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Black History Month events showcase art and the lives of Blacks

For months Mills faculty, students and alums have been planning events for this year’s Black History Month, celebrated in the U.S. each February.

Every year the Black Women’s Collective (BWC) and the Ethnic Studies Department lead efforts to create programming to celebrate African American heritage and culture. This year’s events include a choral performance, poetry night, special Second Saturday and the annual “herstory timeline” featuring descriptions and pictures of African American female leaders staked along the path near Mills Hall.

Members of the Black Women's Collective (BWC) listen to another BWC member as she talks about Say It Loud, a poetry slam. (Alixandra Greenman).

“I always look forward to the combination of political, social and cultural events,” said Deborah Berman Santana, chair of the Ethnic Studies Department

For her, Black History Month allows students to learn more about issues of importance.

“The month’s events expand upon the limited amount that can be taught in the classroom,” she said.

According to BWC adviser and Ethnic Studies professor Julia Sudbury, the themes for this year’s Black History Month events are community and the arts. Sudbury said she believes focusing on these areas will let people soak in the rich culture and heritage of African Americans.

“This celebration is culturally important, it allows us to have a place for all Blacks to come together,” said Sudbury

“Every year it gets bigger and more exciting,” said Angelica Addison, a sophomore and BWC member. “The events are quality and allow us to teach and to entertain.”

BWC secretary ans Mills sophomore Saundra Howard agreed with Addison and said the events in February are also for celebrating.

“We want to teach about history but also celebrate now and the future,” said Howard.

Events are open not only to Mills students but the greater Oakland community

One of the events to be held this year is a choral performance by local choir Roots of Faith Feb. 4.

Because Roots of Faith’s performance was such a big hit last year, BWC and the Ethnic Studies Department have brought it back for the community to enjoy.

“The choir is great because it uncovers the histories of Blacks through music,” said Sudbury.

In a statement on the Mills website, Roots of Faith echoed Sudbury’s comments. “Our program will show the progression of African faith and culture beginning with the singing of old Yoruba songs that honor the ancestors and praise the Divine.”

Another upcoming event is Say It Loud, a poetry slam featuring poetry, monologues and spoken word pieces.

The Say It Loud poetry slam will take place Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union and will feature performers from all over the Bay Area. Their pieces will let audience members dive into the stories of real African Americans.

The Second Saturday Extravaganza will be held in the Student Union Feb. 14 with specific Black History Month programming, including performers and vendors. Student leaders in BWC collaborated with the Office of Student Activities (OSA) to make this event both fun and culturally rich.

“The goal of the festival is to celebrate our rich cultural heritage and to involve Oakland youth and families in arts and culture,” said OSA in a statement on the Mills website.

Finally, Sudbury and fellow Ethnic Studies professor Margo Okazawa-Rey will launch their 2009 book Activist Scholarship: Antiracism, Feminism and Social Change a week later. The professors will be joined by a number of contributors to the book, which explores the connections between academic institutions and grassroots social movements.