Update from Kate - Celebrate African-American History Month Now and All Year!

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Update from Kate

Celebrate African-American History

In February and All Year Long

February may be a month short on days but it is long on the opportunity to open up our hearts and minds - not just for one month but all year -  to a proud and storied history of African-Americans and their vast contributions to the arts, culture, literature, scholarship, science, medicine, technology, athletics, and leadership of our nation.

Carter G. Woodson began a formal celebration of African-American history in 1925, first as a week, ultimately becoming a month. Woodson was a prominent historian who lived from 1875 until 1950. The son of freed slaves, Woodson began formal education in his 20's and was the first African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard University.

Dr. Woodson chose February because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in this month. In 1976, in commemoration of our nation's Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford established the month of February as African-American history month. 

It's a challenge to even know where to begin to explore the vast wealth of this history. But, your local public library is a great place to start. For example, this month, the Marin City Library, a branch of the Marin County Free Library, is hosting the Showing Up for Racial Justice Book Club on Sunday, February 24 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. This month's book is The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, February 26, the film, Freedom Riders, will be shown at 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. It's the powerful and harrowing story of six months in 1961 when more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives - with many enduring savage beatings and imprisonment - for simply traveling together through the Deep South on buses and trains.

At the Marin County Free Library's Fairfax Branch, you will find 2 wonderful displays featuring books and pictures, one for children and the other for teens, including a poster made by a youth volunteer. 

In addition, the Sausalito Public Library has created several book lists to help us get started.  In addition, award-winning independent bookstore, Book Passage in Corte Madera held a panel discussion moderated by Paula Farmer on Sunday, February 10 called "Race in America: Where We Are and Where We're Headed," which featured Brian Copeland, Julie Lythcott-Haims, R.O. Kwon, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Each shared thoughts on this vital topic and all have written books exploring race and its complex call for each of us to be agents of needed change.

Outside the walls of libraries and bookstores, there's the crucible of the Bay Area arts and culture scene offering a treasure trove of events celebrating African-American creators, past, present, and future. Enjoy theater? Her Portmanteau opens February 15 at the American Conservatory Theater, diving deep into the intergenerational dynamics of a Nigerian family in America. Dance more your thing? The Black Choreographers Festival runs for four weekends in the Bay Area, beginning February 16 and 17 at Dance Mission Theater. Gallery fanatic? The Museum of the African Diaspora features the inaugural debut of Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, on display until April 14. Local history buff? Delve into the inside story of the Black Panther Movement at the Oakland Museum of California.

Jump in and learn about the rich cultural history that African-Americans have created and that continues to flower. There's inspiration to be gained in learning this history that unites us all, and a challenge to each one of us to join the fight for a better, more equitable community and nation.

Stay in touch with me at ksears@marincounty.org and let me know what you did to celebrate African-American History and what you will take forward with you.