Black History Celebrated with Music and More at Mason during February

Posted: January 29, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Soweto choir
The award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir is noted for its ability to transcend cultural boundaries and connect with diverse audiences, spreading a message of love, joy and hope to audiences all over the world. The choir will appear at Mason’s Center for the Arts during Black History Month.

By Colleen Kearney Rich

If there is one thing that sets Mason’s Black History Month apart from most campus celebrations, it is the music.

From Mason’s own gospel choir, the Anointed Voices of Unity, and music professor Patricia Miller’s stirring tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. to Mason’s annual collaboration with the Duke Ellington School and a Center for the Arts performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir, the month of February will provide musical celebrations galore.

These uplifting performances will offer a backdrop to the 2007 theme, From Slavery to Freedom: The Story of Africans in the Americas. With the global focus of this year’s theme, the campus community will engage in small and large group discussions intended to address global, national and local efforts to ensure equality and justice for all.

Black History Month Origins

Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week, first celebrated in February 1926. Initiated by Carter G. Woodson, a noted black historian and the son of former slaves, the week was set in February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

After earning a PhD from Harvard University, Woodson began teaching high school and soon discovered that schools did not teach the history of black Americans. He decided to take on the challenge of writing African Americans back into the nation’s history. He started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and worked to collect, preserve and perpetuate pieces of African American history and culture.

His association was later renamed the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. In 1976, Negro History Week was expanded to become Black History Month, which is now celebrated nationally.

The King Celebration

Soweto choir
The Soweto choir will bring their powerful music to Mason during Black History month.

At Mason, this year’s Black History Month kicks off with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Thursday, Feb. 1. As in years past, the Anointed Voices of Unity will lead the campus in the symbolic unity march that begins at the George Mason statue at 1 p.m. and ends at Dewberry Hall.

The program titled “Remember … the Journey, Celebrate … the Spirit of King, Act … on His Legacy” starts at 1:30 p.m. in Dewberry Hall and features ABC 7 news anchor Maureen Bunyan as the guest moderator.

Featured panelists include Hazel McFerson of the Department of Public and International Affairs, Richard Rubenstein of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Solomon Wondimu of the Department of Art and Visual Technology, and Shaoxian Yu of the Office of Diversity Programs and Services. Panelists will share their experiences of meeting and working with King.

International operatic artist Miller of the Department of Music will perform musical selections during the program, accompanied by music professor Linda Monson on the piano.

Artistic Collaborations

Each year, the African American Studies Program and the Department of Music at Mason join forces with the nearby Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir for a special performance. The title of this year’s piece is “The Drum Beat for Freedom: A Celebration of African American Art, Culture and Music.”

The performance, which takes place on Friday, Feb.16, at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall, features keynote speaker Bernice Johnson Reagon. A Freedom Singer and active participant in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Reagon founded the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1973.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, the Soweto Gospel Choir is also appearing in the Concert Hall at 4 p.m., as part of the Center for the Arts’ Global View series.

A Multitude of Activities

Lectures, musical presentations, student leadership training and seminars will be held at Mason in February to mark Black History Month. Highlights include:

  • A series of lectures by African American Scholar-in-Residence Marsha Coleman-Adebayo will take place throughout the spring semester. Known as the “mother of the first civil rights law of the 21st century,” Coleman-Adebayo will address “Vanadium Poisoning in South Africa: A Global Call to the Beloved Community” in her first lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 1 p.m. in the Johnson Center, Room 240A.
  • Comedian Rene Hicks will perform in the Bistro on Friday, Feb. 23, at 9 p.m. Hicks was the first African American woman to be nominated for an American Comedy Award. Her many TV appearances included the shows “Comedy Central” and “Politically Incorrect.”
  • On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the African Student Association hosts a Refugee Youth Speak Out from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Student Union Building II Ballroom. The topic is “Children Affected by War: Transcending Victimhood to Active Peacebuilding.” Featured guests include Betty Bigombe, chief peace mediator for Uganda, and internationally acclaimed child rights activist Kimmie Weeks.
  • Frank Harold Wilson, a sociologist from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, will present the annual W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 10:30 a.m. in Harris Theater.
  • Between the Lines Production Company will perform “Platanos and Collard Greens” on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall. Based on David Lamb’s book, “Do Platanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens?” this intellectual, romantic comedy examines stereotypes and cultural differences and similarities between blacks and Latinos.

For more information, call the Office of Diversity Programs and Services at 703-993-2700.

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