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Carnegie Mellon University hosts ‘Talking Black in America’ Pittsburgh premiere

Mary Pickels
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Facebook/Talkingblackinamerica
Carnegie Mellon University will host the Pittsburgh premiere of the documentary 'Talking Black in America' on April 11.
gtrlivtalkingblack1040618
Facebook/Talkingblackinamerica
Carnegie Mellon University will host the Pittsburgh premiere of the documentary 'Talking Black in America' on April 11.
gtrlivtalkingblack1040618
Facebook/Talkingblackinamerica
Carnegie Mellon University will host the Pittsburgh premiere of the documentary 'Talking Black in America' on April 11.

“Talking Black in America: The Story of African American Language,” is the first feature-length documentary devoted to African American speech, and attempts to remedy misconceptions and resulting marginalization, according to a news release.

The film will have its Pittsburgh premiere at 4 p.m. April 11 in Carnegie Mellon University’s Rashid Auditorium.

Executive producer Walt Wolfram, the William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University, will introduce the film.

“When I first saw a preview of ‘Talking Black in America,’ I knew that we needed to bring it to Pittsburgh,” Barbara Johnstone, professor of English and linguistics in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, says in the release.

“It opens your eyes to important issues that affect African-American children in school and adults in the workplace. It also shows how language can be deeply connected to identity,” she states.

The film explores African-American ways of talking from geographical communities including Harlem, Charleston, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, rural Mississippi, the Bahamas and more. It features supporting commentary from linguists, historians and other experts, and unpacks persistent controversies surrounding African-American language — such as the controversy about the Oakland Unified School Board’s decision to recognize African American Vernacular English in their curriculum in the late 90s.

“The status of African-American speech has been controversial for more than a half-century now, suffering from persistent public misunderstanding, linguistic profiling, and language-based discrimination,” Wolfram says in the release.

“We wanted to address that and, on a fundamental level, make clear that understanding African-American speech is absolutely critical to understanding the way we talk today,” he adds.

A panel discussion following the screening will include Fred Brown, president and CEO, Homewood Children’s Village; Waverly Duck, associate professor of sociology, University of Pittsburgh and visiting associate professor in the Center for African American Urban Studies & the Economy (CAUSE), Carnegie Mellon University; Lovie Jewell Jackson Foster, prevention specialist, Allegheny County Children Youth and Families; and Tamara Sanders-Woods, principal, Colfax Elementary and Middle School, Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The screening and panel discussion are free and open to the public.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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