The eighth annual anthology of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s ALANA (African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American Alliance) organization was released Friday afternoon (April 20) in a multimedia celebration in the Eliot Lyman Room of Longfellow Hall.
“There were definitely times when I didn’t think we’d have an anthology this year,” said executive editor Brittnay Reed Ed.M. ’07. Reed, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a degree in anthropology and has since found a mentor in writer Jamaica Kincaid, had zero prior experience putting together a publication. “There were a lot of days, especially at the beginning, before we had a working team, where it was literally just me sitting at a table in Guttman going, ‘Please, please, please submit!’”
And submit they did. The works of a record 35 contributors appear in “Made Visible,” the resulting 108-page volume designed by Srivi Kalyanasundaram and subedited by Andrea Sachdeva, Erika Smith, and Melanie Brown.
“One of Brittnay’s strengths was in pulling together a team that brought terrific skills to the task,” said Arts in Education Program faculty director Steve Seidel, who worked closely with the students. “It was a new role to her, but she really rose to the challenge.”
Also rising to the challenge were the writers and artists whose work appears in the anthology’s pages. More than a dozen of them read from their work at Friday’s celebration, which also included a video and a slide show that presented some of the photography, drawings, and paintings submitted for publication.
The anthology’s works — described in Reed’s editor’s note as “dreams, gripes, inspirations, reflections, worries, tributes, observations, and stories” — range from the lighthearted to the moving. Many deal with the experience of being a person of color in America, but not all.
“In previous years there was a bit more emphasis on the student of color community,” said Reed. “And this year that emphasis is there, but we tried to choose things that showed a wide variety of emotion and experience. The title is so important, because it’s really about making that stuff visible. We’re so uncomfortable with people — sometimes we think if we say what we’re really thinking, we’ll be judged. Here’s this space where no one is judged.”
For the first time this year, Reed continued, the book was open not only to Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) students but also to faculty, staff, and alumni. “I really take the word ‘diversity’ seriously,” she said. “I don’t think it should be used only when talking about people of color. It can be based on age, race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, geographic differences. Anyone who brings something different to the table.”
In that sense, the anthology has come full circle. “This book started as a onetime thing that would serve the community of students of color,” said Laura Carmen Arena, HGSE’s assistant director for multicultural affairs. “It has become very established and, in a sense, timeless. People are aware that it’s being archived, and that it has become part of Harvard’s history. So now we’re thinking of its meaning not only for the present, but for the future.”