Immanuel Adeola ’14
Every February, African-Americans across this country celebrate the cultural, political, and social history of their ancestry. The practice of celebrating February as “Black History Month” began in 1926 when Carter Woodson of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week in February as “Negro History Week” because it marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two important men in African-American history.
There is much to admire about African-American history, especially the plight of African Americans during the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for equality for all individuals. We often focus most of our attention on the political aspects of Black History month but there is much more to the month than that. African American history has a lot of rich culture and background in the form of artwork, songs, stories, and poetry. There have been paintings, songs, and poems that have captured the essence of African cultural history and the Civil Rights movement. One prime example is the poster of the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finisehd first and third in the 200-meter dash both wore black gloves and raised their fist during the rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to bring awareness to the struggles of African Americans in the United States. The gesture generated much controversy, there have been murals, paintings, and poems that have captured the spirit and purpose of the gesture since then.
Art is a form of expression and there are many ways to express the tension and capture the core of African American history in this country. Langston Hughes’ famous poem “I too Sing America” defined how many African-Americans viewed the immobility of their status, showing that much had not changed for them since the early days of slavery. Yet the poem does possess some level of patriotism and shows that African Americans still love their country. Countee Cullen’s “Saturday’s Child” is another famous poem that captured the tension of his time, especially the distinction that the black race was construed as morally inferior to white individuals. Other Writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Bennett, W.E.B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou used their words and verses to tell stories of the omplexities of race and culture in a racially-charged society.
This month, MOCA, TCBWO and LVL has organized a wide array of events that have meant to capture the essence of black history and express it using words, songs, and pictures. Oludare Bernard ’14 of MOCA is hosting an African Drum-making workshop on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. There is also an open mic night this Friday where students are encouraged to sing, act, and speak about different topics and themes. I encourage everyone to pay more attention to the various art forms of black history as a way to learn more about the history and the arduous nature that defined the Civil Rights movement.