April 13, 2014
Jessie Redmon Fauset Program Features Youth Poets

LAWNSIDE, N.J.The Lawnside Historical Society will will celebrate Jessie Redmon Fauset Day April 26 featuring prize-winning poetry about democracy written by fifth through 12 graders from Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties.

The competition is designed to encourage youth to write original poetry in the vein of the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectually vibrant period for Black America. The theme is "Democracy Under Duress."

Spoken word artist Dave Benjamin Watkis will perform. After coming to New Jersey from Jamaica, Mr. Watkis graduated from Rowan University. He connects with adolescents through poetry, counseling and performances. He performed at Camden’s Stop the Violence Rally at Campbell Field and with recording artists Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Russell Simmons among others.

More than 50 students submitted original poetry. Winning poets will read their works starting at 2 p.m. in the Lawnside Public School, 426 E. Charleston Ave., where cash prizes and certificates will be awarded.

The Jessie Redmon Fauset Day and the Spirit of the Renaissance Poetry Competition are funded by a grant from the Camden County Cultural and Heritage Commission at Camden County College through the Local Arts Program of the New Jersey Council on the Arts, Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The program is free to the public.

Miss Fauset was literary editor of the NAACP's Crisis magazine for seven years during the 1920s, the height of the Harlem Renaissance. She was a novelist, poet and short story writer like her contemporaries Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston. She was born in Lawnside while her father was pastor of Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church on April 26, 1882.

Miss Fauset received her education in Philadelphia, a graduate of Girls High School. She was a 1905 graduate of Cornell University and earned a master's degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.

Langston Hughes, Harlem's poet laureate, called Miss Fauset the mid-wife of the Harlem Renaissance for nurturing him and others by providing an outlet for their voices and published work. She eventually married, returned to high school teaching and died in 1961 in New Jersey.

The Society began honoring Miss Fauset in 2004.

The Lawnside Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Peter Mott House and the promotion of Lawnside's heritage as a uniquely African-American town. It is a designated organization of the New Jersey Cultural Trust.

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