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. Read the rest of this entry »