Marking Black History Month

Members of the judiciary singing at Kings County Supreme Court. (Photo by Rob Abruzzese via Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

From screenings of “Black Superheroes on Film” to talks about abolitionists in Brooklyn, there are numerous events planned to mark Black History Month in the city.

The Brooklyn courts kicked off the month on Feb. 1 with an event honoring Black veterans at the Kings County Supreme Court, reports Rob Abruzzese in Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

This year’s theme is “African-Americans in Times of War,” so it was fitting that the event’s keynote speaker was Wendy McClinton, CEO of Black Veterans for Social Justice.

“Veterans do need someone advocating on their behalf because they are one of the most overlooked groups when they’ve given so much to our country,” said Hon. Deborah Dowling, co-chair of the Black History Month Committee.

McClinton noted that “historically, African Americans in the military are unsung heroes who triumphed over oppression and prejudice and in the process found themselves at the intersection of history, innovation and race relations.” There were other speakers at the event, and members of the judiciary sang the national anthem and the Black national anthem. Numerous other events at courts throughout Kings County are planned. Go to Brooklyn Daily Eagle for details.

Bklyner provides a roundup on a number of events in the borough this month. Through Feb. 18, BAMcinématek plans a series of films featuring Black screen heroes, including “Foxy Brown,” “Cleopatra Jones,” “Shaft,” “Black Dynamite,” “Queen of the Damned,” “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai,” and much more.

Other events will focus on the abolitionist history of the borough. The exhibit “Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom” continues at the Brooklyn Historical Society through the winter, reports Bklyner. And the society hosts a talk on Feb. 12 by NY1 news anchor Cheryl Wills discussing her book, “Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale,” the story of her enslaved great-great-great-grandfather who ran away from a Tennessee plantation to join the fight for freedom.

On Feb. 17, the Brooklyn Trolley Tour, starting at Green-Wood Cemetery, will make stops at the graves of Civil War heroes and survivors, freed slaves who worked as abolitionists, and prominent Black New Yorkers (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeremiah Hamilton, Susan Smith McKinney Steward).

Bklyner also reports that the 6th annual “Black Artstory” Festival will be held on Myrtle Avenue, with free poetry readings and storytelling events, as well as visual art exhibits, at stores along the avenue. This year, the series is being dubbed Sankofa: Go Back and Get It.

Queens College, reports Michael Gannon in Queens Chronicle, is planning a similarly named series of events.

Queens College will have a month-long calendar of events with the theme Sankofa: Reclaiming Our Time. A word from the Akan people of Ghana, sankofa means “We must go back and reclaim our past in order to move forward.”

Among the speakers at Queens College: faculty member and culinary historian Jessica Harris discussing “My Soul Looks Back: Reflections on My 50-Year Career at Queens College” and a discussion by Vanessa K. Valdès of her book “Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg,” about the black, Puerto Rican-born scholar, collector and archivist whose personal library was the basis of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.

Also in Queens, a number of events are scheduled for different branch libraries, while The Langston Hughes Project and the United African Dance Troupe plan performances for Feb. 17 and 24 respectively, reports Queens Chronicle.

(Screen shot from RJD Gallery website)

And on Long Island, the art exhibit “A Brief History,” featuring 45 works by five African-American artists, opens Feb. 10 at the RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton. Michelle Trauring writes in Sag Harbor Express that exhibit curator Dexter Wimberly says work by Black artists is only now getting the attention it deserves.

“Today, there are far more opportunities for black artists, black art dealers and even images of black people in contemporary art than there have ever been,” Wimberly said. “And these are not just black collectors, but collectors from all stripes who are interested in seeing the world as it really exists, not in some sort of made-up world where everyone looks the same.

Gallery owner Richard Demato called the art on display “very edgy” and “very special.” Read more about it at Sag Harbor Express.

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