Unity and Celebration
Black History Month at Oberlin has helped to foster greater awareness of the history, politics, and economics of the African diaspora. Over the years, the celebration has extended into the arts, literature, and performance aesthetics that make the monthlong observance much more enriching than what occurs at many other colleges and universities.
This year Oberlin will observe Africana Unity and Celebration Month.
This new name acknowledges our historical legacies and struggles as the framing of Black History Month, while also asserting our contemporary existence. We do not only exist in a historical framework; but our claims to justice, our triumphs, and our challenges also need to be recognized in a context that includes history, the present, and our future.
Furthermore, our framing is designed to be inclusive of queer, trans, women, and femme-identifying people, as well as Africana groups throughout the diaspora and those with intersectional identities.
Oberlin students, the Department of Africana Studies, Afrikan Heritage House, the Multicultural Resource Center and other academic departments have worked together for years to make this celebration a meaningful program. Together they seek to stimulate dialogue and engage the Oberlin community through academic, cultural, and social events that celebrate the history, legacy, present, and future of the African diaspora.
Africana Unity and Celebration Month programs take place from February 4 through March 4, at select venues throughout the Oberlin College campus and community.
Among the highlights:
An original opera by Nkeiru Okoye '92, Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed that Line to Freedom tells the story of the influential former slave and her rise to a pivotal role in the Underground Railroad. Based on recent biographical research, the opera focuses on Tubman’s close bond with her family and celebrates the universal themes of sisterhood, courage, sacrifice, and familial devotion. It will be performed in Cleveland-area churches and on February 6 in Oberlin's Finney Chapel. Oberlin Associate Professor of Opera Theater Jonathon Field directs.
Jason Sokol specializes in 20th-century American politics, race, and civil rights. He is the author of All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn (Basic Books, 2014). A 1999 Oberlin graduate, Professor Sokol is on the faculty at the University of New Hampshire, College of Liberal Arts.
The latest Spike Lee work, Chi-Raq, is set in contemporary Chicago, and takes as its inspiration Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the fifth-century B.C. comedy in which women organize a sex strike to stop men from making war. Stars Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nick Cannon. Discussion to follow screening.
Naming can be a powerful act, but the names that we use to call ourselves into community might be the same names used to keep us captive, or the same names used by our captors to demonize and pathologize. Kai M. Green will examine the histories of individual and collective name changing as it relates to black power, black feminism and transgender subjectivity.
There is a strong history of protest, subversion, and cultural resistance from the musicians of color throughout the history of the United States, from the original inhabitants to recent immigrants. Led by Rhiannon Giddens ’00, founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, this concert will explore the songs of resistance of the South, both old and new, and the deep history of protest songs from Leyla McCalla and Bhi Bhiman.
This two-day symposium celebrates a significant gift of Mary Church Terrell papers to the Oberlin College Archives. Terrell, Oberlin College Class of 1884, was a feminist and civil rights activist, who worked tirelessly across lines of race and gender to achieve a more just and equitable society. Keynote address given by Johnnetta Cole ’57, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
Other Africana Unity and Celebration Month programs include plays, lectures, art exhibits, dance, poetry readings, and community discussions.