Centenary alumnus Stephen Pitters to present virtual convocation

SHREVEPORT, LA — Stephen Pitters ‘71, an accomplished poet and host of the Spokane Open Poetry Program on KYRS in Spokane, Washington, will join the Centenary community for a virtual conversation on Thursday, November 5, at 7:00 p.m. Pitters, one of the first black undergraduates to attend Centenary following the College’s racial integration in January 1966, will reflect on his experiences at the College during the Civil Rights era and discuss some of the challenges of the present day with current students.

Participants should pre-register at centenary.edu/pitters for the live conversation with Pitters. Passport Points will be available for Centenary students. This event is generously underwritten by the Attaway Professorships in Civic Culture.

Pitters, a native of New York City, enrolled at Centenary in the fall of 1967 and earned a degree in humanities in 1971. He was the first black student to live on campus and one of only a handful of black students at the College during his four years there. Pitters was interested in social issues and civil rights and came to Shreveport expecting to experience some of the tumult and tension of activities that he observed from afar, such as the Freedom Rides and sit-ins. His primary goal, however, was to get an education both inside and outside of the classroom. In a 2012 profile in the College’s Alumni News, Pitters noted, “I didn’t come to break down barriers. I came to Centenary to go to school and find out for myself what it was like to be in the South.”

During the November 5 event, Pitters will share memories and insights from his time at Centenary, highlighting the mindset and emotional skills that he cultivated in order to survive when he encountered racial intolerance and hostility in Shreveport in the late 1960s. Through an exploration of his own story, he hopes to engage current Centenary students in discussion about how they are approaching their own challenges during the era of COVID-19 and the continued struggle for racial equality and justice in the United States.

After graduating from Centenary, Pitters earned master’s degrees in clinical social work from Simmons School of Social Work in Boston, Massachusetts, and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. Since 2004, he has hosted the Spokane Open Poetry Program on KYRS Thin Air Community Radio in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent of which, Virus, was published in October 2020. Six of his poems have been made into songs by California singer-songwriter Traci De Leon and jazz musician Jermaine Carlton, and several others have been interpreted as visual art pieces by local Spokane artists.

For more information about the online conversation with Pitters, contact Chris Brown at cbrown@centenary.edu.


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