Texas Tech University

U.S. Poet Laureate to Speak at Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet

Glenys Young

September 14, 2015

The annual event is Oct. 5 at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.

Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera

The Texas Tech University Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement will host U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as the keynote speaker for its fifth annual Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet.

The banquet is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center on the Texas Tech campus.

“The annual Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet provides us with an opportunity to honor individuals who are advancing diversity on the campus as well as in the community,” said Cory S. Powell, director of Mentor Tech.

Herrera was appointed the nation's 21st poet laureate earlier this year, becoming the first Mexican-American to hold the position. Herrera is the author of 30 books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young-adult novels and picture books for children.

His collections of poetry include “Notes of the Assemblage” (City Lights, 2015); “Senegal Taxi” (University of Arizona, 2013); “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems” (2008), a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007” (City Lights, 2007); and “Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse” (University of New Mexico, 1999), which received the Americas Award. In 2014, he released the nonfiction work “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes” (Dial), which showcases 20 Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism and athletics.

His books of prose for children include: “SkateFate” (Rayo, 2011); “Calling The Doves” (Children's Book, 2001), which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award; “Upside Down Boy” (2006), which was adapted into a musical for young audiences in New York City; and “Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box” (HarperCollins, 2005), which tells the tragedy of 9/11 through the eyes of a young Puerto Rican girl.


From 2012-2014, Herrera served as California's poet laureate. In that capacity, Herrera created the i-Promise Joanna Project, an anti-bullying poetry project in honor of an elementary school girl who was bullied and killed in an afterschool fight in Long Beach. The first half asks students to send in poems about experiences and effects of bullying. The second half of the project is to take action in preventing bullying. Herrera hopes to collect the poems and publish it as a book in the future. Other projects included Answer Cancer with a Poem, Show Me Your Papers, and The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World.

“Texas Tech is committed to diversity,” said Paul A. Frazier, associate vice president in the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. “We are excited to welcome respected author and poet, Juan Felipe Herrera to campus as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Past speakers include renowned actors Edward James Olmos and Terrence Howard, CNN and HBO correspondent Soledad O'Brien, and John Quiñones, anchor of ABC's “What Would You Do?”

General tickets are $75 while VIP tickets are $100. All proceeds benefit student scholarships. Sponsorship opportunities also are available. To purchase tickets, call (806) 742-8692 or visit www.depts.ttu.edu/diversity.banquet.php for more information.