This February marks the 42nd Black History Month, a time to celebrate the innumerable achievements made by African Americans and their central role in United States history. African American culture is rich in history and influence—especially in the United States—and continues to grow as true equality comes closer into view. Black History Month is a nationwide celebration, so becoming involved in the action is easier than you think. In the art world, Black History Month offers the perfect opportunity to recognize the immense contributions made by African Americans to art, whether it be performing or visual.
Mystic Vision Players is a non-profit theatre company dedicated to the growth and showcasing of all types of performing arts. The theatre is kicking off Black History Month this year with Black History… Black Voices, a cabaret celebrating the contributions of African-American performers in musical theater over the last century. The cabaret will be performing a wide range of songs, including both classic and modern musical hits, to showcase the black experience. Held at The Art House in Linden, NJ, this powerful performance is taking place right nearby.
Another tribute to the African American experience in America is the movie 12 Years a Slave, adopted from the 1853 slave narrative memoir. The movie sheds light on the dreadful nature of slavery in America, drawing from the incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. Every scene in 12 Years a Slave conveys a grim truth about America’s biggest sin. An incredibly gripping piece, 12 Years A Slave is one of the most eye-opening and insightful movie-going experiences out there.
However, you do not need to attend a performance or movie showing to celebrate Black History Month. All around us, especially in New York City, historic monuments tell the same story. Throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, statues of notable African Americans serve to remind us of the ways in which African Americans have shaped America. These figures include Frederick Douglass, a leader of the abolitionist movement, as well as Harriet Tubman, conductor of the Underground Railroad. In addition, Jazz musician Duke Ellington and baseball player Jackie Robinson are also represented.
It is a shame to see people overlook Black History Month because they don’t believe it “relates to them.” African American history has affected all of us, whether we are black, white, male, female, young, or old. The positive impact that African Americans have made on this country (in every area imaginable, especially art) is part of our collective consciousness. Figuring out the past can help to make our future clearer, and we can start by making our future happen now.
Graphic: Evie Cullen