Black history has been part of American history from the Revolutionary War to today. The African-American fight for freedom and equality over the past two centuries is uniquely American, with charismatic leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. using their words and actions to help bring about an end to slavery and Jim Crow laws. Also, African-American cultural contributions have shaped this country’s global influence in art, dance, literature and music. When someone in Asia or the Middle East listens to rap music, they don’t think of it as being an African-American art form; they think of it as an American art form.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need a month devoted to black history, but it seems fair to say that we, as a country, have miles to go before we reach a real understanding of the black experience in America. And since this isn’t a perfect world, we are glad there is a month where people of all backgrounds can learn about and celebrate black history and culture.
With that in mind, we’d like to point out a number of opportunities coming up to participate in Black History Month activities. Albany County is sponsoring three discussions, starting with Wednesday’s lunchtime program called “Women and Their Impact on Civil Rights” with Legislators Norma Chapman and Lucille McKnight, alternate public defender Sherri Brooks and Titus Enterprises founder Yolanda Caldwell. There will also be a discussion about the Shakers’ participation in the Underground Railroad Friday and a Feb. 27 panel discussion called “Civil Rights … then and now.”
The Sage Colleges is offering a slew of Black History Month events at its Albany and Troy campuses. Several movies are on the schedule, including the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and the 1950 classic “No Way Out” starring Sydney Poitier and Richard Wildmark on Monday, Feb. 24. Visit www.sage.edu for a full schedule of events.
The Palace Theatre in Albany is offering a pair of cultural events. The annual Step Show takes place Sunday, Feb. 16, where people can experience a high-energy dance show featuring teams from the University at Albany, Siena, The College of Saint Rose and other schools from around the state. Then on Friday, Feb. 21, the Palace and the City of Albany host a gospel gala featuring choirs and performing groups from around the region.
There are plenty of other Black History Month programs taking place around the Capital District, including a series at Schenectady County Community College. You’ll have to do a little searching for those, as there isn’t a single website devoted to listing every Black History Month program.
At the end of the day, however, Black History Month is about more than these events. It’s about reflecting on the African-American contribution to U.S. history and realizing that their history is a part of every American’s history, too.