape if they wish to,” Capowski said. “I
think it’s a good idea.”
Council member Lee Pavao said he
thought the video was a good idea. “It is a
continuation of the bicentennial,” Pavao
said. “And I think it would be nice to have
that recorded for the town.”
Pavao added that he did not think the
an after-market for the video, and some of
the money will be recovered,” he said.
Town Manager Cal Horton said he had
offered alternatives to the proposal made
by Stillson. It was proposed on Monday
that Horton have authorization to seek
volunteers to make the bicentennial tape,
but the council rejected this alternative.
Horton said he fully supported the deci
sion made by council. “It is my job to
report where cuts can be made or avoided,
but it is ultimately the council’s decision,”
“The town manager routinely recom
mended not using the money because (the
council) can not foresee the future bud
get,” Stillson said. “If I were in his position
I would probably do the same thing.”
Capowski said the video was a bargain
for the town, and the amount of money
Black History Month Spotlight
In 1941, Daisy and L.C. Bates founded an
Arkansas newspaper, “The State Press,” that con
cerned itself with the issues of Little Rock’s Afri
can-American community. The Bateses wouldlatei
wholeheartedly embrace their role as social activ
ists when they opened their home to nine African-
11 a.m. “Eye on the Prize” video series will be
shown until 1 p.m. in the BCC. Everyone is invited.
12:30 p.m. Leant more about the Peace Corps:
The director of the Peace Corps will give a presenta
tion until 2 p.m. in the Old East Library.
4p.m. Physics and Astronomy Colloquium, 265
Phillips. Refreshments will be served in room 277 at
around the corner.
Check out our courses
& scheduling options. MB 4Tjk I
OlOSelect Test Prep IYICJIt
■ 11 m
SUNDAY. FEBRIJARY 1Q
Baseball vs. Appalachian
1:30 pm at Boshamer Stadium
Women’s Tennis vs. Tennessee
1:00 pm at Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center
Students & faculty admitted iJ,——
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was little when compared to the hours
Stillson would work on the video. He said
the $4,500 would come from the budget’s
contingency fund, a fund set aside for un
foreseen costs. The council will not raise
taxes or take away from any other allo
cated funds to pay for the video.
Stillson said most of his time spent on
the video would be volunteer time. Stillson
will make around $9 an hour on the project,
which is less than his regular salary. “I’m
donating half of my time to this project,”
he said. “It wasn’t going to happen if we
didn’t come up with an economical bud
Chapel Hill’s bicentennial celebration
took place last year on April 24. Five local
churches Chapel of the Cross, Univer
sity Presbyterian, University Methodist,
University Baptist and Saint Paul’s AME
—hosted performances and readings about
the history of the town.
Stillson said he planned to arrange the
tape in chronological order, starting with
the performances at Chapel of the Cross.
He said he planned to use narration and
music to bridge the gap between the vari
ous performances and to relay other his
Andy Church, also of Lloyd Street Stu
dios, will be doing the original music for
the video. Stillson said he would not be
able to pay a narrator because of the lim
The 200 video tapes Stillson plans to
produce should be finishedby April 24, the
town’s 201st birthday. “I’ll do the best I
can,” Stillson said. “I’ll be devoting all of
my free time in March to the project. If I
have it edited by the last of March or the
first of April, I may have the production
done by April 24.”
Stillson suggested that the videos sell for
$24.95, but the retail cost of the videos has
not yet been set.
American youths. Under the guidance of Daisy
Bates, the group known as the “Little Rock Nine”
attempted to integrate Central High School in
1957. Their efforts sought to redefine the concept
of leadership in the civil rights movement to in
clude those black women and youths who com
prised the front lines in the fight for justice.
5 p.m. Student Opportunities Fund applica
tions ate available in 01 Steele.
SUNDAY c.-u.., ..
NOON International Festival Day, with craft
booths and food by various groups, will be held until
4 p.m. in Great Hall. The festival is free and open to
the public. Park in the Bell Tower lot.