Barack Obama walks in the footsteps of Shirley Chisholm, the first major-party African-American candidate for president in 1972. African-American singer Lena Horne paved the way for the likes of actress Halle Berry and singer Beyonce. But did you know that?
The problem is a lot of folks don’t know African-American history or its lasting impact. So says Carlos Sneed, director of Hamline University’s Center for Multicultural and International Student Affairs and a planner, along with PRIDE Black Student Alliance, of an impressive slate of Black History Month events at the St. Paul school, starting today.
Hamline has planned such Black History discussions, speeches and concerts since the late 1970s, but will this year be different? With a black man a serious contender for president, will the events draw crowds?
Or, what about the slew of racist incidents at four Minnesota colleges and universities this school year, including Hamline, where school officials suspended six football players for dressing in blackface and body paint for an off-campus Halloween party? The other schools were Macalester College, University of St. Thomas and St. Cloud State University. Investigations, discipline and educational efforts followed to change behaviors.
Month can make some big-picture points
There’s a big-picture point here, Sneed said Monday. “Given the recent racist incidents of misunderstanding and cultural insensitivity, it points to the fact we don’t know as much about each other as we think we do. “Our youth are getting farther away from understanding the past and how it still affects everyday interactions,” he said.
“Sometimes our students just don’t know. We haven’t educated them. It’s also very hard to distinguish between what is funny, what is hilarious and what is insensitive” in this American culture, Sneed said.
Either the political scene or the social scene could prompt a closer look at African-Americans’ contributions to this multicultural nation. Maybe more information seekers will check out the Library of Congress website, for instance.
Carter G. Woodson, the Harvard-trained historian whose parents had been slaves and who made it his life mission to give blacks credit for their accomplishments, is profiled there, as is world-famous contralto Marian Anderson, who in 1939 was banned from Constitution Hall but performed instead for 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926, the precursor to Black History Month.
Topics cover politics to culture
Hamline’s events span politics, rhetoric, history, gender, theater, music and American culture. Find details here.
• Rosilyn M. Carroll, talking on “Prophets of Protest” at 7 p.m. today in Giddens Learning Center, 100E, about the language, rhetoric and debate black leaders use, including Malcolm X in the 1960s and his famous “ballot or the bullet” speech. Carroll, academic director for Hamline’s Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching, will speak.
• African-American women sharing their thoughts and experiences on issues of identity, race, justice and other issues in a brown-bag lunch discussion at 11:30 a.m. Feb 7 at Giddens Learning Center, 100E.
• African drumming and a Ghana dance troop, as well as xylophonist Bernard Woma, at 4 p.m. Feb. 14 at Bush Student Center ballroom.
• Cultural Night, with musical, poetic and theatrical performances honoring Gordon Parks, Lena Horne, Muhammad Ali and others at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Sundin Music Hall.
• Keynoter Catherine R. Squires, a University of Minnesota professor who specializes in interactions among racial groups, mass media and the public sphere, takes an in-depth look at the press coverage of Barack Obama at 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at Klas Center, Kay Fredericks Room.
• Black Jeopardy knowledge bowl with faculty, staff and students at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at Bush Student Center Lobby.
• “Words of Spike Lee,” with a panel of faculty members reflecting on social and cultural implications of film at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at Giddens Learning Center, 100E.
• Gospel music at an inspirational worship service at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at Sundin Music Hall with Hamline University Gospel Choir, choirs from Shiloh International Ministries, Temple Apostolic Church, First Trinity Church of God in Christ, among others.