Thursday, April 17, 2014 5:43 AM
At Baltimore's Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, the Black History Month programs celebrate past heroes, as well as recent culture. Photo by Wanda Jackson
Published on: Monday, February 17, 2014
Wanda Jackson, Sentinel Arts Reporter
In West African traditions, "Griots" are revered storytellers, poets and musicians -- the keepers of the culture. And with the arrival of Black History Month, it is fitting that the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in Baltimore will kick off its February programs with The Griot's Eye Youth Film and Culture Festival.
On Saturday, February 1, from noon to 5 p.m., the festival will showcase youth films and artistic performances that celebrate the African Diaspora. Highlights of the festival include youth films and presentations, live musical performances, poetry and spoken word, African and urban dance.
As this year marks the 150th anniversary of Maryland Emancipation, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the museum's programs focus on "Civil Rights in America," the 2014 Black History Month theme chosen by The Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Washington, D.C.
The museum's current exhibition, The Kinsey Collection, examines 400 years of African-American history through art and artifacts. Presented by Wells Fargo, the exhibit runs throughout February and includes an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a signed copy of Brown vs. Board of Education, and works from the Harlem Renaissance.
The museum's programs celebrate more recent culture and art as well. Museum visitors can relive the 80s on February 15 as author Erika Blount shares juicy, behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the TV show "Soul Train" and as she speaks to the power of black music and dance on television (a book signing follows the author's talk). Black History Month at the museum will culminate with a "Free Open House" sponsored by Verizon for the entire family and public on February 22 (museum admission is free that day).
Through March 2, the museum will exhibit its "Sixth Annual High School Juried Art Show." This exhibit features works by students from across the state who responded to this year's theme "Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy: Have We Progressed?" The show is a partnership with the Maryland State Education Association and the Maryland State Department of Education.
Other events at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture during Black History Month include:
Saturday, February 8, at 1 p.m., "A Fresh Look at the Underground Railroad with Professor Cheryl J. LaRoche, a lecturer at the University of Maryland. In her new book, "Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance," LaRoche uses archaeology and research of black churches, fraternal organizations and Quakers to explore how free blacks assisted runaways in the Midwest.
Saturday, February 15, at noon, "Black History Live! with Culture Queen." Teaching artist Culture Queen™ leads children in an interactive workshop with drama, movement, art and music.
Sunday, February 16, at 1 p.m., WJZ's Black History Oratory Contest. Twenty high school semi-finalists will present their original orations based on inspirational quotes from Jesse Owens, Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama before a panel of judges.
Sunday, February 16, at 2 p.m., "American Masters/Paul Robeson: Here I Stand." This nearly two-hour film chronicles how beloved athlete, singer, and scholar Paul Robeson gained international notoriety during his lifetime. The film also highlights Robeson as a charismatic champion of the rights of the disenfranchised.
Thursday, February 20, at 6 p.m., "Gabrielle Goodman." Besides touring with Roberta Flack, Mary J. Blige, and Patti Labelle, the remarkable Goodman is a critically-acclaimed songstress in her own right. She will share her latest release "Spiritual Tapestry."
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is Baltimore's premier facility highlighting the history and accomplishments of African Americans with a special focus on Maryland's African American community. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum is the East Coast's largest African American museum, occupying an 82,000 square-foot facility with ample permanent and special exhibition space, interactive learning environments, auditorium, resource center, oral history recording studio, museum shop, café, classrooms, meeting rooms, outside terrace and reception areas. The museum is located near Baltimore's Inner Harbor at the corner of Pratt and President Streets.