In the hour-long presentation, former University professor Wideman -- introduced as "Penn's native son" by English Professor Houston Baker -- enchanted the audience with two passages from his recently released book, Philadelphia Fire, which focuses on the 1985 MOVE incident in West Philadelphia. The book is a fictional account of the incident in which 11 people died when police acted against members of the group MOVE in neighborhood houses on Osage Avenue. In one of the passages, Wideman, who lived with his wife on Osage Avenue in the 1960s, describes the 1985 MOVE incident as one in which victims "were burnt and boiled and blowed up." He added that people quickly downplayed the incident, adding that the "city is not mourning. No mayor, no president is mourning." He also depicted the evolution of Philadelphia throughout several decades, contrasting several images of a present Philadelphia mired in political apathy with a former Philadelphia full of activism. Although his presentation did not offer a specific message to the audience, many said afterwards they felt the impact of his readings. "I think he communicated not necessarily a cohesive opinion about a sort of historical interpretation of what happened, but more of the feeling of destruction and loss of hope that took place," College senior Darren Rosenblum said. College senior Enshalla Phillips said she believes that the readings appropriately captured the black experience. "The second reading selection incorporated both a current event in Philadelphia but also juxtaposed that against early Philadelphia history and noted the failure of American society to live up to the ideals of American democracy," Phillips said. Students also praised the PEN at Penn program for bringing in distinguished authors and said it was a great resource for students. "It's always a good idea to bring in scholars and authors so that the University community can have access to people who don't necessarily have ties to Penn at the present time," Wharton senior Horace Anderson said. Yesterday's PEN at Penn program was the second this year. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. is scheduled to speak next month.Comments powered by Disqus
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