Black History Month and the Arts

We dream and work for a day where the history we learn is inclusive, where there is no need for a “Black History Month” because our lives and our stories are not segregated. That day is not here, and for those of us who strive to amplify the contributions of African Americans, February offers an overwhelming number of opportunities to do so. This post highlights some upcoming happenings in the arts. Cultural celebrations that offer seeds of knowledge, inspiration, and healing for this month and beyond.

There are two events this month exploring Black history and culture with dance.

Photo by Matt Karas.

Camille A. Brown and Dancers
The Diana Wortham Theatre shares this: 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown and Dancers perform at the Diana Wortham Theatre, Thursday Friday, February 16 & 17 at 8 pm. Ms. Brown is a versatile dancer and choreographer whose works range from light-hearted to spiritually based to politically charged to personal.

In addition to its evening performances, the company will lead several educational and community residency activities during its Asheville tour stop:
– A free Community Workshop celebrating African American social dance, February 16 at 4 pm at the Arthur R. Edington Center;
– Pre-performance discussions for ticket holders led by poet, artist and community activist DeWayne Barton [of Hood Huggers International], at The BLOCK off Biltmore, prior to the evening performances; and
– Matinee Series performance for students, families, homeschoolers, and community groups, February 17 at 10 am.

Here’s a TED talk Brown gave about the history of social dance:

A Citizen-Times story about the show by Hayley Benton features powerful insights from Brown, Barton, Sheneika Smith of Date My City, I encourage you to click here to read it.

Excerpt: “Art saved me,” [Barton] said. “It has a powerful way of connecting people or reaching across lines like very few things can do. But we take art for granted. I don’t think we use it to its full potential.”…

“Bringing art into a movement can open the window, open up the conversation and lead people into a deeper analysis of the history — the history of oppression, the development of oppression and how it functions presently in society,” [said Smith].

Dance, spoken word, theater, paintings — with a diverse audience — can spark something in a community.

“Once that first part of the bridge is built,” Barton said, “then everything else can be built on top of it.”

Project Negus. Photo by Emmanuel Figaro.

Project Negus at Mars Hill College
From the Facebook event: On Tuesday, February 21 at 6 pm in Owen Theatre, join Project Negus as they take you on a journey through history and time and note the many influences African culture has had on the world. Upon being taken from the Mother Land, enslaved Africans were forced to substitute drums with hand clapping and feet tapping because drums were banned on plantations. As a result rhythmic song and dance became a major component of the New World culture. Styles dating back as far as shuffle and jigs all the way to tap, hip-hop, and jazz all have strong Black influences.


Photo by Micah Makenzie.

From UNC Asheville: An Expose of Fashion, a photography exhibition by Micah Mackenzie, will run February 1 – 26. This exhibit opens Black History Month with fashion photos featuring models from Asheville, seeking to capture the lingering legacy of the persons of color who have contributed to the architecture, rhythm and tone of the city. Viewing hours weekdays from 8 am-5 pm with a reception from 5:30-7 pm on Monday, Feb. 13 in UNC Asheville’s Highsmith Union Intercultural Center. Click here for info on UNC Asheville’s Black History Month events, it’s a nice list.

“Word” will feature storytelling, poetry, and song at Pack Memorial Library on Saturday, February 25 at 2 pm.

“Sisters in Spirit” will feature gospel singing and liturgical dance at the Greater Works Church on Saturday, February 25 at 6 pm.

Word on the Street, a bilingual online magazine run by Black and Latino teens, has its first issue is out! Be sure to read it at

As always, there is so much more I want to share. Until next time!

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