Kent State University will host the kickoff event for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read Northeast Ohio, a community reading program celebrating “An American Sunrise” by Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, the first Native American poet laureate of the United States. The kickoff event will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 12, beginning promptly at 7 p.m. in the Kiva, located in the Student Center, 800 E. Summit Street, Kent, Ohio. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is appreciated. A live stream of this event will be offered to virtual viewers who will receive a link upon registering. Register for the NEA Big Read Northeast Ohio kickoff event at:

The NEA Big Read Northeast Ohio kickoff event will feature a keynote address by Cynthia Connolly of the Lake Erie Native American Council. Selected Harjo poems will be read by poet and author Kimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson. The event will also introduce the Traveling Stanzas interactive project, inviting individuals to contribute to a community poem inspired by “An American Sunrise.” Harjo’s literary work returns to her family’s ancestral homeland from which they were forcibly removed more than 200 years ago and opens a dialogue with tribal history, the land and her memories.

In June 2021, Kent State was one of 61 organizations nationwide to be awarded a 2021-22 NEA Big Read grant. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The $20,000 grant supports the program, events and activities offered in many Northeast Ohio locations through May 2022. Numerous partners, ranging from Kent State departments to local organizations, are collaborating to engage more than 3,000 community members, encouraging a broader understanding of Indigenous themes, voices and perspectives through Harjo’s award-winning book of poems.

There are many planned events for the NEA Big Read Northeast Ohio including public appearances by Harjo, lectures by scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweet Grass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants,” and American historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of “An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.” The programming will also include book discussions, film screenings, art/book making workshops and outreach projects for K-12 educators and students. Information about events, projects and further details of the program are available at Kent State University is pleased to collaborate with the Massillon Museum to present parallel NEA Big Read projects. We encourage participation in programs offered by both institutions and their community partners.

NEA Big Read Northeast Ohio is supported by Kent State departments and regional partners. Kent State departments include: University Libraries, Wick Poetry Center, College of the Arts, College of the Arts and Sciences, School of Theatre and Dance, School of Biological Sciences, Schoo­l of Art, College of Education, Health and Human Services, ­Department of Africana Studies, Department of History; Kent State Ashtabula, Kent State Geauga and the Anti-Racism and Equity Institute. External partners include: Lake Erie Native American Council, Kent Free Library, Stow/Monroe Falls Library, Holden Forests & Gardens, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Cuyahoga County Libraries, Ashtabula County District Library and Akron Museum of Art. Program partners also include several local high schools, such as Bio-Med Science Academy and Chagrin Falls Middle School.

Since 2006, the NEA has funded more than 1,700 Big Read programs in every congressional district in the country, providing more than $23 million to 40,000+ community organizations nationwide. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended a Big Read event and more than 90,000 local-level volunteers have partnered with grantees to present Big Read activities. For more information about the NEA Big Read, including books and author information, podcasts and videos, visit


POSTED: Thursday, October 7, 2021 12:00 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 04:21 PM