In the United States, February is when Black History Month is celebrated in recognition of the incredible contributions African-Americans have made to American history and culture. The holiday began as a week-long celebration established by historian Carter G. Woodson, who chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976 it was expanded to a month, with then President Gerald Ford urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.”
We have a ton of great events going on throughout the rest of the month that give you plenty of opportunity to celebrate.
TONIGHT! Monday, February 20
Josephine Baker: Black Diva in a White Man’s World – Huntington, New York In Person: Jean Claude Baker and Jarry Baker. Jean Claude will sign copies of his new book about his mother: “Josephine: The Hungry Heart.” A revealing documentary about one of the most famous and popular performing artists of the 20th century. Her legendary banana belt dance created theater history. The film portrays the artist in the mirror of European colonial clichés as well as a resistance fighter, an ambulance driver during WWII, and an outspoken activist against racial discrimination involved in the worldwide Black Consciousness movement of the 20th century. For black Americans, Baker became ‘a role model’. Baker herself “wasn’t allowed to be the real American she wanted to be.” In an article she says, “I had been suffocating in the United States. A lot of us left, not because we wanted to leave, but because we couldn’t stand it any more.” During the mid-1920s Baker found fame in Paris, performing at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and eventually the Folies Bergeres. It came at a cost; she often performed in erotic costumes with racist overtones. The dance routines are seen as distasteful now, but at the time it was an aspect of a black popular culture forced to adapt to white tastes. Baker’s career spanned fifty years, and she is portrayed as a true superstar, one with grace and humility. Black Americans loved her, the French referred to her as their “Black Venus” and in the last years of her life white American audiences gave her the standing ovation she longed for.
Wednesday, February 22
The Black Power Mix Tape: 1967-1975 – Huntington, New York The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 among other things is an extraordinary feat of editing and archival research, and takes up a familiar period in American history from a fresh and fascinating angle. In the late 1960s and early ’70s Swedish television journalists traveled to the United States with the intention of “showing the country as it really is.” Some of the images and interviews they collected have been assembled by Goran Hugo Olsson into a roughly chronological collage that restores a complex human dimension to the racial history of the era. The film begins at a moment when the concept of black power was promoted by Stokely Carmichael, a veteran of the freedom rides early in the decade, who, like many young activists, had grown frustrated with the Gandhian, nonviolent philosophy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Carmichael, who later moved to Guinea and took the name Kwame Ture, is remembered for the militancy of his views and his confrontational, often slashingly witty speeches, but the Swedish cameras captured another side of him. In the most touching and arresting scene in “Mixture” he interviews his mother, Mabel, gently prodding her to talk about the effects of poverty and discrimination on her family. So how much has changed and how has the change taken place. How did we get from the America of
Stokely Carmichael to the America of Barack Obama? We will see and hear commentaries from Harry Belafonte, Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Bobby Seale among others.
The Dream: The Life and Legacy of Civil Disobedience – La Jolla, California In honor of Black History Month, the Black History Month Committee and Diversity Program of The Bishop’s School invite the community to attend “The Dream: The Life and Legacy of Civil Disobedience” at The Bishop’s School. Presented by Dr. Clarence Jones, personal counsel and close advisor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Jones will speak on the power of non-violent protest in the face of political, racial and social injustice. Dr. Jones helped compose Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He is currently the Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. Dr. Jones will be signing copies of his book, “Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation.”
Thursday, February 23
ThrowBlack – Van Nuys, California Join us as we celebrate Black Cinema! There is a rich history of movies that show our triumphs, struggle, joy and pain as African Americans! Movies that tell our stories, and help us see how far we’ve come. Throw Black is a night of your favorite movies performed live. So join us for your favorite movies, Black Movie Trivia, and great music!! You don’t want to miss it!
Friday, February 24
11th Annual Jewel Awards Banquet – Jackson, Tennessee The 11th Annual Jewel Awards hosted by the Jackson Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce (JMCAACC) will feature entertainment by Stax Music Academy, with music director Paul McKinney at New St. Luke Church Activity Center in Jackson. The Stax Music Academy is a program of the Soulsville Foundation in Memphis where Grammy Award-winning artist Kirk Whalum is CEO. Founded in 2000, the academy is a unique learning center that inspires young people and enhances their academic, cognitive, performance and leadership skills by utilizing music with a strong focus on the rich legacy and tradition of Stax Records. The African American Chamber’s annual Black History Month banquet honors outstanding African American small business owners selected from nominations and applications received and raises funds for the JMCAACC Follow Me Into Business youth development program. This will be the first time that Stax Music Academy has performed in Jackson. “A large part of what we offer our young people is unique performance opportunities,” said Whalum. “We have performed in Washington, D.C, New York City, Italy, Australia and other locations. We are always excited to perform locally and regionally as well, so we are excited about our upcoming concert in Jackson.” As CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, he also oversees the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the Soulsville Charter School, all located at the original site of Stax Records in Memphis.
