Poet engages class discussion during Black History Month event

Joanna Williams

Frank X. Walker spoke tonight in Downing University Center as part of the ongoing Black History Month celebrations.

Walker, who was born and currently resides in Kentucky, has written four books of poetry. His latest is “Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride” about legendary jockey Isaac Murphy and his rise to the top of thoroughbred racing.

Besides discussing his latest book, Walker read several different poems from earlier works, including “Statues of Liberty,” “Hollow” and “Rockstar,” which is about his sister’s drug addiction.

Richard Nazario, director of the Office of Diversity Programs, said having Walker speak was part of several things they have done differently during this year’s Black History Month celebration.

“This year we decided to take a different approach to Black History Month by bringing in national, regional and local speakers,” he said. “Juan Williams was our National speaker, the Frank Dobson lecture that was canceled due to weather was our regional speaker, and Frank is our local speaker.”

Nazario and Walker’s friendship goes back more than 20 years when the two met at the University of Kentucky.

Walker said when he received the call from Nazario to come to WKU, the answer was an easy one.

“I’ve read here five or six times over the last ten years,” Walker said. “Reading is the easy part, but the poetry and the conversation is the best part.”

Nazario emphasized how important it was that the state of Kentucky had a black author of Walker’s talents who is able to combine past events and poetry.

“Frank is doing something about Kentucky history that is really interesting, especially with poetry,” he said. “He’s giving a softer approach, the idea a poet can teach.”

In the audience were students from an Honors Colloquium class titled “Ethnic Stereotypes in Black and White.” The class has been reading “Affrilachia,” one of Walker’s book of poems, since the beginning of the semester.

Memphis senior Kelsi Pilcher, who is in the class, said she didn’t know of Walker before the beginning of the semester, but has become a fan of his writing through the class.

“I appreciate him giving the background information on the book,” she said. “I wish we did more events like this and not just for Black History Month.”

Walker said anytime you can get an engaged audience and a speaker who is really interested in them, the result is always positive.

“I think the conversations was rich, especially from that particular class,” Walker said. “I think my presence made their class richer and their presence here made my reading richer. It’s very rare when you get the person and the book.”