- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Kim Smith doesn’t like public speaking.

“I don’t,” she said. “It’s so scary.”

But she’s pretty good at it, judging by the ovation Smith received from the crowd in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center’s Grant Hall after her speech titled “Slavery Ended Over 200 Years Ago.”

Smith, a junior at Bloomington High School North, was one of about 200 area high school students who attended Indiana University’s 14th annual African-American Read In Monday to kick off Black History Month.

Stephanie Power-Carter, director of the center, said there was a similar event at the high school in Georgia, where she taught English, and she brought it to Bloomington when she came to IU in 2002. Power-Carter said the event celebrates African-American literature and literacy by bringing students together to read original works as well as pieces from famous black authors. There was also a lunch and panel discussion about college life after the readings.

This was Smith’s second time speaking at the Read In. She said her social studies teacher, Steve Philbeck, told her about the event when she was a sophomore. Smith said she didn’t plan to speak at last year’s event, but decided to take the microphone when it was opened up for people from the audience.

“I like the open mic,” she said. “You see people gain confidence the second they get to the mic.”

That’s how Philbeck described Smith’s public speaking style, saying once she gets going, she seems to forget her fears and take on the feelings of the characters she’s talking about.

“She’s an incredible kid,” he said. “She went last for a reason.”

Philbeck said any student can go to the Read In as long as they sign up and fill out a permission slip, but the number is limited to 80 kids. He said the event is a great cultural experience for everyone who attends.

“A lot of kids get a chance to get a glimpse of people in their real comfort zone,” he said.

That’s what Eddie Jackson, a freshman at North, said was one of his favorite parts of the event. He said it’s a great opportunity for students to share their thoughts about race and let out emotions they’ve been holding in. He wasn’t willing to pick a favorite speaker, but said speeches that touched on black stereotypes resonated with him.

Jackson said he plans to attend the event next year, but he’s not so sure about speaking.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I like hearing other people.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1P4BQxy

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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