Saturday, February 25
1st Annual Black History Month Fundriaser for Umoja House – Washington D.C. A Community Fundraiser for Umoja House to raise funds for needed repairs. Featuring Performances by: soul singer Ka’Ba, youth cultural perfomance by Kuumba Kids, poetry/spoken word by Lasana of BlackNotes and a wind instrument performance by Abeeku Lorenz Wheatley. Also featuring a keynote address by activist & attorney Nkechi Taifa on “Our History, Our Community, Our Justice Struggle.”
MOTHERS OF THE MOVEMENT – Houston, Texas EV(SODC)’s 14th Annual Black History Month dance concert features Heroines and Matriarchs of Black History with dances about Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks; inspired by writers Maya Angelou and Lucille Clifton, singers Roberta Flack and Nina Simone, with some special guests. Another performance will also take place on Sunday, February 26.
Sunday, February 26
4th Annual Black History Month Celebration – New York, New York Music at St. Mary’s with The Harlem Chamber Players presents its 4th Annual Black History Month Celebration Program. The Daniel Bernard Roumain String Quartet will perform No. 2 “King” (2nd movement), Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Movement for String Trio, a Spiritual Medley and Dvořák’s Serenade in D Minor, Op. 44 for 10 Winds, Cello and Double Bass.
Tuesday, February 28
Remembering Black Wall Street 90 Years Later – New York, New York A Black History Month Special Presentation: “Remembering Black Wall Street 90 Years Later.” A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to the Tulsa Project, which is dedicated to the the battle for reparations for the survivors and descendants of the the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. ‘Before They Die!: The True Story of the Survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and the Quest for Justice’ (Reggie Turner, 2008, 92 min.) This is the story of what is perhaps the the worst race riot in the history of the United States that many people have never even heard of. On May 30th, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in less than 24 hours, the prosperous African-American section of Greenwood, also known as “Black Wall Street,” was completely destroyed. An estimated 300 killed, and over 10,000 people displaced overnight as a 42 square block area of their homes and businesses were burned to the ground by a white mob that had been deputized by the sheriff. This is the story of the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and their quest for justice. This is the story of the struggle for the soul of America and the efforts to right a wrong that is long past due. Justice is the subject of the night’s film. After the Screening: Q&A with director Reggie Turner.
Wednesday, February 29
“More Than a Month” A Black History Month Special – New York, New York Doc Watchers and Sylvia Savadjian Present a Black History Month Special: A screening of the film ‘More Than a Month’ which explores the question “Should Black History Month be ended?” as African American filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman embarks on a cross-country campaign to do just that. The screening will be followed by Q&A with director Shukree Hassan Tilghman and Anthony Riddle, Managing Director of the Maysles Insitute and descendant of Dr. Carter Woodson, creator of Negro History Week. Plus a reception to follow. “More Than a Month” (Shukree Hassan Tilghman, 2012, 60 min.) Shukree Hassan Tilghman, a 29-year-old African-American filmmaker, sets out on a cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. He stops in various cities, wearing a sandwich board, to solicit signatures on his petition to end the observance. He explains that relegating Black History Month to the coldest, shortest month of the year is an insult, and that black history is not separate from American history. Through this thoughtful and humorous journey, he explores what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a “post-racial” America. His road trip begins in Washington, D.C., crisscrosses the country during Black History Month 2010, and ends with an epilogue one year later. Each stop along the journey explores Black History Month as it relates to four ideas: education, history, identity, and commercialism. Tilghman’s campaign to end Black History Month is actually a provocative gambit to open a public conversation about the idea of ethnic heritage months, and whether relegating African American history to the shortest month of the year and separating it from American history on the whole denigrates the role of black people and black culture throughout American history. But it is also a seeker’s journey to reconcile his own conflicting feelings about his own identity, history, and convictions. “More Than a Month” is not just about a yearly tradition, or history, or being black in America. It is about what it means to be an American, to fight for one’s rightful place in the American landscape, however unconventional the means, even at the risk of ridicule or misunderstanding. It is a film about discovering oneself.
More Than a Month – Honolulu, Hawaii “More Than a Month,” by Shukree Hassan Tilghman, is not just about a yearly tradition, or history, or being black in America. It is about what it means to be an American, to fight for one’s rightful place in the American landscape, however unconventional the means, even at the risk of ridicule or misunderstanding. It is a film is about discovering oneself. Post-screening conversation will follow with guests from the community.
To Be Young, Gifted, and Black (Black History Month Finale Festival) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Adapted posthumously by her husband, “Young, Gifted and Black” is a compilation of Lorraine Hansberry’s – author of the classic “A Raisin in the Son”- plays, journals, essays, poems and speeches. A prolific Black female writer, Hansberry’s work was steeped in her experience living through life in the South Side of Chicago after World War II, during the depression and the first atom bomb being dropped. Being personally impacted by racial and political hysteria, cancer, lynching, drug additions and mental illness, among other things, Hansberry’s work is rich with examination of the human experience.
Image courtesy of SuhaibWebb.com