Celebrating Black History Month

Wow. February 1. I can’t believe how quickly 2010 seems to be slipping away. Which is the reason why I like to stop what I’m doing, grab a cup of chamomile tea (Tazo Calm is my go-to), and refocus my energies on the things that have nothing to do with Pink’s performance at last night’s Grammy Awards (although I am slightly in awe of her strangely inspiring feats of acrobatic dexterity). Thus, for the next 28 days, I’ve decided to concentrate my efforts on learning something new—or rediscovering something I might have forgotten. A good place to start is with this month’s celebration of Black History. There are countless ways for us to understand more about the extraordinary accomplishments of African Americans in history; and because I can’t resist the delightful organization of a list, I’ve compiled one featuring the highlights of this month’s goings-on:

Rex Goreleigh Exhibition at Numina Gallery: African-American artist Rex Goreleigh (1902–1986) spent nearly 40 years in Princeton making and teaching art, and attempting to bridge racial divisions in Princeton through visual and performing arts. The Historical Society of Princeton with the Arts Council of Princeton presents an exhibition of Goreleigh’s culturally influential work at the Numina Gallery at Princeton High School from February 4–19, with an opening reception on Thursday, February 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Readings Over Coffee at The Princeton Public Library: Simply inhaling the air in a library inspires me to want to know more. Fortunately, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University Cecilia Hodges, Ph.D., will be paying tribute to Black History Month with a selection of readings from a wide variety of famous African-American authors on Wednesday, February 10 at 10:30 a.m.

“Whitewash” at The Arts Council of Princeton: Totally enlightening and totally cool at the same time, Whitewash is an acclaimed documentary exploring the complexity of race in America through the struggle and triumph of black surfers. The film is narrated by Grammy Award® winner Ben Harper with Tariq “Blackthought” Trotter of the Roots, and told through the eyes of black surfers from Hawaii, Jamaica, Florida, and California. Director Ted Woods will be present at the screening to introduce the film and answer questions. Saturday, February 19 at 7:30 p.m. (A $5 donation is suggested.)

For the Kids: I might have to head to this one sans kid: On February 27, from 1–2:30 p.m., Mlanjeni’s Magical Theatre at The Arts Council of Princeton will combine storytelling and puppetry based in East African traditions to introduce young audiences to traditional African folk music, dance, magic, and stories. (Admission is free.) And for those of you who might prefer a cozy afternoon reading with your little one, Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Bryan Collier, is a picture-book biography that uses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s immortal words to weave a captivating narrative story of his life.

Celebrating Black History Month on PBS: There is no place I’d rather broaden my horizons from than the cushions of my couch. Luckily, PBS is offering viewers the opportunity to explore the rich and vibrant history and cultural contributions of African Americans with a special slate of new and encore programs in honor of Black History Month. History, performing arts, independent film—you name it, PBS has got it. For more information and a schedule of local programming, visit pbs.org.

Beyond Princeton: Now, this may sound a little out there (and I mean that literally) since Greensboro is in North Carolina and not New Jersey, but no compendium of Black History Month experiences would be complete without this: On February 1, 1960, four black college students sat down at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Along with friends and supporters, the “Greensboro Four” returned every day for six months until it was desegregated—and made the counter a symbol of change in the civil rights movement. Fifty years later, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opens in the very same building that once housed the Woolworth’s store and honors the Greensboro Four’s courage and determination.

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of Princeton Scoop online and a freelance writer who has worked for several magazines, including Vanity Fair, Talk, W, and New Jersey Life. She lives in Princeton with her husband, daughter, and chocolate Labrador. She welcomes any inside scoop on what to do and see in the area. E-mail her at jphscoop@gmail.com.

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