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Roger Ray Humanities Institute – “I Got a Lust for Life”

A one-day public program that began in Detroit and finished in Toledo explored the impact of the African-American Great Migration on literary and musical expression in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

The program, “I Got a Lust for Life: The Unique Words and Sounds of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan,” included panel discussions, poetry readings and musical performances on Saturday, Jan. 20, in Detroit at Wayne State University and in Toledo at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and Toledo Museum of Art.

The program began in Detroit with panel discussion at Wayne State University’s Schaver Music Recital Hall. The panel included Ben Blackwell, co-founder of Third Man Records and official archivist for the White Stripes; John Gibbs Rockwood, Toledo author of the 2014 book “Can I Get a Witness” that features his photographs of iconic rock, pop, blues and folk musicians performing in the region during the early 1970s through the 2000s; Ramona Collins, Toledo-based popular jazz singer; and Oliver Ragsdale Jr., president of the Carr Center, a community hub for African-American artistic expression in Detroit.

Roger Ray Humanities I Got a Lust for Life
Detroit morning event (Schaver Music Recital Hall, Old Main, Wayne State University)

“I Got a Lust for Life” then moved to Toledo, where Tyehimba Jess performed a poetry reading and held a book signing at the McMaster Center of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Jess is a 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from Detroit whose work has focused on music, biography and African-American history. He read read from “Olio,” his award-winning collection of poetry that weaves together sonnet, song and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded, African-American performers from the Civil War to World War I.


McMaster Center, Main Library, Toledo Lucas County Public Library
McMaster Center, Main Library, Toledo Lucas County Public Library

The program  concluded with a panel discussion in the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art with Jess; M.L. Liebler, a Detroit-based, award-winning poet and editor of the anthology “Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond”; Frances Brockington, associate professor of voice at Wayne State University; and Dr. Lee Ellen Martin, jazz vocalist and Jon Hendricks scholar.  Mack and Duchan moderated the discussion, which was followed by a musical performance  by UT Jazz students an alumni.

Audience inthe TMA Glass Pavilion
“I
Got a Lust for Life” in the TMA Glass Pavilion.

“I Got a Lust for Life: The Unique Words and Sounds of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan” was sponsored by the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities at The University of Toledo, which advocates for and supports the study of human culture — from a great variety of fields — at all levels of learning and scholarship. Additional support for the program was provided by UT, WSU, the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Toledo.com and the Toledo Museum of Art.